At times, writing this blog felt more like a restaurant review than a film review. In Hiro’s Table, writer and director Lynn Hamrick explores the professional life span of master chef Hiroji Obayashi and his wife Yasuyo over the course of 16 years. It’s safe to say that this documentary was a delicious take on the exploration of modern Asian-American food as much as it was a poignant biography on the modern Asian-American family. Film and food lovers take note: This is a must-see.
The film opens in the present. Obayashi and his wife are enjoying their laid back lifestyle on a sunny day in Portland, Oregon. Then Hamrick flashes back 16 years to a time that doesn’t seem so distant and unfamiliar. By covering the chef’s journey over nearly two decades, Hamrick unveils the unique approach that Obayashi takes to food--an approach that merits him an iconic status in the culinary community.
A still frame from 'Hiro's Table'
What started as a small in restaurant in the early 2000s, has grown into an international food sensation. An early adopter of both farm-to-table and fusion-style food, Obayashi found a way to bear his own heart on every plate. Treating each meal like a symphony, his presentation of food looks delicious at every turn. This care for the customer and inclination for the ingredients sparked a success that Hamrick captures beautifully on camera.
But Hamrick’s film is also a character piece. A documentary about a family-run business would be nothing without the family, and this distinct cast of characters draws you in from the first frame. Between the supportive children and loving wife, you can’t help but root for the entire family’s success in every endeavor. And although Obayashi ultimately vaults to success and acclaim, he and his family face their fair share of challenges. Hiro’s Table isn’t about the professional success of one man -- it’s about the triumphs a man’s family helps him attain. And just as Obayashi was lucky to have such a supportive tribe, we’re lucky to have filmmakers like Hamrick to give us a seat at the table for such tasteful films.
Hiro's Table runs 55 minutes and will be shown Saturday, April 13 at 11:30 a.m. at Alamo Drafthouse as part of Thin Line Film Festival. To register for Thin Line Fest or to purchase a premium registration, click here.