In the pleasantly addictive documentary New Chefs on the Block, we follow the course of two restaurant start-ups from financing and the initial lease, through remodeling and set-up, hiring staff and opening for the public and for professional food critics. One start-up is a trendy fine dining establishment in Washington, DC, and the other is a pizza place in the DC suburbs. It’s the movie equivalent of a page-turner – we’re always wondering what will happen next.
Both chef-owners are passionate and driven, and the restaurants are manifestations of their dreams. Each has bet his family’s prosperity on the endeavor, and the high stakes fuel the drama.
The stories of both restaurants take dramatic turns – and one is wholly unexpected. It turns out that writer-director Dustin Harrison-Atlas set out to document the journey of his brother-in-law’s new pizza restaurant. That guy is a remarkable subject. But his choice of the other aspirational chef was an act of either genius or stunning good luck – wait until you see how that story comes out!
In his first feature, Harrison-Atlas shows a gift for creating vivid portraits of his subjects. We come to know the two chefs and a remarkable number of their family members and employees
Harrison-Atlas also brings us some talking heads to provide an inside perspective on the business. I’ve watched more than my share of restaurant make-over reality television, and I know some real life restauranteurs, so I’ve understood that it’s hard to start a restaurant and easy for one to fail. Intelligent, personal and genuine, New Chefs on the Block is among the best treatments of this subject matter.
Cinequest hosts the world premiere of New Chefs on the Block.