Award winning documentary showcases U.S. restaurants

by | Dec 6, 2013 | A&E

Shai Williamson
A&E Reporter

Spinning Plates, an award-winning documentary about the intimate stories behind restaurants, opened at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto last Friday.

“A lot of it is just a reflection of the ideal. TV doesn’t necessarily always go deep with its story telling and tell the stories that need to be told,” said director Joseph Levy, a Texas native whose Amusement Park Productions creates film, television and multi-media work. “I wanted to make kind of a poetic love letter that you don’t necessarily hear about.”

Spinning Plates tells the inspirational stories behind three very different restaurants across the United States. Alinea, based in Chicago, has been ranked the seventh best restaurant in the world by S. Pellegrino’s Restaurant Magazine. Breitbach, is a restaurant in the small town of Balltown, Iowa, and La Cocina de Gabby is a Mexican restaurant in Tuscan, Ariz.

Levy said he was very inspired by the idea of filling in the absence of the humanistic side of a restaurant. Having worked for Food Network shows in the past, he noticed that most of the shows about food and restaurant-life are glamorized and cut for very specific audiences.

“The stories [in the film] are very human stories. I think there’s universality,” he said.

The structure of the documentary is built like a restaurant, said Levy. First, people start with an expectation and superficialities, and the more they stay, the more their expectations get turned upside down.

“I think if anything [the film] proved my thesis that food can be so much more than just food,” said Levy.

“Cooking is my creative outlet. It’s like art. I cook because it’s a way for me to express myself,” said Katharine Springgay, who currently works for Alma La Scuola Internazionale di Cucina Italiana, a restaurant based in Italy, through the George Brown College culinary program.

“Everything inspires me. My mood, the weather, my friends . . . absolutely everything,” she said.

The documentary has already been the recipient of multiple awards. It won the Audience Award at the Austin Film Festival, Santa Barbara International Film Festival and Naples International Film Festival. It also picked up Best Documentary at the Maui Film Festival and the Vail Film Festival.

“I think a lot of people have this misconception that documentaries are boring,” said Dane Telford, a fourth-year film and media production student at Humber. “But ultimately they are only boring if you present it in a boring way. You have to pick a topic that matters, that people are excited about, or something you want to convince people is exciting.”

“Overall, I think that this film is a celebration of food, restaurants and life. I think it’s an appreciation for what happens behind the doors of restaurants,” said Levy. “It’s like looking at life through the lenses of these restaurants.”

To find out more about Spinning Plates, including the trailer, visit