As a person who has spent nearly her entire adult life associated with the restaurant business one way or another, I rarely come across film representations that manage to bring the true essence of the restaurant business to life. That’s why Texas native Joseph Levy’s documentary Spinning Plates was such a pleasant revelation.
Levy’s camera takes a revealing look at the families, histories, and motivations at the heart of three American eateries and artfully captures the desire for nurturing and community connections inherent in the pursuit of cooking for others. The restaurants Levy has chosen are radically different. He’s woven together stories of the elegant performance art and scientific precision of celebrity chef (and cancer survivor) Grant Achatz’s Alinea in Chicago; Balltown, Iowa’s deeply rooted community investment in rebuilding the 150-year old Breitbach’s Country Dining; and the American dream that inspired the immigrant Martinez family to open Cocina de Gabby in Tuscon. It is highly unlikely that the clienteles of any of these three restaurants would overlap, but Levy captures the special magic that would make them recognizable to any true restaurant aficionado. In the film’s dedication, Levy says he’s sure his father would be glad to eat in any of these restaurants. Now that he’s introduced me to them, so would I.
Spinning Plates screens again on Saturday, Oct. 20, 8:15pm, at the Rollins Theatre.
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