Review: Spinning Plates
Documentarian and Food Network producer Joseph Levy takes a look at three seemingly disparate restaurants in the United States, sharing the stories that have made these places so important to the people that run them, and the people that dine. In Chicago, Levy visits a high end restaurant that is among the best in the world; in Iowa there is a 150-year-old community mainstay; and in Tuscon there sits a quaint family Mexican eatery.
Grant Achatz stands out, as the personable and brilliant star chef at Alinea in Chicago. Levy interviews community members in Iowa and those that run Breitbach’s Country Dining, as well as the husband and wife team that operate La Cocina de Gabby, a place that he named after her.
The message is clear and simple early on – passion for food ties all together – but there is more to this story than just taking a look at three very different restaurants in three very different parts of America. All of that is interesting enough, serving its purpose through two-thirds of this 90-minute documentary, as you’re treated to a look at the back-of-house of a small cantina, a history Midwest eatery, and an upper echelon restaurant ranked worldwide.
It’s some surprising revelations that are slowly revealed later by Levy that makes Spinning Plates more than just an observational exploration of varying types of dining and culinary pursuits. While Alinea strives to move up the worldwide ranks, while Breitbach’s continues to manage huge demand and long lines, and while Gabby’s simply looks to stay afloat, personal stories emerge from each that push the film into more meaningful territory.
It’s not worth it to give away here, but in each instance, ‘the restaurant’ is far more than just a job, and the stories revealed are affecting without being melodramatic. Much of the time it’s fascinating, though switching between stories regularly means struggling with a transition from tone and mood, especially when checking in on Gabby’s, which is run by a loving couple trying to attract patrons to Gabby’s fabulous meals in order to keep the business going and pay the bills.
The couple, like the rest of the cast of curious characters in this documentary, are sympathetic and authentic, and even though you might not get a chance to eat at these places, for whatever reason be it location or money, you can’t help but wish you could stop at each place after watching.
Should You See It?
This is definitely for all the foodies out there, and especially interesting for those who have worked in restaurants. Check it out, but not on an empty stomach.