Transcript: Ep. 1 - Suresh Doss on Jiro Dreams of Sushi | May 05, 2020

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A female announcer says YOU'RE LISTENING TO A TVO PODCAST.

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Colin Ellis says A QUICK PROGRAMMING NOTE BEFORE WE GET STARTED. THIS INTERVIEW WAS RECORDED PRE PANDEMIC. MOST OF THESE CONVERSATIONS GOING FORWARD WILL BE RECORDED FROM MY APARTMENT, SO YOU MIGHT HEAR MY CAT BODIE CHIME IN FROM TIME TO TIME.

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Colin continues I'M COLIN ELLIS AND YOU'RE LISTENING TO ON DOCS, A PODCAST ABOUT DOCUMENTARIES AND THE STORIES THEY TELL. NORMALLY, I'D BE INTRODUCING YOU TO A FILMMAKER AND THEIR LATEST DOCUMENTARY, BUT WE'RE DOING THINGS A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY THIS SEASON. YOU'RE STILL GOING TO HEAR FROM FILMMAKERS, BUT YOU'RE ALSO GOING TO HEAR INTERVIEWS WITH PEOPLE WHO DON'T NECESSARILY WORK IN DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING, LIKE OUR GUEST TODAY... SURESH DOSS. HE'S A FOOD AND TRAVEL WRITER BASED IN TORONTO AND HE'S ALSO THE CONTENT EDITOR FOR THE LCBO'S FOOD AND DRINK MAGAZINE. AND YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HIS VOICE ON CBC RADIO'S METRO MORNING. SURESH AND I DISCUSSED JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI, THE 2011 DOCUMENTARY BY DIRECTOR DAVID GELB.

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Colin says JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI IS A FASCINATING PORTRAIT OF JIRO ONO... A SUSHI MASTER IN TOKYO... AND HIS TWO SONS WHO ARE PREPARING TO TAKE OVER THEIR FATHER'S LEGACY. I'D NEVER SEEN THIS DOCUMENTARY BEFORE AND I WAS REALLY IMPRESSED BY THE STORY BEING TOLD, AND I'D ALSO BE LYING IF I SAID I WASN'T CRAVING SOME SUSHI AFTERWARDS. SO, LET'S GET INTO IT. HERE'S MY CONVERSATION WITH SURESH DOSS.

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Colin says HOW DID YOU GET INTO FOOD WRITING?

Suresh says UM, HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU HAVE, COLIN?

Colin says I HAVE AS MUCH TIME AS YOU NEED, SIR.

Suresh says I COME FROM A PRETTY FOOD RICH FAMILY. WHAT I MEAN BY THAT IS ON BOTH SIDES, MY DAD'S SIDE AND MY MOM'S SIDE, THEY'RE BOTH VERY PASSIONATE ABOUT FOOD. SO, I WAS CONSTANTLY SURROUNDED BY PEOPLE THAT WOULD TAKE A LOT OF TIME TO PREPARE SOMETHING IN THE KITCHEN. I GREW UP IN SRI LANKA. I WAS BORN IN SRI LANKA. AND I GREW UP IN A TIME WHERE IT WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CIVIL WAR, WHICH MEANT THAT, FOR MONTHS AT A TIME, I'D BE OUT OF SCHOOL BECAUSE THERE WAS SOME SORT OF SHUTDOWN OR THERE WAS SOME TERRORIST ATTACK AT A NEIGHBOURING TOWN AND WE WERE OUT OF SCHOOL FOR A LITTLE WHILE. AND DURING THOSE WEEKS AND MONTHS, I WOULD EITHER BE IN MY DAD'S OFFICE. HE RAN A COMPUTER TRAINING SCHOOL. SO, I'D BE THERE, IN FRONT OF A COMPUTER, TRYING TO FIGURE THINGS OUT OR I'D BE IN MY GRANDMA'S KITCHEN, BOTH KITCHENS. SO, I WAS CONSTANTLY SURROUNDED BY THIS IDEA OF SOMETHING COMES FROM THE MILKMAN OR THE PRODUCE GUY AND IT JUST GOES THROUGH THIS MILL OF, LIKE, FOUR OR FIVE DIFFERENT PEOPLE THAT ARE GATHERING AROUND THIS ONE SPACE AND IT GETS TURNED INTO THIS PRODUCT ON A PLATE THAT I CONSUMED. SO, THAT FOOD SORT OF INFLUENCE WAS ALWAYS THERE. AND THEN, THE TECH INFLUENCE WAS ALSO THERE BECAUSE I GREW UP AROUND COMPUTERS. WE COME TO CANADA IN 1990 AND I GREW UP WITH THESE TWO INFLUENCES IN THE HOUSEHOLD... DAD CONSTANTLY PUSHING ME TOWARDS TECH AND MOM PUSHING ME TOWARDS PAYING ATTENTION TO THE KITCHEN, IN THE KITCHEN. SO, WE HAD, LIKE, RITUALS EVERY SUNDAY AND EVERY FRIDAY, WHEN IT CAME TO FOOD, AND MY DAD WOULD CONSTANTLY JUST TRY TO PUSH ME TO LEARN THINGS. SO, INEVITABLY, I FOLLOWED MY DAD'S LEAD, GOT INTO TECH, AND I WAS IN TECH FOR A WHILE, STRAIGHT OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL. AND I KIND OF CLIMBED THE LADDER IN THE TECH WORLD AND I GOT REALLY GOOD AT FIXING THINGS, TROUBLESHOOTING THINGS. BUT INEVITABLY, I GOT BORED OF IT, LONG STORY SHORT. IT ALLOWED ME TO TRAVEL THE WORLD AND THAT TRAVELLING ALLOWED ME TO EAT A VARIETY OF DIFFERENT FOODS AT A VARIETY OF DIFFERENT SCALES... LOW, MID AND HIGH TIER. AND I WAS REALLY SMITTEN BY THE IDEA OF FOOD AND FOOD FROM MY MOM'S KITCHEN, BUT ALSO FOOD FROM SUPER HIGH-END RESTAURANTS, EATING FROM SPECIALISTS THAT WERE DOING SOMETHING REALLY UNIQUE. AND I THOUGHT TO MYSELF, COULD I QUIT IT? COULD I DO THIS INSTEAD OF THAT AND STILL MAKE A LIVING? AND THAT WAS ABOUT 15-18 YEARS AGO WHERE I MADE THAT TRANSITION SLOWLY, STARTED A SITE IN TORONTO. MY IT BACKGROUND REALLY ALLOWED ME TO BE ABLE TO GET TECHNOLOGY OFF THE GROUND. SO, I WAS AN OUTLIER IN THAT SENSE IN THE SCENE IN TORONTO. I WAS ONE OF THE FIRST FOOD BLOGGERS IN THE CITY AND I JUST KIND OF RAN WITH IT AND, YOU KNOW, LIKE, ONE THING LED TO ANOTHER AND HERE WE ARE TODAY.

