This week Documentary Now! tells the tasty tale of a humble Colombian restaurant renowned for its chicken and rice dish and the father/son dynamics that ensue.
Before you watch “Juan Likes Rice & Chicken,” grab some chopsticks and wasabi and bone up on the acclaimed 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the inspiration behind the latest masterpiece from Documentary Now!.
Meet Jiro, Subway Sushi Master
Jiro Dreams of Sushi follows 85-year-old Jiro Ono, an acclaimed master sushi chef who has devoted every waking moment to perfecting his culinary skills. Universally regarded as the greatest sushi chef in the world, Jiro earned the rare and coveted Three-Star Michelin Rating for his restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro — not too shabby for a 10-seat sushi joint in a Tokyo subway station.
Attention to Detail
Director David Gelb originally planned to make a film focusing on multiple sushi chefs, but Jiro’s attention to detail (he travels great distances to select the perfect fish) made him a compelling subject. Throughout the documentary, Jiro is shown to be very exacting in his cooking methods. Before they can touch the sushi, Jiro’s apprentices must learn how to properly hand squeeze the hot towels given to customers before their meals. You don’t see that kind of training at Applebee’s.
Like Father, Like Son
Jiro Dreams of Sushi explores the sushi apprenticeship of Jiro’s two sons, Yoshikazu and Takashi, and the pressure they’ve experienced having been born under the shadow of a man who is basically the Anthony Bourdain of sashimi. Elder brother Yoshikazu works alongside his father in the restaurant with the hopes that he will someday inherit Jiro’s business. Takashi, on the other hand, decides to cut Jiro’s apron strings and opens a sushi restaurant of his own. Needless to say, Jiro isn’t impressed.
Jiro’s cuisine earns raves from food critics like Yamamoto, a Japanese guidebook writer who appears throughout the documentary. Yamamoto professes to being nervous every time he tries Jiro’s sushi (the chef’s constant stern expression might have something to do with it), and claims that master chefs around the world praise Jiro for the simplicity of his cuisine.
Foodie Docs Unleashed
Jiro Dreams of Sushi triggered a flood of similar docs (like the wine snob favorite Somm) that your foodie friends can’t stop asking you if you’ve seen. (Gelb returned to the kitchen with the Netflix series Chef’s Table, which looks at the world’s top chefs behind closed kitchen doors.) Like Jiro, this new crop of “food porn” is brimming with loving, slow-motion sequences of food being prepared. Don’t watch on an empty stomach!