Earlier this year, in a piece for the Guardian, Anthony Bourdain revealed where he would like his final meal to be before leaving this earth for good—a small, underground sushi restaurant in Tokyo, Japan called Sukiyabashi Jiro.
“I think I’d prefer to die like an old lion—to crawl away into the bushes where no one can see me draw my last breath,” Bourdain wrote. “But in this case, I’d crawl away to a seat in front of this beautiful hinoki wood sushi bar, where three-Michelin starred Jiro Ono would make me a 22- or 23-course omakase tasting menu.”
Indeed, Bourdain’s love affair with Jiro—the famed, 90-year-old chef who served as the subject of the popular documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi—has been well-documented over the years. On the chef’s now defunct Travel Channel series, No Reservations, Tony traveled to pray at the altar of Jiro, devouring the master’s fish with the utmost care and concentration.
Now, in an interview with Munchies on Thursday, the Parts Unknown host explains exactly what makes Jiro the undisputed GOAT of the sushi game—and it’s not all about the freshness of the fish. According to Bourdain, the chef literally crafts each piece of sushi to fit his customers’ mouths.
“One of the things that Jiro does is that every fish he serves he serves it at a specific temperature. Like he leaves it out of the refrigerator and brings it to a particular point in its life—it’s not about the freshness, it’s at the perfect state at its decomposition that it’s served,” Bourdain says when asked to name his favorite culinary craftsmen. “His rice—the precision with which he picks that rice up and shapes it. He looks at you and examines the shape of your mouth and your left hand and right hand as he forms his nigiri. He exercises every day so that he can stand erect so that he won’t look pathetic.”
While Jiro Ono is often credited with revolutionizing sushi—introducing modern storage techniques into the kitchen—Bourdain has similarly transformed the world of food-media. Once again, Bourdain lays out exactly what’s right and what’s wrong with the current state of culinary journalism, relating writing about food to writing about porn.
Visual media has opened things up in a really, really interesting way. I mean, it can make a restaurant now. It’s made the playing field much more interesting but it’s also put pressure on a lot of people, clocking away at keyboards, underpaid in cubicles to generate hits. So, they’ve got to generate a certain amount of words every day and there’s only so much to be written about food. It’s a lot like writing about porn. It’s the same story over and over. So I think a lot of people are less scrupulous about calling bullshit.
If there's one thing Bourdain has the market corned on, it's being scrupulous and calling bullshit.