The Documentary “Spinning Plates” Gives You An Insider’s Taste Of The Restaurant Business

July 8, 2016 — What does it take to keep the plates spinning?

Many people dream of owning a restaurant. Whether they imagine a chic, over-booked destination that caters to celebrities and turns away crowds every night, or a homey eatery where everyone who walks through the door is family, having one’s own restaurant is an idea with a great deal of appeal.

Of course, most of the people who think owning a restaurant would be fun do not imagine the enormous difficulties inherent in owning a business where the goods for sale are perishable, timing is an imperative and the workday never seems to end. The realities of such an endeavor are very different from the dream.

Spinning Plates is a documentary that covers several of the realities. It profiles three very different restaurants and the people who own them and keep them going. 

Grant Achatz is a top-level chef who helms Alinea, a restaurant with three Michelin stars. The 25 course tasting menu costs $200; a single course can require 12 hours of work from 5 people. He worked for Thomas Keller, celebrity chef of The French Laundry (often listed as the best restaurant in America), who appreciates Achatz’s abilities.

Mike Breitbach, of Breitbach’s Country Dining in Balltown, Iowa, doesn’t have that kind of staff. But he does realize that running his family-owned restaurant, which has been  part of his local community for 150 years, is life-consuming; he understands that running a restaurant means missing family occasions and being willing to work 7 days a week. Of course. at Country Dining, some of the regulars are so faithful, they have been given their own keys to the restaurant and occasionally come in to open up.

The third restaurant is Francisco Martinez’s La Cocina de Gabby, (Gabby’s Kitchen. Gabby is both the only cook and the owner’s wife). The restaurant was new and struggling when Spinning Plates came out. It has since closed, although there is a grassroots effort to reopen it, largely due to the publicity the restaurant and family received from the film. 

The three owners face numerous concerns and difficulties that the average person does not consider when that dream of owning a restaurant hits. Achatz has personal health issues that threaten his restaurant; Martinez worries about his daughter, who spends too much time at the restaurant. 

Spinning Plates is available on Blu-Ray.
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