The only thing ordinary about the Sukiyabashi Jiro Sushi restaurant is it’s looks.
Located in the underground corridor near a Tokyo subway station, with the capacity to seat only 10 people at a time, it is renowned as the best Sushi restaurant in the world.
Jiro Ono the owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, is the genius behind the fame of this unassuming restaurant.
Jiro Ono started working in a local restaurant at the age of 7, when he was barely a first grader. Just two years later, he left home to Tokyo to study as an apprentice. And since then he has worked on making Sushi every single day of his life.
Around the late 2000s, American film director David Gelb along with famed food critic Masuhiro Yamamoto wanted to make a documentary on Sushi. Their intention was to compile the work of different Sushi chefs and their styles. Ono’s restaurant was on their list of restaurants to be tried out.
On the day Gelb had the meal in Ono’s restaurant,he changed his mind. The dish served to him made such a huge impact on him, that he decided the documentary would be about Ono and none other.
The documentary “Jiro dreams of Sushi”, turned out to be one of the successful most documentaries, earning millions and sky rocketing Jiro Ono’s fame.
Today, at 94, Ono has a few inspiring accomplishments under his belt.
- He is the first and oldest sushi chef in the world to earn 3 Michelin Stars.
- He is credited by food artisans, contemporaries and critics as the greatest sushi craftsman alive.
- His restaurant boasts of having served some of the world’s powerful men and women.
- He has developed some innovative methods in sushi making.
- His net worth is 9 million dollars.
How did Ono become the master craftsman?
Ono’s secret is simple.
He rises early everyday and does the exact same thing as he did yesterday and the day before.
And then he strives to do it just a little bit better than he did the previous day.
“I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I’ll continue to climb, trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is.“
– Jiro Ono, Master Sushi Chef
The path of improvement
Ono believes that to make delicious food, one must eat delicious food and improve their palate. “If your sense of taste is lower than that of the customers how will you impress them?“
He honed his palate to distinguish subtle tastes and smells.
Ono extends this philosophy to training his apprentices as well. Ono and the senior staff always cook excellent meals for the apprentices in order to train their palates.
As far as complexity, sushi is one of the simplest, in terms of ingredients. Rice, protein, and a little vinegar are the primary components. And yet, Ono manages to pack these finger-sized morsels of food with such depth of flavor. And the process to achieving that is nothing but simple.
It’s all in the process
From the texture and flavour of the raw ingredients used, to the temperature at which the rice accompanied with sushi is served, Ono keeps a check of everything.
Rice is washed no less than eight times to wash out the starchiness, and cooked in a specially prepared mixture of water and vinegar for a sweet and tangy flavor. Certain kinds of fish are marinated for at least six hours. Tuna is aged for three days to acquire that melt in the mouth softness.
All these techniques and subtle nuances were developed by Ono by constant attention to areas that can be improved on and implementing them bit by bit.
Embrace the monotony of the process
We tend to be obsessed with end results. Ono wouldn’t have achieved his perfect sushi if he hadn’t concentrated on improving the process.
The right temperature, the exact way to cut, flavoring just the right amount. The perfect sushi was simply the end result.
The point is not the end result, but doing something and embracing the monotony of it – even enjoying it. The point is to embrace the process, the nuances of the work and be involved enough to improve on it.
Why very few people are amazing at what they do?
Because very few people are able to appreciate the monotony. It takes a lot to do a work, day in and day out and still be involved and interested in it to achieve the next level.
It takes a lot to show up everyday, even when you don’t feel like it and put in the same care and attention as the previous day.
How can we be amazing too?
If we choose just one thing and work on it everyday, improve just a micro bit, it is bound to turn into something amazing. It is a given.There is no other way.
We often overestimate what we can do in an hour but underestimate what can be done in a year. What we do everyday, however small are the things that create a lasting impact.