Colin says WELL, WE SHOULD TALK ABOUT THIS FILM THAT YOU CHOSE TO TALK ABOUT WITH US... JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI, WHICH I HAVE TO ADMIT, I'D NEVER HEARD OF BEFORE. I-I... AND I'M EMBARRASSED TO SAY THAT BECAUSE APPARENTLY, IT'S A PRETTY BIG FILM IN THE DOCUMENTARY WORLD. AND I WONDER WHAT SPOKE TO YOU ABOUT IT.

Suresh says ON YOUR NOTE, IT'S QUITE AN INFLUENTIAL DOCUMENTARY, ESPECIALLY IN THE FOOD SPACE. WHEN YOU THINK OF CHEF'S TABLE AND ALL THE NETFLIX SHOWS THAT YOU SEE TODAY, THEY WERE ALL, REALLY, HONESTLY, INSPIRED BY THIS ONE DOCUMENTARY.

Colin says SAME DIRECTOR, RIGHT? CHEF'S TABLE?

Suresh says WELL, SAME PRODUCER... DAVID GELB.

COLIN SAYS YEP.

SURESH SAYS A DIRECTOR. BUT ALSO, EVEN THE WAY IT'S SHOT, THE WAY THE STORY IS TOLD, THE SORT OF INTROSPECTIVE INTO A CHEF'S LIFE AND THE MIND OF A SPECIALIST. YOU SEE IT EVERYWHERE NOW ON NETFLIX. IN MY CAREER, I STARTED WRITING ABOUT FOOD IN THE EARLY 2000S, IN THE EARLY AUGHTS. THIS DOCUMENTARY CAME OUT ABOUT NINE YEARS AGO. BUT IT WAS KIND OF... I DON'T WANT TO SAY LIFE-CHANGING, BUT IT REALLY ALTERED MY PERCEPTION OF THE FOOD WORLD AND ALLOWED ME TO REALLY FOCUS ON WHAT I WANTED TO DO.

Colin says HOW SO?

Suresh says PRIOR TO THE DOCUMENTARY, I KNEW THAT WHAT I WAS GOOD AT DOING, IN TERMS OF WRITING, WAS FOCUSING ON RESTAURANTS THAT DON'T REALLY ALWAYS GET THE SPOTLIGHT. SO, WHEN YOU SEE MAJOR PUBLICATIONS IN THE CITY COVERING FOOD, THEY'LL COVER PLACES THAT HAVE SOME SORT OF PR OR MARKETING BUDGET, THAT ARE ABLE TO GET A PRESS RELEASE OUT. SO, YOU HAVE A FLASHY RESTAURANT ON YONGE STREET OR ON EGLINGTON AVENUE AND THE PUBLICATIONS WILL COVER THAT, THEY'LL SEND A PHOTOGRAPHER AND THEY'LL DO THAT SPREAD. BUT A LOT OF THE MOM AND POP SHOPS IN THE OUTER BOROUGHS DON'T REALLY GET THAT ATTENTION AND THEY DON'T HAVE THE MARKETING BUDGET TO PUSH THE MESSAGING OUT. SO, MY INITIAL OBJECTIVE WAS I'M GOING TO COVER JUST EVERY MOM AND POP SHOP THAT I CAN GET MY HANDS ON. SO, I DID THAT FOR ABOUT SIX, SEVEN YEARS, AND THEN I TOOK A TRIP TO JAPAN. THIS WAS IN 2009 AND THAT WAS JUST EYE-OPENING. I MEAN, I HAD TRAVELLED TO MANY DIFFERENT COUNTRIES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD BEFORE, BUT JAPAN IS ITS OWN WORLD, IT'S ITS OWN ECOSYSTEM IN EVERY... IN EVERY WAY. BUT KIND OF HONING IN ON THE FOOD ASPECT, IT WAS THE FIRST TIME THAT I'D REALLY BEEN DROPPED INTO A PLACE WHERE PRETTY MUCH IN EVERY SPACE THAT I WAS IN, THERE WAS A SPECIALIZED FOCUSING ON ONE THING... THE IDEA THAT, YOU KNOW, YOU CAN SPEND A LIFETIME SPECIALIZING ON ONE INGREDIENT OR IN ONE PROCESS AND JUST TRYING TO GET BETTER AND BETTER THROUGHOUT TIME. WHEN YOU TRAVEL THROUGH JAPAN AND WHEN YOU TRAVEL THROUGH TOKYO, YOU CAN FEEL THIS, IT'S PALPABLE, ANYWHERE YOU GO, WHETHER IT'S THE FISH MARKET... TSUKIJI... WHERE YOU'LL FIND A GUY THAT'S ONLY SELLING CLAMS, THAT'S ALL HE'S BEEN DOING FOR HIS ENTIRE LIFE... FOUR GENERATIONS LET'S SAY... OR THE RAMEN SHOP DOWN THE STREET WHERE THEY JUST FOCUS ON A SPECIFIC TYPE OF RAMEN. SO, THIS WAS LIFE-ALTERING IN A WAY THAT, WHEN I CAME BACK, IT REALLY KIND OF REJIGGED THE WAY THAT I LOOK AT COVERING PLACES AND PROFILING PLACES. I WAS SUDDENLY NOW OBSESSED WITH FINDING PEOPLE THAT WERE ALSO ARTISANS, THAT WERE ALSO THE EQUIVALENT OF SHOKUNIN IN TORONTO. CAN I TELL THE STORY OF THAT ONE WOMAN WHO'S BEEN MAKING SAMOSAS HER ENTIRE LIFE IN MISSISSAUGA, AS OPPOSED TO JUST THE TOP TEN PLACES TO FIND SAMOSAS? AND THEN I SAW THE MOVIE JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI WHEN IT CAME OUT IN 2011 AND IT JUST REAFFIRMED THAT BECAUSE THIS MOVIE IS REALLY A DEEP DIVE INTO THE IDEA OF A SPECIALIST AND THE SHOKUNIN AND THE WAY OF SPENDING A LIFETIME JUST TRYING TO GET BETTER AT SOMETHING.

