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New to Netflix: 'A Tale of Two Kitchens' Is an Excellent Documentary

This post originally appeared on May 24, 2019, in "Eat, Drink, Watch" – the weekly newsletter for people who want to take and watch TV. Browse the archives and subscribe now,

Welcome to Friday afternoon. Whether you've got an action-packed Memorial Day Weekend, or something on the books, I hope you manage to carve out some TV over the next few days. I've got recommendations for three things to watch: an inspiring documentary, a fun cooking show, and a collection of late night comedy bits. Here's what to do in your queue this weekend:

A new kind of Netflix food documentary


A Tale of Two Kitchens / Netflix

In a refreshing break from the culinary documentary trends of the day, Trisha Ziff's new Netflix short film A Tale of Two Kitchens looking at people who are not virtuous genius chefs are looking at staff and professional growth in the restaurant industry. There's no telling in this documentary or temper tantrums or storylines about sacrificing family life (and / or personal / mental health). Bakers, waiters, bartenders, and bussers who love working in restaurants.

Both restaurants in the documentary – Cala in San Francisco and Contramar in Mexico City – are owned and operated by Gabriela Cámara, accredited to Mexican chef who's currently planning a Los Angeles project with Sqirl's Jessica Koslow. Although she has a few memorable moments on camera, Cámara's really only in the movie for a few minutes, and the majority of the running time is devoted to stories from her staff.

At Contramar, Mexico City, many of the employees have been working for a decade or more. A young man named Leonardo Flores grew up learning about the restaurant from his father, an assistant manager named Ulises, and now works at him at Contramar a busser. "It's something very important to me," Leonardo says. "I fulfilled a dream."

Cala, meanwhile, is much better than its Mexico City sibling, but the staff is just as tight. In a move that is depressingly rare for San Francisco restaurants, Cámara and her team are adamant about offering opportunities to formerly incarcerated individuals. "They actually care about the people who work there," says Orlando Castillo, a bartender with a prior felony conviction. Johnny Robles, another bartender who spent 30 years in prison before applying for a job at Cala, says that "it was refreshing and relieving at the same time that they did not hold that against me or judge me."

These human accounts are intersecting with scenes of the staff interacting with customers and preparing dazzling Mexican food.


Contramar's kitchen crew
A Tale of Two Kitchens / Netflix

Although the film never makes any overt political callouts, it's hard to hear the stories and scenes from the bustling dining rooms and not think about America's fraught relationship with Mexico right now. "There's a fascination with Mexico and its thousand-year-old gastronomic traditions they yearn for," Cámara says early in the film. "On the other hand, we have a culture that deeply despises Mexicans. And at the same time, Mexican food is almost a staple food for Americans, specifically in California, and the states that used to be part of Mexico. "

Since the movie only features people talking about their experiences, A Tale of Two Kitchens does feel, at times, like a very well-crafted PR reel. Contramar and Cala fit in the greater dining scene. But taken at face value, it's still stuck with engrossing and inspiring looks at restaurants.

A Tale of Two Kitchens is now streaming on Netflix.


Streaming selections du jour


Guy's Ranch Kitchen

Guy's Ranch Kitchen, "Mediterranean Mashup"

Watch it on: Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play
The gistIf you're gearing up for any ambitious cooking and / or entertaining this memorial day weekend, let the Mayor of Flavortown be your guide. Fieri is in full-on boss mode during this episode of his new food network show Guy invites Alex Guarnaschelli, Michael Mina, and Michael Voltaggio over his Kulinary Compound for a Mediterranean-ish feast of brick chicken, braised lamb, roasted eggplant, spiced chickpeas, and sausage-stuffed squid. Thanks to the "Rebujito" cocktail made with sherry, cava and frozen watermelon cubes.

In other Guy news, the Platinum Prince was just honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this week. At the ceremony, Fieri's best bud Matthew McConaughey told his pal "In a business where you can be, you've been to the whole time."

Conan, "The Remotes"

Watch it on: Team Coco
The gist: Conan O'Brien is undergoing a career renaissance, of sorts, right now thanks to the shock of his shockingly great podcast (seriously, check out the Bill Hader or Michelle Obama episodes) and thus the introduction of a shorter, punchier version of his late night show. As part of this rebranding, the comedian puts his most popular out-of-studio segments – AKA "The Remotes" – into a searchable online database. Now, for the first time ever, Conan Goes Apple Picking With Mr. T, Conan Goes to Bartending School, and Conan Visits the Martha Stewart Living online. The Conan 25 website also features a special section dedicated to the hilarious segments featuring the Italian food-obsessed associate producer Jordan Schlansky.


In other entertainment news …

  • Jon Favreau and Roy Choi are teaming up for a new cooking show featuring all their famous friends. It's called The Chef Show and it lands on Netflix on June 7.
  • In other Netflix news, Phil Rosenthal, the prominently LA restaurant investor and creator of Everybody loves Raymond, is getting another season of his show Somebody Feed Phil, David Yellow's hit docuseries Chef's Table is coming back for two more seasons.
  • The most maddening part of the game of Thrones final was the inexplicable water bottle cameo. Here's a (fake) rundown of all the other beverage flubs you might have missed throughout the series.
  • Top boss Season 16 finalist Eric Adjepong at Tom Colicchio's Manhattan Craft Craft Manhattan restaurant. It looks amazing.
  • To prepare for a battle with John Wick, Iron Chef chairman Mark Dacascos eats dark chocolate with sea salt, and drinks hot water with lemon, ginger, and honey.
  • Jason Mitchell, the actor who plays on aspiring boss on The Chi, just got dropped from the Showtime series over "allegations of inappropriate behavior."
  • And finally, someone put a camera on a sushi conveyor belt and the result is pure magic,

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