Category Archives: Film Reviews

Spinning Plates | Review

Spinning plates is a documentary following three restaurant stories told by the chefs that run them. It spans the spectrum of the restaurant world, from Chef Grant Achatz’s, three Michelin starred, modernist molecular gastronomy cuisine (voted best restaurant in America) called Alinea, to a 160 year-old family run, community-orientated (cornerstone-of-Iowa) restaurant run by the Breitbach family, to a small, struggling Mexican restaurant with a husband and wife pursuing the American dream so they can provide a living for their young daughter.

This documentary gives a look into restaurants (such as Alinea) at the top of their game, and restaurants (such as La Cocina de Gabby) struggling to make ends meat. It is a gentle rollercoaster ride, between personal triumphs and tribulations of the chefs and owners, an insight into the philosophies and style of cooking and a glimpse into the techniques employed by these restaurants. The stories themselves are enduring, charming and despite noted tragedies, feel good. I found Alinea the most fascinating, Grant Achatz’s story from his history of working in his father’s restaurant, to working with Thomas Keller at The French Laundry, then to working with a tumultuous relationship with molecular gastronomist Charlie Trotter and finally his personal battles with cancer, ironically, tongue cancer. It is an inspiring story and you get the feeling that all that has happened to Achatz is what has no doubt led to the success of the restaurant today.

Despite all of their differences in style, success and operations these restaurant are all tied in by the factors that Achatz so perfectly puts it, “you feel comfortable, yet exposed” and that is the experience it seems you are intended to get at these restaurant, whether you are exposing by way of socializing in a family-style run outhouse, exposed to new cuisines in small but quaint Mexican restaurant or simply blown-away with an out-of-this-world experience at a top dining destination.

Michelin Stars: The Madness of Perfection | Review

UK food critic William Sitwell is on a quest to find out why is the famed Michelin Star so important? Why do chefs work countless hours and go through emotional and physical stress to gain or uphold their stars?

Sitwell encounters realities of the industry, insights from chefs themselves who are either pursuing this dream or chefs who have given up with stars and let the dream go and the history behind the famous stars, what is deemed ‘Michelin worthy’ and what this means for the food and restaurant industry.

Among the chefs interviewed is Marco Pierre White, the youngest chef to receive three Michelin stars and who controversially returned his stars said, (in response to the pressure chefs put on themselves) that “…the people judging them have less technical ability than they have…”Raymond Blanc mirrors this, talking about the benefits of having the Michelin stars, as it means much more business through the doors, but the added pressure can be costly, as was the case with famous French chef Bernard Loiseau who held his stars for 12 years, but the pressure to maintain the stars and rumors that he may loose the stars led him to commit suicide. Anyone interested in this mad system, watch this documentary.

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FARANG: The Story of Andy Ricker of the Pok Pok Empire | Review

Coming from the VICE documentary guys this hour-long documentary centers on chef Andy Ricker of the Pok Pok thai-food empire in the states.

About 65-70% of this movie is about his 20+-year experience with Thai food and Pok Pok beginnings to current and future projects. Just after mid-way through the documentary, Andy Ricker’s childhood and list of obsessions over the years is explored – and although I realise this documentary is about him, I was more interested in Pok Pok (as it was Portlands Restrauant of the Year 2007), so that section bored me.Old footage of Thailand in the 80’s and Portland when he was younger was cool, that broke the film up a bit.

Ricker’s risk-taking for Pok Pok (to make authentic Thai food which is un-westernised) has paid off, as he has 7 restrauants. The story also looks at his current set-up  Sen Yai Noodle. The relationship between ‘Sunny’ a long-time Thai friend and Ricker’s is explored and he is called into consult on Sen Yai Noodle.

3/5 stars

Thomas Keller Uncorked | Review

Short 30 minute documentary about Thomas Keller, the only American-born chef to receive 3 michelin stars for his restaurants Per Se, in New York and the famed The French Laundry in Napa Valley, CA.

Surprisingly Thomas did not attended culinary school (according to the documentary) but was trained by a French chef in the 70’s in Lyon, Paris. Calm, obsessed with order (stemming from his childhood) and showing a great respect to his work colleges, Keller emulates a gentleness  and modesty which is not commonly exhibited from chefs at the top of their game.

Thomas keller group runs Bouchon bars, bistros and bakery’s all over America. The film touches on Kellers organic farm operation.

To see some of Thomas Kellers’ recipe books, click Here

3/5 stars