Colin says WHAT DOES "SHOKUNIN." ACTUALLY MEAN?

Suresh says THERE ARE A FEW DIFFERENT DEFINITIONS, BUT THE WAY I INTERPRETED IT IS IT'S ESSENTIALLY A SPECIALIST, A SPECIALIST THAT LOOKS AT ONE PROCESS OR ONE INGREDIENT OR ONE DISH AND JUST CARVES AWAY AT THE INDIVIDUAL ELEMENTS THAT MAKE UP THAT ONE PROCESS OR DISH AND JUST TRIES TO PERFECT IT OVER TIME.

Colin says AND JIRO IS THE EPITOME OF PERFECTIONIST. I MEAN, LIKE, THE AMOUNT OF DETAIL THAT, LIKE, GOES INTO MAKING THIS SUSHI AND HAVING A SPECIFIC, LIKE, PERSON FOR RICE, FOR TUNA. LIKE, I'D NEVER THOUGHT OF THE SUSHI BEING MADE IN SUCH A, LIKE, INTRICATE WAY. DO YOU KNOW IF HE'S STILL ACTIVE?

Suresh says SO, I HAD THE CHANCE TO EAT AT JIRO ABOUT A YEAR AND A HALF AGO AND HE WAS STILL THERE.

Colin says YEAH.

Suresh says HIS SON WAS CLEARLY AT THE HELM AND HIS SON, I THINK, IS NOW IN HIS MID TO LATE SIXTIES. BUT HE'S STILL PRETTY ACTIVE. MY UNDERSTANDING IS THAT, JUST LIKE IN THE DOCUMENTARY, YOU HEAR THAT JIRO ONO RARELY TAKES A DAY OFF, HE'S STILL VERY COMMITTED TO BEING AT THE RESTAURANT AND HIS SON IS THE ONE THAT PURVEYS THE INGREDIENTS AT THE FISH MARKET EVERY DAY.

Colin says WELL, I GUESS WHEN THE MOVIE WAS SHOT, HE WOULD HAVE BEEN IN HIS EIGHTIES AND, YOU KNOW, THE QUESTION OF WHETHER HE'LL RETIRE IS SOMETHING THAT HIS SONS ARE KIND OF, I GUESS, DEALING WITH 'CAUSE, YOU KNOW, EVENTUALLY, THE IDEA IS THEY'RE GONNA TAKE OVER AND CONTINUE THIS LEGACY AND IT SEEMS LIKE SUCH A HEAVY LEGACY FOR THEM TO LIVE UP TO. I MEAN, THIS IS A GUY THAT'S MADE SUSHI FOR BARACK OBAMA, FOR THE JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER ABE. YEAH, JUST I WONDER WHAT YOU THOUGHT OF JUST, LIKE, I GUESS HIS DESIRE TO PERFECT HIS CRAFT TO, I GUESS, THE EXTENT THAT HE GOES THROUGH.

