[Full Disclosure: The first episode of Erik Shirai's I AM WHAT I EAT features my boyfriend Mike Lee. This article is not about Mike Lee or his supper club Studiofeast, but rather about Shirai's short films and IndieGoGo campaign.]
Can the human condition be understood through the lens of food?
I AM WHAT I EAT, a new film project by Erik Shirai, a cameraman on No Reservations and founder of Cebu Osani Films, aims to do just that- and succeeds. Through the series, Shirai tells the stories of people from around the world, using food as a medium for exploring who they are, how they live and what they believe.
“To me, I AM WHAT I EAT is the raw definition of a personal ‘passion’ project,” writes Shirai. “I funded 100% of the first episode out of my own pocket to showcase to the world an idea that I truly believed in; FOOD IS WHAT BRINGS PEOPLE TOGETHER. I’m hoping that if public can help fund this 2nd episode it would be a sign of fate that my idea has true potential.”
A masterful storyteller and cinematographer, Shirai has launched an IndieGoGo campaign in hopes of funding future episodes and creating an interactive platform where viewers can connect with the people featured in his films, follow their stories and learn more about their culture [read about his future project below].
EPISODE #1: LAST MEAL
The first episode of the series tells the story of Mike Lee and his culinary collective Studiofeast, a group creating unique gastronomic experiences that connect people and inspire them to cook for themselves. Centered around Studiofeast’s ‘Last Meal Dinner,‘ the film also features New Yorkers of all walks of life responding to the question: ’If you were to die tomorrow, what would be your last meal?’
With your help, Shirai will tell the story of Masami Asao, who has specialized in ‘shojin ryori,’ a Japanese ‘temple’ cuisine eaten by monks. At it’s core, shojin ryori is a form of meditation meant to help people maintain balance in their daily lives. For the last 29 years, Asao has been cooking this food for all of the monks at Jokokuji temple in central Tokyo, but it has become more difficult to keep the tradition alive as people increasingly turn to convenience food. Shirai aims to tell her story and help her keeping the tradition of shojin ryori alive.
You can support the film by spreading the word or by contributing to his IndieGoGo Campaign here. Underground Eats is also hosting a fundraiser this evening, where you will be able to sample shojin ryori and various premium sakes. There will also be a screening of “The Last Meal” and a silent auction filled with lots of delicious items.