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.

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