Suresh says WELL, SO, THIS IS KIND OF FASCINATING. SO, THIS SUSHI RESTAURANT IS NEAR A TRAIN STATION, IT'S IN THE BASEMENT NEXT TO A TRAIN STATION IN GINZA. GINZA IS A DISTRICT IN TOKYO THAT IS WELL KNOWN FOR BEING A PLACE FILLED WITH PLENTY OF MALLS THAT HAVE A LOT OF GREAT FOOD ITEMS, SPECIALITY FOOD ITEMS. THERE'S ONE MALL IN PARTICULAR WHERE YOU CAN GO INTO THE BASEMENT FOUR LEVELS DOWN AND ALL YOU FIND IS AMAZING SAKE, LIKE WORLD-CHANGING SAKE. AND IN THE GINZA TRAIN STATION, YOU HAVE THIS TINY, TINY, UNASSUMING SUSHI SPOT. YOU COULD EASILY WALK BY IT A MILLION TIMES. IT LOOKS LIKE YOU'RE IN SOME OFFICE BUILDING. AND IN HERE, YOU HAVE ESSENTIALLY THIS GUY... JIRO ONO... WHO'S TAKEN THE IDEA OF THE WAY SUSHI WAS SERVED 200 YEARS AGO... THE EDO STYLE OF SUSHI, WHERE IT'LL BE CART-STYLE SUSHI WHERE SOMEONE WILL BE WALKING DOWN THE STREET, THEY WOULD STOP, HAVE A PIECE OF SUSHI DIPPED IN SOY SAUCE AND THEN WALK AWAY... SO THIS IDEA OF THE RUDIMENTARY FOOD, RIGHT? STREET FOOD. AND HE'S TAKING THAT AND HE ESSENTIALLY BREAKS DOWN THE VARIOUS ELEMENTS... AND IN THIS CASE, IF YOU WANT TO JUST BREAK IT DOWN INTO THREE ELEMENTS, WHETHER IT'S FISH, THE SOY SAUCE, AND THE RICE... AND HE TRIES TO PERFECT THAT OVER, IN THIS CASE, 70 YEARS, WHICH IS KIND OF CRAZY BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, SUSHI... I MEAN, I'VE HAD AMAZING SUSHI THROUGHOUT MY LIFE AND IT IS DEFINITELY A NUANCED AND COMPLEX AND LAYERED THING TO EAT, BUT WHEN YOU LOOK AT IT, IT LOOKS PRETTY SIMPLE. AND CERTAINLY, FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE, HERE IN THE WESTERN WORLD, YOU AND I HAVE HAD SUSHI MANY TIMES AT OUR FAVOURITE PLACES, WE DON'T REALLY THINK TOO MUCH ABOUT IT, RIGHT? WE KNOW WHAT WE LIKE... TEXTURE AND FLAVOUR AND THE RICE... BUT WE DON'T THINK ABOUT WHAT MAKES IT PERFECT. AND HERE, YOU HAVE A GUY THAT HAS GONE TO THE LENGTHS OF PURVEYING SOY SAUCE FROM THIS GUY THAT HE ALWAYS GETS SOY SAUCE FROM, BEFORE HE USES IT. SAME THING WITH THE FISH... HE ONLY BUYS FISH FROM THIS ONE PERSON FROM THE TSUKIJI MARKET. SAME THING WITH THE RICE... HE ONLY BUYS RICE FROM THIS ONE PERSON. AND THEN, SPENDING THE AMOUNT OF TIME FIGURING OUT HOW TO EITHER AGE OR COOK SOMETHING THROUGHOUT A LIFETIME. THERE'S A GREAT COMMENT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MOVIE, WHERE HE TALKS ABOUT OCTOPUS AND HOW HE PREPARES OCTOPUS, AND HE SAYS SOMETHING LIKE, UM... YOU KNOW, LIKE, "I USED TO, LIKE, MASSAGE THE OCTOPUS FOR 30 MINUTES."

Colin says YOU WERE GOING WHERE I WAS THINKING, ACTUALLY, YEAH.

Suresh says AND IT'S LIKE, "AND THEN, I REALIZED "I SHOULD ACTUALLY MASSAGE THIS OCTOPUS FOR 40 TO 50 MINUTES "BECAUSE THAT'S WHEN I GET THE MOST TENDER PRODUCT "AND THE RIGHT CHEW THAT I WANT." THAT'S KIND OF CRAZY, RIGHT? I MEAN, MOST CHEFS THAT YOU AND I KNOW OR COME ACROSS WILL FIND A COMFORT ZONE, WHERE THEY GET THE LEVEL OF QUALITY THAT THEY WANT AND THEN THEY STOP, THEY KIND OF COAST. JIRO IS A KIND OF TESTAMENT TO THE KIND OF CHEF THAT IS RELENTLESS IN THEIR PURSUIT OF PERFECTION.

Colin says YEAH, AND HE HIRES THE APPRENTICES TO DO THAT, KIND OF, THE MASSAGING, AND FOR SOME OF THEM, IT TAKES YEARS TO ACTUALLY, I GUESS, GET TO THE LEVEL WHERE THEY'RE ACTUALLY ANY GOOD AND SO MANY... I THINK THERE'S, LIKE, A LOT OF TURNOVER AS WELL, RIGHT?

Suresh says YEAH. I MEAN, THE FUNNY THING IS THERE'S A TURNOVER IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY ALL OVER THE WORLD. IT'S JUST... AS GENERATIONS SHIFT, THE COMMON COMMON IS THAT THE YOUNGER GENERATION JUST ARE NOT AS DEDICATED TO THE CRAFT AND THEY DON'T WANT TO SPEND X AMOUNT OF TIME LEARNING HOW TO GET BETTER AT THE CRAFT. IN JIRO'S CASE, THOUGH, I MEAN, HE... I THINK THIS IS MENTIONED IN THE MOVIE, WHERE APPRENTICES SPEND A MINIMUM OF TEN YEARS BEFORE THEY CAN MOVE ON TO A DIFFERENT STATION IN THE KITCHEN. SO, THEY SPEND TEN YEARS LEARNING EITHER HOW TO MAKE A RICE OR THE TAMAGOYAKI OR SOMETHING ELSE, WHICH IS KIND OF CRAZY. THAT KIND OF PATIENCE DOESN'T EXIST IN THIS PART OF THE WORLD, RIGHT?

Colin says YEAH, NO. OUR PRODUCER MATT WAS JUST SAYING, THE FIRST SKILL THEY LEARN IS TO WRING A TOWEL, WHICH IS... YEAH, I MEAN, AGAIN, THAT KIND OF INTENSITY IS, LIKE, BIZARRE AND I WONDER JUST... I SHOULDN'T SAY IT'S BIZARRE, ACTUALLY. MAYBE I WANT TO KNOW JUST HOW COMMON IT IS, MAYBE, IN OTHER KITCHENS THAT YOU'VE MAYBE VISITED OR SEEN.

