Eat This New York
Organic Pictures // Unrated // April 30, 2004
Review by Geoffrey Kleinman | posted April 30, 2004
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In New York there are over 18,000 restaurants. Every year more than 1,000 new restaurants open and 4 out of every 5 of them go out of business within 5 years. So who in their right mind would try their hand at a business where the odds are so clearly against you? John McCormick and Billy Phelps, while not out of their minds, aren't about to let the odds deter them from realizing their dreams. A little run-down building at the intersection of two vastly different ethnic neighborhoods in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is the place they'll stake their claim, one way or another.

The dream of opening a New York restaurant is nothing new. New York has long been the mecca for chefs, with a restaurant culture unmatched anywhere else in the world. Eat This New York takes a fascinating look at this world, contrasting the phenomenal success of chefs like Sirio Maccioni, Daniel Boulud and Rocco DiSpirito with the extreme trials and tribulations that McCormick and Phelps face on the road to opening up their restaurant, Moto.

With the current rockstar-like buzz around major chefs and reality TV series following the drama in the kitchen, I was thrilled to see how light on hoopla and straightforwardly honest Eat This New York was. Rather than enhance the drama with McCormick and Phelps' attempt to open their restaurant, the film shows just how undramatic and unclimatic an endeavor it really is. But undramatic certainly isn't boring and the film manages somehow to be hopeful even when following subjects who aren't. In addition to following McCormick and Phelps' story, Eat This New York also gives a rare look into the success of some of New York's most famous eateries. It was refreshing to see a film treat chefs as professionals, with interesting insights into exactly what it takes to succeed in such a cut throat business. The interviews with notable chefs have a nice feeling of intimacy which matches the tone of the rest of the film.

One of the great successes of the film is the mixing together all the various elements of the New York restaurant world. While McCormick and Phelps' story is the driving force of the film, it feels much more like a compendium of New York restaurant tales than anything else. While I won't spoil the ending of the film, I have to say that I really enjoyed the note that it ended on. It seems that most tales of the restaurant business are more chronicles of train wreck businesses than anything else, and while Eat This New York is a smorgasbord of restaurant highs and lows, it ends like that sweet after dinner mint that somehow puts the fine point on a great meal.

Eat This New York is playing in select theaters across the country; check the website of the film to find exact dates and theaters for your area.

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