Have you ever had a meal that flowed like a symphony? The first notes of an amuse-bouche awakening your tastebuds. The crescendo building from the first course. The climax of the main course beating an unforgettable rhythm as you slowly come down to the last bite and last sip of wine.
“You’re consuming Jiro’s philosophy with every bite.”
This is how one food critic describes eating sushi at Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat, three-Michelin-star, sushi-only restaurant located in a Tokyo subway station. Michelin star reviewers say that a restaurant worthy of three stars is one that is so excellent you would travel to that country for no other reason than to eat there. Only 93 restaurants in the world currently hold three Michelin stars.
At Sukiyabashi Jiro, diners make their reservations months in advance and pay a starting price of about 30,000 yen ($375 USD) per person for a meal that lasts about 15 minutes.
In the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” we get an up-close look at Jiro Ono, the 85-year-old owner who has practiced and perfected the art of sushi for the past 75 years of his life.
In a world that reveres multitasking and shortcuts, and sees most professionals change careers a handful of times throughout their working lives, Jiro’s singleness of purpose is inspiring.
Watching Jiro obsess over details – hearing him speak with sincerity about the importance of honoring the sea and its creatures, the social consciousness with which an honest shokunin (Japanese apprentice) approaches his craft and his world, is humbling.
Jiro’s business, craft and life hinge on three qualities: discipline, purity and rigor. The relentless pursuit of these three things are what make him not just excellent, but among the best in the entire world.
And really they’re the three qualities that distinguish any business, entrepreneur or artist from “good enough”.
For Jiro, discipline means relentlessly practicing his craft beyond the point of perfection. It means training new employees for years before allowing them to handle the fish (no kidding!). It means spending weeks teaching apprentices how to properly wring out a towel before advancing them to slicing an egg. It means training his oldest son for decades before sending him out to the fish market on his own.
For you, it may mean routinely enforcing a level of service, or obsessively managing your brand identity or core company values. It may mean taking time every day to speak with your agents about the business. It may mean letting people go who can’t subscribe to your business obsessions.
While many western takes on sushi involve elaborate rolls that fuse several ingredients together under a wacky name, Jiro’s sushi is pure and simple. It starts with the best fish that’s available every morning and manifests through Jiro’s methodology and attention to detail.
Jiro’s obsession isn’t with innovating his menu, infusing it with trendy names or ingredients or attempting to open multiple restaurant locations. He’s obsessed with purity – finding the best fish to come out of the sea on a daily basis, cutting it with precision, and unleashing its innate potential to dazzle the tastebuds.
In business, the level of purity begins with the people who work for you.
Jiro’s approach to sushi may seem severe. But if you’ve ever studied the difference between the gold medalist and the “great gymnast” or how Steve Jobs turned around Apple and revolutionized the smartphone business, you know that severity is necessary to break away and distinguish.
“Jiro Dreams of Sushi” is a fantastic reminder of what it takes to be the best at anything.
Now let’s go get some sushi!