Suresh says WELL, I MEAN, OKAY, SO IF WE WERE TALK ABOUT THE KITCHENS IN THE WESTERN WORLD, IN NORTH AMERICA AT LEAST, IT'S THE ANTITHESIS OF THAT. I MEAN, LIKE, I THINK THE TURNOVER IS SO HIGH, CONCEPTS ARE CONSTANTLY CHANGING. WE ARE AN INDUSTRY THAT IS RELYING ON THE PACE OF SOCIAL MEDIA, AS WELL. SO, FOOD IS EVOLVING, WE'RE LEARNING NEW THINGS, CHEFS ARE CONSTANTLY PULLING FROM INTERNATIONAL INFLUENCES AND INGREDIENTS. THOSE... THOSE ELEMENTS DON'T ALLOW FOR YOU TO SPECIALIZE IN ONE THING FOR TOO LONG BECAUSE, I THINK, CHEFS ARE CONSTANTLY WORRIED ABOUT GETTING BORED THEMSELVES, BUT THEY'RE ALSO WORRIED ABOUT THEIR CLIENTS AND THE CUSTOMERS GETTING BORED. SO, I DON'T... I RARELY COME ACROSS A NEW RESTAURANT IN TORONTO WHERE THEY FOCUS ON ONE THING AND CONTINUE THAT FOCUS FOR MORE THAN, LET'S SAY A YEAR OR TWO AT A TIME. WHERE I DO SEE THE FOCUS, THOUGH, IS I DO SEE IT, ON THE FLIP SIDE, WITH IMMIGRANT FAMILIES THAT COME HERE FROM ANOTHER PART OF THE WORLD BECAUSE, IN THEIR CASE, THEY'RE BRINGING FOOD CULTURE THAT IS EQUAL PARTS NOSTALGIA AND CULTURAL PRESERVATION. SO, THEY NEED TO BE ABLE TO MAKE THE FOOD THE SAME WAY OVER AND OVER.

Colin says DO YOU THINK IT AFFECTS THE QUALITY OF THE FOOD?

Suresh says UM, THIS IS... I MEAN, THIS IS A VERY SELF... THIS IS A VERY SELFISH COMMENT. I THINK... I DON'T THINK ANYONE HAS TO MAKE THE SAME THING OVER AND OVER TO GET BETTER AT SOMETHING. I THINK IT BECOMES MECHANICAL AND IT DOESN'T REALLY ALLOW FOR CREATIVITY. BUT I DO FIND THAT, IN SOME INSTANCES, IN THE CASE OF IMMIGRANT RESTAURANTS, WHEN THEY COME HERE, THEY DISCOVER INGREDIENTS THAT ACTUALLY MAKE THE DISHES BETTER. SO, FOR EXAMPLE, I THINK THAT WE HAVE BETTER ACCESS TO MEAT IN NORTH AMERICA. WE HAVE REALLY HIGH QUALITY MEAT. AND THAT, IN TURN, HAS MADE CERTAIN TYPES OF SOUP DISHES FROM SOUTHEAST ASIA WAY BETTER HERE. LIKE, I'VE HAD WAY BETTER PHO IN NORTH AMERICA THAN IN VIETNAM BECAUSE WE HAVE BETTER ACCESS TO BEEF AND PORK. AND ON THE FLIP SIDE, FLOUR, IN TERMS OF WHEAT, WE HAVE THE BEST WHEAT IN THE WORLD IN CANADA, WHICH GETS SENT ALL AROUND THE WORLD. WHEN YOU HAVE NOODLES OR PASTA, WE HAVE THE BEST PRODUCT HERE IN CANADA. SO, YOU SEE THAT ELEVATION, YOU SEE THAT SORT OF TANGENTIAL DIFFERENCE IN TERMS OF HOW A PRODUCT WILL TASTE HERE, COMPARED TO HOW IT WOULD TASTE IN BEIRUT, FOR EXAMPLE. IS IT BETTER OR WORSE? I CAN'T REALLY COMMENT BECAUSE IT'S DIFFERENT. BUT WHAT I LOVE SEEING IS WHEN THE COOK DISCOVERS THAT AND THEY FIND THAT THEY HAVE A BETTER PRODUCT TO WORK WITH, THAT KIND OF REINVIGORATES THEIR PASSION IN COOKING, IF THAT MAKES ANY SENSE.

Colin says I THINK SO, YEAH. WELL...
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IT'S FUNNY, I WAS IN JAPAN YEARS AGO AND, YOU KNOW, I OBVIOUSLY HAD THE SUSHI THERE AND IT'S MILES AHEAD OF WHAT IT IS HERE, OBVIOUSLY JUST BECAUSE WHEN YOU'RE THERE, IT'S KIND OF THE REAL THING. AND I'VE EVEN BEEN TO THAT FISH MARKET, TOO. LIKE, IT'S HUMONGOUS. THE ONE THING I REMEMBER IN THE FILM THAT WAS... I THINK THEY WERE SORT OF CRITICIZING IT, BUT YOU SEE THE SUSHI ON THE CONVEYOR BELTS AND THIS IDEA THAT, YOU KNOW, THERE'S THIS MASS CONSUMPTION OF SUSHI AND IT'S LEADING TO, I GUESS, A DEPLETION OF FISH AS A RESULT, AND THAT WAS SOMETHING THAT WAS KIND OF... NOT NEW TO ME, BUT IT'S SOMETHING THAT WAS INTERESTING THAT THEY WERE TAKING INTO CONSIDERATION AS WELL. I WONDER WHAT YOU THOUGHT OF THAT.

