Directed by Joseph Levi
Starring Grant Achatz, Mike Breitbach, and Francisco and Gabby Martinez
Three remarkably different restaurants from across the country are brought under the camera to find the underlying commonality that makes them and cooking so special.
This documentary tells the story of three restaurateurs: Grant Achatz and the edgy and creative Chicago restaurant Alinea, 6th-generation owner Mike Breitbach and the 150-year-old Iowa family restaurant Breitbach’s Country Dining, and Francisco and Gabby Martinez’s upstart Tucson Mexican restaurant La Cocina de Gabby.
These are very personal stories about individuals at some of their lowest points and their perseverance through some discouraging times. These restaurant owners battle financial turbulence, disease, devastation, and crushing doubt as they try to continue serving their customers, their communities, and their families.
Overall, it’s community and family that’s the message of the film, how the down-home country diner and the high-class presentational meal experience ultimately create the same mindset of bringing people together and experience life. The documentary does a great job of this by showing these restaurant owners live their lives just as much in their kitchens with their customers as at home with their blood relatives. The best visuals of this are from the Breitbach’s kitchen constantly full of the large Breitback family working together, even through the worst of times, serving a community that adores the family as much as the family loves them.
The actual focus feels only a little uneven with more emphasis on the Alinea and Breitback’s storyline than La Cocina’s, but it’s understandable given both their history and prestige over La Cocina’s new attempt at what might just be simply another Mexican restaurant. While I’d be skeptical at the cost and entertainment of eating at Alinea, watching them cook and create is an experience all on its own with their “anti-griddle” and equipment usually more at home in laboratories than kitchens.
Even with what feels like a difference in screen time, the point gets made across all three stories that life, family, and community are all brought together by food, and the film is entertaining and captivating enough to make you want to get your household together in the kitchen and make something special.
The Video and Audio
Both the audio and video were adequate for the feature. In a food documentary, you really want the food to pop. While the food wasn’t actually a central feature to the story, a lot of it sure looked delicious.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This is a no-frills release. The film is on a single disc in a standard DVD case, and the only other thing on it is the film’s trailer. I’m surprised it bothered with a DVD menu screen at that point. There aren’t even any subtitle options, making this a rough choice for any hearing impaired. In the end, this won’t be a release anyone gets for the bonuses, and the lack of effort shows that belief on the filmmakers’ part.
You know what would have been a neat extra? Recipes and cooking how to’s. Then again, I guess that’s what Food Network is for.
Overall (Not an Average)
Spinning Plates is an apt title. The act itself requires balance and concentration, and all three subjects focus on balance in their lives and on what’s important: family, community, and self growth. This film does a great job displaying this and inspiring anyone who wishes to make their own impact in their community.