Interview: David Gelb talks about Jiro Dreams Of Sushi

SuperMarcey.com was lucky enough to have to opportunity to have a chat with David Gelb (big thanks to Bill), about his latest film Jiro Dreams Of Sushi. David spoke about the film, sushi and Jiro. We here at SM.com are very happy to be bringing you this fantastic interview, Jiro Dreams Of Sushi is a wonderful documentary and David was amazing to speak to.

Marcey Papandrea: Hi David, how are you?

David Gelb: Hey there, I am well and yourself?

Marcey: Fantastic, thanks for asking. Also thank you for taking some time out to have a chat to SuperMarcey.com today.

David: My pleasure.

Marcey: I watched your wonderful documentary Jiro Dreams Of Sushi not too long ago; it really is a fantastic film. Congratulations!

David: Thank you so much.

Marcey: I would love to know where the inspiration came from with this documentary?

David: Well I love sushi, very very much. At first my aspiration was to make it my job to eat the best sushi in the world. So I thought I may spend some time with maybe four or five different sushi chefs and spend time at their restaurants. I thought I could spend time there, eat sushi and film them. When I discovered Jiro my plans changed and I realized a much more compelling film could be about a person who strives for perfection, make this a human story along with sushi. I learned about Jiro from a number of chefs who had told me that if I wanted to make a real movie about sushi I would have to meet him and film him. When I ate there I was amazed by how delicious the food was and what an inspiring person he was. I thought that I was now onto something for a feature film.

Marcey: What was the process like with this? How was it meeting with Jiro and piecing this film together? It is something quite different, and I don’t recall seeing a documentary quite like this before.

David: Oh well thank you.

Marcey: You’re welcome.

David: Well I had help from food writer Yamamoto who appears in the film, as something of a narrator; he and Jiro are very old friends. So basically I met him through an associate of my father’s and I had explained that I wanted to make a film about the purity and the art of sushi. Yamamoto liked that idea, so the two of us went to Jiro and pitched to him together. Jiro liked that I didn’t have any preconceived notion about the film, I just wanted to tell his story from his perspective as best as I could. I kind of became a student of his, and that became the basis of our relationship.

Marcey: I have to admit I didn’t know much about sushi or the process that goes with it. I felt I learned quite a lot by watching the film, which leads me to my next question. Do you feel differently about sushi now, than you did before making this film?

David: Absolutely. I used to eat sushi way too often. I was eating it all the time, three or four times a week, as I thought that was the best way to do it. But when I first ate at Jiro’s restaurant, it felt like it was the first time I had eaten sushi, like the first time in my life. Sushi is about finding the perfect balance between the fish and the rice and having the best of the ingredients that’s being served. When Jiro turns a piece of tuna he’s putting on the perfect amount of soy sauce, the rice is painstakingly cooked, there’s the pressure to have the perfect texture. The rice is served at body temperature and the fish is cool, so there are all these kinds of contrasts that come together to form the perfect bite. That is the only way I can really explain it, which is what sushi is supposed to be. Since I have been back in the States after making this film, I’ve been eating sushi a lot less often. But when I do eat it I go to a really good restaurant where they understand that philosophy.

Marcey: Now you are just making my mouth water (laughs).

David: (laughs) Oh yeah!

Marcey: Has Jiro and everyone else involved seen the film? And how did they respond to it if they have?

David: Jiro has seen the movie and he said that he thinks the film is ‘OK’, which is kind of a perfect response I think from a perfectionist. Because first of all just his approval means a lot to me.

Marcey: Which is great by any means.

David: Yeah exactly. He’s a person who if it is satisfactory it is a good day. He is so critical of everything he does, if he can watch a film about himself and be satisfied on any level is a huge compliment. I was thrilled by his response.

Marcey: What are you hoping people take away from the film? What is your message with the film?

David: I hope that people realize Jiro’s philosophy on sushi really applies to anything. No matter what you are doing you can always strive to do better. I think Jiro’s take on hard work is very compelling, there is an intense satisfaction and it is easier to sleep knowing you’ve done everything you can to do the best job that you can. I try to apply that to my work as much as I can, I think about whether there is a way to make this better and I am not going to be lazy about it. I am going to keep on working till I am satisfied with it, until it is the best I can be. It really is about doing your best each and everyday.

Marcey: I certainly did pick that up with the film, your message is definitely there. I know that this film is going to appeal to a lot of people.

David: Thank you.

Marcey: After this experience, what are you planning on doing next?

David: I have a number of different projects that I am interested in. I love food and I’d maybe like to do more films or short films on other chefs that I admire. I love narrative pieces with fictional films, and I’d love to maybe make a horror movie, something totally and completely different. And you know just try to work on my craft as best as I can.

Marcey: I would definitely be down for a horror movie!

David: Oh yeah, like something scary or maybe even a mystery. There are a lot of genres that I love that I would like to take a crack at.

Marcey: For sure, I say go for it! Your film is just so beautiful, it’s an amazing experience and it looks so fantastic. I have to congratulate you once again. I had a great time with it! Is there anything you’d like to say in closing about the film?

David: I think it is a good film to watch for everyone, it is not just about sushi. Even if you don’t like sushi you can still find something meaningful to you in this. It’s really about a human story, it’s about family, and it’s about a son living in the shadow of his father and the struggle that causes. There is a lot there and I do think it is a great human story with some very compelling characters, and there is a lot to learn from them. The lessons they learn about sushi can be applied to anything. If you like seeing beautiful shots of sushi, this is the best place to see them.

Marcey: Definitely. It really is a beautiful looking film, a visual delight for the eyes!

David: Thanks.

Marcey: Well thank you once again for taking the time out to have a chat. We’ll be doing our best at SM.com to spread the word about Jiro Dreams Of Sushi.

David: Thank you for the talk and I really appreciate you spreading the word.

Marcey: Best of luck with your next projects, I hope everything works out.

David: Thanks so much for that; hopefully we can talk again once I have something else out.

Marcey: It would be my pleasure, thank you so much.

Jiro Dreams Of Sushi is available to order on DVD, click the picture below for details

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