Suresh says WELL, THIS IS, LIKE, THE TOPIC OF THE TOWN RIGHT NOW, RIGHT? SUSTAINABILITY AND THE FACT THAT WE'RE OVERFISHING OUR WATERS. BUT, YOU KNOW, REWATCHING JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI, WHICH IS A DOC THAT CAME OUT NINE YEARS AGO, IT WAS REALLY COOL TO SEE THEM ADDRESS THAT. AS A CHEF THAT CHARGES... I MEAN, HE'S CHARGING 400 dollars A HEAD NOW FOR YOU TO HAVE 20 OR SO PIECES OF SUSHI. I'M GLAD THAT HE ADDRESSES IT. LOOK, I DON'T THINK... I DON'T THINK WE NEED ALL YOU CAN EAT SUSHI IN OUR LIVES AND I DON'T THINK WE NEED CONVEYOR BELT SUSHI. I DON'T THINK WE NEED THAT LEVEL OF CONVENIENCE APPLIED TO A PRODUCT THAT, YOU KNOW, CAN LEAD TO OVERFISHING OUR WATERS, RIGHT? I THINK SUSHI, MUCH LIKE MANY OTHER THINGS, ESPECIALLY OUR OBSESSION WITH PROTEIN, I THINK IT'S SOMETHING WE HAVE TO CURB. WE HAVE TO ENJOY... ENJOY IT IN SMALLER QUANTITIES. THE CONVEYOR BELT SUSHI CONCEPT IS FASCINATING. WE HAD A COUPLE OF THOSE RESTAURANTS LAUNCH IN TORONTO IN THE AUGHTS, LIKE, I WOULD SAY, 15 YEARS AGO. I REMEMBER THIS. THERE WAS A PLACE THAT OPENED ON YONGE STREET, JUST SOUTH OF BLOOR AND IT WAS HOT FOR, LIKE, A MINUTE 'CAUSE EVERYONE WAS LIKE, "WHOA, WHAT'S THIS REALLY COOL THING?" YOU CAN SIT DOWN, YOU DON'T HAVE TO ENGAGE WITH ANY WAITER OR ANYONE ELSE AND YOU HAVE THIS CARD IN FRONT OF YOU AND THIS CONVEYOR BELT THAT KIND OF ROTATES AROUND WITH DIFFERENT TYPES OF PLATES. BUT IT WAS HOT FOR A MINUTE, AND THEN PEOPLE REALIZED, "OKAY, LIKE, THERE'S A CONSIDERABLE AMOUNT "OF WASTED FOOD HERE" AND ALSO THE QUALITY JUST WASN'T GREAT. I DON'T THINK WE NEED CONVEYOR BELT SUSHI AND ALL YOU CAN EAT SUSHI.

Colin says YOU MENTIONED, I MEAN, THE PRICE, AGAIN, WAS WHAT? 400 dollars YOU SAID?

Suresh says YEAH. I THINK, UM, WHEN I WENT A YEAR AND A HALF AGO, I DIDN'T PAY FOR IT, BUT IT WAS 450 dollars A PERSON, AND THAT'S JUST... YOU KNOW, JUST YOUR HAVING... IT WAS ABOUT 20 TO 25 PIECES OF SUSHI IN THREE... IN THREE SORT OF SECTIONS. I FELT GUILTY DOING IT ABOUT HALFWAY THROUGH BECAUSE OF THE LEVEL OF QUALITY IN TERMS OF THE PRODUCT. AND, YOU KNOW, AS THE MENU PROGRESSED, YOU GOT THIS SENSE THAT YOU WERE ESSENTIALLY EATING YOUR WAY THROUGH THE EXTINCTION LIST, RIGHT? BECAUSE OF HOW RARE SOME OF THESE SEAFOOD PRODUCTS ARE. IT WAS LIFE-CHANGING, IT WAS A GREAT EXPERIENCE, OF COURSE, BUT, LIKE, YOU FEEL GUILTY AS YOU'RE NAVIGATING THROUGH IT.

Colin says YOU MENTIONED OR WE TALKED ABOUT JIRO'S SON, WHO'S IN HIS MID-SIXTIES. I GUESS HE'S SUPPOSED TO CARRY ON THIS LEGACY THAT JIRO HAS PASSED ONTO HIM, AND I WONDER... I GUESS WE SORT OF ALREADY TOUCHED ON IT, BUT THIS NOTION OF, I GUESS, THE RESTAURANT AS A FAMILY LEGACY BEING PASSED DOWN. IS THAT STILL KIND OF LIKE, I GUESS, A PROMINENT THING THAT THE NEXT GENERATION WANTS TO PASS ON TO THEIR NEXT OF KIN OR THEIR CHILDREN?

