17 May 2014

Weekend Cooking: The Restaurateur (Film)

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

The Restaurateur (documentary)Although some of you may have heard of Danny Meyer only recently as the brains behind the wildly popular Shake Shacks, he actually made his name in the fine dining arena, with restaurants such as the Union Square Cafe.

When looking around for a good food-related movie, I found the short (58 min) documentary The Restaurateur (directed by Roger M. Sherman), which follows the conception, building, and opening of two of Meyer's restaurants (Eleven Madison Park and Tabla) near Madison Square Park (in the Flatiron district) in New York City. The film won Best Documentary--Food at the Sonoma Film Festival, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

Here's the studio's summary:
A film about the grueling construction of not one but two world-class restaurants. We follow Danny Meyer, arguably the most successful restaurateur in America. Our cameras follow the creation of Eleven Madison Park and Tabla during the hellish eleven-month construction process. Meyer imparts his business and restaurant philosophy while trying to keep his cool. Jumping back to the future, 2009, we learn how the restaurants have evolved, EMP receiving a coveted four stars by The New York Times.
Although I can't say this was an exciting movie to watch, I interested in what it took to create a restaurant from the ground up. The documentary starts with Meyer walking through the gutted space of the 1929 Metropolitan Life Building on Madison Square, talking about his vision for the establishments he planned to open.

The film takes place in 1998 and focuses on how Meyer overcame building code restrictions, a lack of available staff, and a change in chefs and how the concepts of the restaurants came into fruition. I loved how he embraced the building's historical elements (protected by law) and how he had a eye for the littlest of details (such as the placement of each and every chair in the restaurant).

Besides discussing the concerns of the restaurants themselves, Meyer reflects on general good business practices, such as making sure the staff is comfortable and well trained and understanding the needs of the clients. I loved his philosophy of hiring and being a boss; for example, he wants to be surrounded by people he would welcome to his own dinner table and wants his staff to feel challenged and to be given the opportunity to grow. Make no mistake, Meyer is a businessman, but he understands the need to build loyalty and respect.

There is a lot to admire about Danny Meyer, who managed to remain fairly calm during the stresses of putting together the restaurants. The documentary aired on PBS in 2010 and is available from a number of streaming services. Set aside some time to learn about a man who seems to be equally at home founding elegant four-star restaurants and popularizing park-side burger joints.


rhapsodyinbooks 5/17/14, 6:37 AM  

I love books and movies about making restaurants for some reason. I guess because of being a food person. This sounds good to me!

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 5/17/14, 7:28 AM  

I'd love to watch this - I love short documentaries and , having lived in NYC for 8 years, am certainly familiar with Meyer (been to Tabla, which was delicious). Another great food doc is the one about the master sushi chef trainee who now owns a popular restaurant in Greenwich Village (I forget the name of the doc!).

JoAnn 5/17/14, 8:18 AM  

It may not be exciting, but it sure sounds interesting! I'll have to see if Netflix has this one.

jama 5/17/14, 8:34 AM  

This sounds interesting. The mere thought of opening a restaurant sounds daunting, and I'd like to learn more about what it truly entails. Thanks for the heads up!

Unknown 5/17/14, 9:04 AM  

I love learning about chefs, how they think and work. I'll look this up!

(Diane) bookchickdi 5/17/14, 9:20 AM  

I must put this in my queue- Shake Shack is my favorite burger place.

Sheila (Bookjourney) 5/17/14, 12:02 PM  

I will have to watch this!

Sheila (Bookjourney) 5/17/14, 12:02 PM  

I will have to watch this!

Laurie C 5/17/14, 3:13 PM  

I hadn't heard of Shake Shacks before, but I can see why this documentary would be interesting. But we will watch NOTHING that might revive my husband's on-again, off-again dreams of owning his own restaurant! ;)

Belle Wong 5/17/14, 8:40 PM  

This sounds like one Ward would like. He likes anything that's about behind-the-scenes at a restaurant.

Couscous & Consciousness 5/18/14, 5:23 AM  

I've not heard of this chef before, but sounds like a very interesting documentary nonetheless.

Peaceful Reader 5/18/14, 9:40 AM  

I need to spend a day just watching the foodie movies you've recommended.

Do you have a craft beer book that you recommend? I'm in need of a good one for a gift.

Beth S. 5/19/14, 2:48 PM  

This looks interesting. I'll have to see if my library has it.

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