Nonprofit organization MAD traveled to Japan with René Redzepi, founder of MAD and chef-patron of Copenhagen-based restaurant Noma, to document his meeting with legendary Japanese sushi chef Jiro Ono. Many will recognize Jiro-san as the subject of the acclaimed 2011 documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi; since the film’s release, the sushi chef’s prominence and international reputation has only grown. He’s had the pleasure in serving President Barack Obama in his tiny Tokyo restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro, which boasts full capacity every night in addition to a months-long waiting list for diners. The chef’s own sushi apprentice Daisuke Nakazawa has also been bursting on the New York City culinary scene recently.
In the video above, chef Redzepi pays a visit to Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo for a heartwarming chat that the 90-year-old legend proclaims will probably be his last interview. It’s a charming encounter with the sushi chef that takes place inside the famed restaurant, accompanied by plenty of wise words on chasing your dreams and adopting a hard work ethic from Jiro-san. Aside from running his restaurants, Jiro-san’s future endeavors include making sushi creations at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Watch the video above and check out our favorite excerpts from the interview below.
On loving your job:
“I have said before that you must like your job. If you start saying: ‘I don’t like this’ or ‘This isn’t the job for me,’ you won’t become an expert in anything. If you’ve taken on a job or career, you need to like it and continue moving forward. Young people today say they are great, but when it comes to work, they don’t compare to previous generations.”
When he finally felt he was a master at his craft:
“50 years… No, [I] never [wanted to stop making sushi]. The only question was, ‘How can I get better?’ … The person who has hit 60 or 70 and has achieved what they originally set out to do will never say ‘That’s enough.’ They’ll keep looking for the next step, the next goal. I can assure you, humans are like that.”
“If you don’t learn to love your work and remind your brain to make new steps everyday, there can be no progress… There is a lot of failure before that [feeling of being a master]… You go through failures and successes, and more failures for years until it feels like you have achieved what you had in mind the whole time.”
“René, you must sometimes think about your retirement, and what you need to achieve to get to that point. However, when you reach that age and have completed your job, something new will come up. You’ll think to yourself: ‘What can I do now?’ You won’t quit.”
“The people who are truly at the top won’t say that they want to retire after 70 or 80. They just fasten their belts after that.”