Suresh says I THINK THIS IS A HOT TOPIC RIGHT NOW IN THE GTA FOR A NUMBER OF REASONS. SO, IN THE MOVIE, WE MEET JIRO'S TWO SONS, YOSHIKAZU, WHO'S THE OLDEST, AND TAKASHI, WHO IS THE YOUNGER SON. SO, THE OLDER SON HAS BEEN APPRENTICING FOR SO MANY YEARS, LIKE, OVER 40 YEARS. AND FINALLY, ABOUT A DECADE AGO, HE HAD THE CHANCE TO KIND OF GRAB THE REINS AND RUN THE COUNTER. BUT HE TALKS ABOUT THIS IMMENSE PRESSURE THAT HE FEELS, TAKING OVER THIS RESTAURANT, BECAUSE HE NEEDS TO MEET THE QUALITY OF HIS DAD'S COOKING. AND THE YOUNGER SON, TAKASHI, DECIDED... HE WAS NEVER GOING TO INHERIT THE RESTAURANT. HE DECIDED TO GO AND OPEN HIS OWN PLACE, AND HE MAKES A COMMENT IN THE MOVIE WHERE HE SAYS, "THERE'S AN IMMENSE AMOUNT OF PRESSURE, AND MY DAD HAS BEEN MAKING SUSHI SINCE BEFORE I WAS BORN. AND THE ONLY WAY I CAN MATCH HIM IS IF I LOWER MY PRICES."
SO, OKAY. THAT'S A VERY JAPANESE THING, THEN. THAT'S A VERY TOKYO THING. THE ISSUE THAT I SEE ON A DAY-TODAY BASIS IN THE GTA WITH MY WORK IS, YOU HAVE... AGAIN, YOU HAVE THESE IMMIGRANT CULTURES THAT HAVE COME HERE OVER THE LAST 50, 60 YEARS, FIRST-GENERATION IMMIGRANTS THAT HAVE SET ROOTS. AND A LARGE PERCENTAGE OF THEM HAVE DECIDED TO OPEN A FOOD BUSINESS. SO, GREAT. THEY'VE OPENED A CHINESE RESTAURANT IN CHINATOWN OR A LEBANESE PLACE IN SCARBOROUGH, AND THEY'VE FOUND AN AUDIENCE. SO, OVER THE NEXT 20 OR 30 YEARS, THEY HAVE THIS COMMUNITY THAT HAS RALLIED AROUND THEM, AND THEY'VE BECOME SUCCESSFUL. THEY'VE PUT THEIR KIDS THROUGH SCHOOL. THEY'VE HOPEFULLY GONE ON TO FIND BETTER HOUSING. KIDS HAVE GOTTEN A GREAT EDUCATION, AND THEY'RE NOW AT THIS CROSSROAD. YOU HAVE BOOMER AND GEN X AND MILLENNIALS, RIGHT? THE PARENTS DON'T NECESSARILY WANT THEIR KIDS TO TAKE OVER THE RESTAURANT. WELL, WHY WOULD THEY? THEY BUSTED THEIR BUTTS, STANDING FOR 14 HOURS A DAY, TRYING TO MAKE END MEETS TO RUN THIS RESTAURANT, TO PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE AND MONEY IN THE BANK. THEY DON'T WANT THEIR KIDS TO THAT. THEY WANT THEIR KIDS TO GO INTO STEM AND BECOME LAWYERS AND GO INTO MEDICINE. THE KIDS MAY WANT TO TAKE OVER THEIR FAMILIES' BUSINESS, BECAUSE THEY FEEL THE LEGACY. IT'S A PALPABLE THING. THEY MAY SEE HOW HAPPY IT'S MADE PEOPLE AROUND THEM. OR THEY MAY HAVE NO INTEREST BECAUSE THEY HAVE A SUCCESSFUL CAREER ON BAY STREET, WHATEVER IT IS. SO, THERE IS THIS CROSSROAD THAT I AM NOTICING MORE AND MORE, BECAUSE THE PLACES THAT I PROFILE ARE ONES THAT HAVE BEEN AROUND FOR 20, 30 YEARS. IN THOSE INSTANCES, IT'S FASCINATING TO UNDERSTAND THE CONVERSATION THAT'S TAKING PLACE BETWEEN FATHER AND SON, MOTHER AND DAUGHTER, BECAUSE IN MOST CASES, THE BUSINESS DISSOLVES. IT DISAPPEARS, AND WE'RE SEEING THAT ALL OVER THE GTA RIGHT NOW. I MEAN, THERE WAS A CHINESE RESTAURANT CALLED SEA-HI THAT CLOSED AT THE END OF FEBRUARY, AND IT'S BEEN OPEN FOR 40-SOMETHING YEARS. I'M RUNNING INTO PLACES WHERE THE KIDS DON'T WANT TO BE A PART OF IT, AND IN THE FEW INSTANCES THAT THEY DO WANT TO BE A PART OF IT, THEY TRY TO TAMPER WITH IT A LITTLE BIT.

Colin says AND WHAT GETS LOST, I GUESS, WHEN THEY DON'T CONTINUE THAT RESTAURANT?

Suresh says I STRUGGLE WITH THIS ANSWER. FOOD IS CONSTANTLY CHANGING. I HAVE TO REMIND MYSELF THIS. IT'S AN ORGANIC THING. IT CHANGES EVERY TIME YOU MAKE IT. AS YOU TRAVEL, IT CHANGES. IMMIGRATION CHANGES IT. WARS CHANGE IT. SO, WHEN KIDS TAKE OVER A RESTAURANT, THEY WANT TO PUT THEIR TWEAKS ON IT, RIGHT, BECAUSE THESE KIDS HAVE GROWN UP IN TORONTO AND THEY'VE GROWN UP WITH A VARIETY OF DIFFERENT CULTURES. THEY'RE NOT THEIR PARENTS. THEY WANT TO ADD SOMETHING TO THAT TACO OR THAT CHILI CHICKEN, AND THEY WANT TO MAKE IT THEIR OWN. AND IT DOESN'T NECESSARILY MAKE IT BETTER OR WORSE. IT'S ITS OWN THING. BUT WHAT YOU LOSE IN THE PROCESS IS, YOU LOSE THE STORY OF A TIME AND PLACE. I THINK THAT'S THE BEST WAY I CAN SAY IT. YOU LOSE THE STORY OF WHAT THAT CHILI CHICKEN WAS IN THE '50S, '60S, OR '70S. AND WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? I MEAN, FOOD'S CHANGING ALL THE TIME. WE'VE ONLY BEEN DOCUMENTING FOOD FOR THE LAST COUPLE HUNDRED YEARS, SO WE DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT WE'VE LOST BEFORE THAT, RIGHT?

