Anyone who's worked in a restaurant can tell you it's hard work. The day begins early and ends late. Equipment is expensive, margins are tight and the inventory is perishable. And yet people still want to own restaurants.
As we learn in Spinning Plates, Joseph Levy's likeable documentary, there are all kinds of reasons to become a restaurateur. The film is really three, as it cuts between very different establishments. There's Alinea, a three-stars-from-Michelin Chicago emporium of scientific gastronomy, overseen by an unsettlingly poised (and young) Grant Achatz. In Tucson, there's a mom-and-pop Mexican restaurant whose owners are struggling against the daunting economics of food service. And in a small Iowa town, a 160-year-old restaurant has become equal parts community center and culinary destination that attracts visitors from hundreds of miles away.
About the only thing the restaurants have in common is the passion of their owners, along with the stainless steel countertops. But the individual stories are compelling, and some of Aschatz's creations are as jaw-dropping as they are pointless. A favorite of mine: the pine-needle infused air with which he inflates a bladder upon which he will set a dish. The bladder will deflate slowly, allowing the diner to inhale pine needle scent with their meal.
Food documentaries are a crowded field, but Spinning Plates, which played the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival earlier this year, is a worthy entrant.
Official Site: www.spinningplatesmovie.com
Director: Joseph Levy
Writer: Joseph Levy
Producer: Jacqueline Lesko, Joseph Levy and Miranda Bailey
Cast: Grant Achatz and Thomas Keller
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