Raising Your Taste Level
Recently, I saw the film “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” it’s a documentary about Jiro Ono, a man most consider to be THE best sushi chef in the world.
Here’s what struck me about the film: You can’t make the world’s best sushi without having a highly refined sense of taste.
Said another way, if you can’t taste the difference in quality between a McDonald’s Chicken McNugget and a piece of world-class sushi, you’ll never be a world-class chef.
This truth has HUGE implications on all of us as artists. I call it improving your taste level.
When I was younger I found myself being impressed by almost everything I encountered. I enjoyed most of the movies I saw, I liked most of the songs I heard, but as I was exposed to more and more films and more and more music, I started distinguishing the differences between the good and bad.
Now, I find that just the opposite is true. I don’t enjoy most of the movies I see and I’m not impressed with most of the music I hear, and it’s not because “I’m too good” for everything, but rather, because my taste level has been raised and so finding things that “taste” good to me now is much more difficult.
That’s the downside.
The upside is that I’m now capable of making better art simply because I actually know what “better” art is! Again, it’s impossible to make good food if you don’t know what good food tastes like.
So, as an artist one of the most useful things I can do to improve myself is to improve my taste level. This is what Jiro Ono did in his pursuit to create the best sushi possible. He worked tirelessly to improve his taste level which meant that the some of the foods he used to enjoy would no longer seem quite as enjoyable to him, but it allowed him to move forward as an artist.
So, what can you do? Expand your horizons. Watch films that are critically acclaimed and when you find that you don’t like them, or find them boring, perhaps it’s because you’ve become so accustomed to eating chicken nuggets that you don’t appreciate better food.
Some, I’m sure, will argue that if the general public can’t taste the difference between chicken nuggets and world class sushi then what’s the difference? But, here’s the way I think about it: Everything God has created for us is excellent, nothing God has made is mediocre so why should we give him mediocrity back?
Here’s the bottom line, if you’re comfortable making chicken nuggets then go for it, but if you believe that something better is possible then you’ll want to go to work improving your taste level.