Colin says IT ALSO SORT OF MAKES TORONTO A LESS INTERESTING CITY. I MEAN, I'M SPEAKING JUST OF TORONTO, BECAUSE THIS IS WHERE I GREW UP. BUT I MEAN, YOU KNOW, I WALK THROUGH NEIGHBOURHOODS. I GREW UP IN CHINATOWN, AND YOU KNOW, THAT NEIGHBOURHOOD'S CONSTANTLY CHANGING. AND LITTLE JAMAICA, YOU KNOW, NOT TOO FAR FROM OUR STUDIOS, I MEAN, LOSING BUSINESSES THERE. AND SOMETIMES IT'S, YOU KNOW, THE ECONOMICS. SOMETIMES, IT'S JUST THEY DON'T WANT TO DO IT ANYMORE, RIGHT? LIKE, THEY'RE KIND OF DONE. LIKE...

Suresh says YEAH. YEAH. I MEAN, IN MOST CASES, THEY WANT TO BOOKEND THAT STORY AND CLOSE THE CHAPTER, ABSOLUTELY. AND I'M GOING TO SAY THAT YOU'RE GOING TO NOTICE THIS MORE AND MORE IN THE NEXT COUPLE OF YEARS AS BOOMERS START TO RETIRE, THE FIRST GENERATION STARTS TO RETIRE.

Colin says SO, IF YOU HAD TO... IF YOU CONSIDERED... LET'S SAY JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI WAS A STARTER AND YOU WANTED TO GO ON TO YOUR NEXT MEAL, YOUR MAIN COURSE. WHAT WOULD YOU CHOOSE? EITHER A MOVIE OR A SERIES? WHAT WOULD YOU SEND PEOPLE TO WATCH?

Suresh says OOH... WELL, OKAY. SO, DAVID CHANG'S UGLY DELICIOUS HAS A NEW SEASON COMING OUT. I'VE SEEN A FEW EPISODES. IT'S GREAT. I THINK HE'S REALLY MADE SOME TWEAKS TO THAT SHOW BASED ON THE FEEDBACK THAT HE GOT FROM SEASON ONE, WHERE THERE ARE A LOT MORE DIVERSE VOICES. AND HE'S REALLY TACKLING A LOT OF INTERESTING SUBJECT MATTER IN THE FOOD SPACE, WHETHER IT'S ACCESS TO FOOD SUSTAINABILITY AND WHETHER IT'S CULTURAL APPROPRIATION. ALL THOSE TOPICS ARE GREAT, AND THEY'RE IN SEASON TWO, SO I'D RECOMMEND THAT SHOW RIGHT NOW. OTHER THAN THAT, I THINK MOST OF MY CONSUMPTION RIGHT NOW IS THROUGH PODCASTING AND THROUGH READING ONLINE. SO, I LOVE, LIKE, THE KCRW GOOD FOOD PODCAST. THE BON APPÉTIT PODCAST IS GREAT. SPLENDID TABLE IS FANTASTIC. AND I REALLY LOVE THE FOOD WRITING THAT'S COMING OUT OF THE WEST COAST, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE AND THE LOS ANGELES TIMES. I THINK THERE'S SOME... I THINK WE USED TO BE A CITY THAT REALLY FOLLOWED IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF NEW YORK, AND WE'RE NOW FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF LA FOR THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS. SO, ALL THE EXCITING STUFF IS REALLY HAPPENING ON THE WEST COAST.

Colin says AND WHERE CAN PEOPLE FIND YOU?

Suresh says SO, I'VE GOT A WEEKLY SHOW ON CBC METRO MORNING EVERY THURSDAY. I'M THE FOOD GUIDE FOR CBC. YOU CAN FIND ME THERE. I'M ALSO THE CONTENT EDITOR FOR THE LCBO FOOD AND DRINK MAGAZINE. AND ON SOCIAL MEDIA, ON TWITTER OR INSTAGRAM, YOU CAN FIND ME @SURESH.

Colin says AWESOME. THANKS SO MUCH, SURESH.

Suresh says THANK YOU.

Colin says AND THAT'S THE PODCAST. THANKS TO SURESH DOSS FOR COMING ON THE SHOW. THERE'S ANOTHER NEW EPISODE OF ON DOCS AVAILABLE TO DOWNLOAD RIGHT NOW. IT'S MY CONVERSATION WITH DIRECTOR ALAN ZWEIG ABOUT HIS NEW DOC FOR TVO, COPPERS, SO GO CHECK THAT OUT. AND YOU CAN FIND MORE ON DOCS CONTENT AT OUR WEBSITE, TVO.ORG. IF YOU LIKED WHAT YOU HEARD, YOU CAN LEAVE US A REVIEW ON APPLE PODCASTS AND GIVE US FIVE STARS. IT HELPS NEW LISTENERS FIND THE SHOW. IF YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE FOOD DOC OF YOUR OWN, YOU CAN LET ME KNOW ABOUT IT BY WRITING TO US AT ONDOCS@TVO.ORG. YOU CAN ALSO FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER @COLINELLIS81. THIS EPISODE OF ON DOCS WAS PRODUCED BY MATTHEW O'MARA AND ME. OUR PRODUCTION SUPPORT COORDINATORS ARE NIKKI ASHWORTH AND JONATHAN HALLIWELL. OUR SERIES PRODUCER IS KATIE O'CONNOR, AND OUR EXECUTIVE PRODUCER FOR DIGITAL IS KATHY VEY. WE'LL CATCH YOU AT THE NEXT SCREENING.

Watch: Ep. 1 - Suresh Doss on Jiro Dreams of Sushi