FESTIVAL SERVES UP GOOD FOOD WITH RESIDENT ARTIST SCREENING
The Artist in Residence program is important to the LA Film Fest because it widens the audience and brings in people with interests beyond film. Such was the case on Wednesday evening as Chef Michael Voltaggio presented his favorite food film, Dinner Rush, and talked about restaurant life afterward with KCRW’s host of Good Food, Evan Kleiman.
The excited audience was packed with foodies and fans of Chef Voltaggio—he has been working as a chef for about 15 years, after all, and became a household name when he won season six of Bravo’s series Top Chef. But as soon as the opening frames appeared—slow motion shots of food being tossed into a frying pan along the cook line of a busy restaurant kitchen—the crowd hushed.
This was an interesting film to show at the Festival in that the behind-the-scenes look at a busy and very popular New York restaurant has many similarities to working on a busy film set. Both involve teams of people working together in a frantic environment to create and serve up a banquet of savory delights that stimulate the customer. You can think of the chef as being in the same position as the director of a film. The restaurant owner is analogous to the film producer and the sous chef somewhat to the cinematographer.
Following this analogy, the film Dinner Rush could be the restaurant version of Truffaut’s Day for Night, where, according to Vincent Canby’s 1973 review for the New York Times, the characters “manufacture a movie, an illusion that is, for the period of its production, more important than life itself.”
In his discussion with Evan Klieman after the showing, Voltaggio stated that he first saw the film when it came out in 2000. He had just started working in the restaurant business and seeing the film now that he is a successful chef it has a completely different impact on him.
The chef depicted in the film states early on that there are three answers that his staff should give to him, “yes chef, no chef and I don’t know chef.” The two live chefs dissected the meaning of this line and how it applies to their own philosophies of cook line authority. It goes beyond respect, similar to a director, where the crew must appreciate that he is the final authority on set.
In the film, the relationship between the head chef and the sous chef is explored and, according to Voltaggio, accurately depicts the importance of having a sous chef that will put their life on the line for you. He stated that he has been lucky to find such a person in his kitchen.
It was fun to hear two experienced restaurateurs talk about the business and use the film as a springboard to spice up their discussion. The audience was very engaged hearing their stories and learned a lot about life as a chef. Dinner Rush served up a great evening for all.
—by Jim Lichacz for Film Independent
Check out highlights from the evening:
June 21st, 2012 • No Comments