Spinning Plates


Joseph Levy

Location Filmed


Movie Synopsis

I have mixed feelings about this film. There are some good points made about food, community, the nurturing aspect of restaurants, overcoming intense personal hardship and so on; however, it got a bit repetitive. I did find their choice of restaurants interesting, though. I have only eaten at Alinea; however, I have eaten at many restaurants similar to Brietbach’s in Iowa. Being from the Midwest, the supper club was and will always be a great place for community and comfort (see my “Wisconsin Supper Club” documentary review). Having lived in New Mexico and Arizona, I feel that the roadside Mexican places were/are always part of my dining vernacular.

That being said-Grant is seriously annoying to watch. He is so pretentious. Really, every moment in his life is creative? How is that possible? The essence of creativity is through an ebb and flow of ideas. The ebb is just as important to the flow-like crop rotation. His world must be like a guitar solo that never ends.

My world took a different turn than his. He had a meal at El Bulli and it put him on the path of avant garde cuisine. I lived in Asia and I became obsessed with the democratic nature of food-inexpensive, available everywhere and with flavors that push the boundaries of what your palate can accept. Neither of us is right, though I feel that gastro-elitism is nauseating, I love to be pushed and to experience whimsy in food but, I want it to taste delicious.

The meal I had at Alinea was, in a word, a $400 tragedy. All of his gadgets don’t add up to a hill of pintos if what you get is insipid. Ouch! I sent him a 3 page letter talking about my experience. I told him that he obviously was not connected to what was going on in “the fields” because tomatoes that year were inedible due to blight and a far too wet and cold season. Yet, there they were-bloated and flavorless tomatoes all over the menu. I told him his “Thai distillation” lacked any depth and connection to the way Thai food actually tastes. How could a little glass of clear liquid expect to encompass the depth of flavor that food at Oo Tor Kor market actually tastes like. To quote my chef friend and business partner Eric Justice “weak sauce”. The service was so bad as well-the guy who waited on us acted like Phil Hoffman in The Big Lebowski. Mark Miller said “I gotta listen to the asshole screaming out descriptions of the food to every table the whole night??” I could go on but I’m pretty sure he could care less.

FYI-I have been to about 15 off of the Pellegrino list…..some good, some bad, some I wonder why they are on the list. The only list I like is a prep list.

Anyway, the film is worth seeing from the perspective of food films out there. Controversy is good. Cook for yourself, cook for your family, focus on what makes sense, avoid the $1 meals offered by chains, avoid the mega meals offered by box restaurants; as there is no virtue in a salad you can eat for 3 days. SPEND YOUR MONEY ON GOOD FOOD. That’s the only way to change the food neurosis that plagues our country. Also, get out of your comfort zone-travel and eat things that are weird-its good for you.

Additional Credits