New Chefs on the Block (Atlas-Harrison, 2017): USA

Reviewed by Larry Gleeson as part of the American Film Institute’s 2017 AFI DOCS Film Festival.

mv5bmdjlnwq1ytctmtuzns00zwy4ltlhmtgtywrmoguyodqzyzgzxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymji5otk0mjm-_v1_uy268_cr130182268_al_Lateral Lines Productions brings Director Dustin Harrison-Atlas’ new documentary, New Chefs on the Block, a heart-warming adventure of two like-minded chefs, Aaron Silverman and Frank Linn with a desire to start their own restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area. Interestingly, both chefs attended the prestigious L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Just not at the same time. Rather, ten years apart.

Silverman is a DC-area local having grown up in nearby Rockville, Maryland, working for renowned chefs such as David Chang at Momofuko Noodle Bar in New York and Sean Brock at McCrady’s in South Carolina. Linn, on the other hand, has cooked in the kitchens of some of Washington D.C.’s top restaurants after earning his culinary certificate.

The film opens in semi-spectacular fashion with panning and tracking shots inside a large restaurant kitchen complete with some slicing, dicing and a nice close-up of a sizzling, open-flame skillet being manipulated with a consummate perfection! A soft, non-diagetic music adds soothing ambience to the harsh kitchen environment as Director Atlas-Harrison moves right in with some voice-over narration and then transitions nicely to testimonials from food and restaurant experts on what it takes to open a new restaurant and the risks and challenges associated with a major metropolitan market like Washington D.C.

Atlas-Harrison started out with an idea to simply capture his unflappable brother-in-law chef (Frank Linn) when he decided to throw caution to the wind and open up a pizza restaurant, Frankly….Pizza! He knew Linn’s pizza’s were special as Linn had honed his craft first in his backyard before market testing it with an mobile, wood-fired, brick-ovened, pizza kitchen. Moreover, Atlas-Harrison believes retauranteering lends itself to the documentary genre because of its associated colorful characters, highly-eclectic visual content and tilt-house, financial adventures. While Linn meets those qualifications, Atlas Harrison needed a parallel story-line – someone equally unusual, passionate and thinking big. Fortuitously, Aaron Silverman had just broke ground on a new, boutique restaurant, Rose’s Luxury, with a “pay it forward” concept.

Silverman insists he isn’t in the restaurant business. Instead, he believes he’s in the “making people happy business.” And, it shows. Not only does he receive prestigious awards like Bon Appetit’s coveted Best New Restaurant Award and a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic, but his staff and chefs pelt him with accolades that bring Silverman to tears on camera.

Meanwhile, Linn is an uber-perfectionist. When the pieces he has ordered for his wood-fired, brick oven don’t fit and when is budget is exceeded by over 200% with unforeseen obstacles and delays, Linn just pisses and moans. His father and wife subtly keep his dream alive and the venture moving forward. This formidable style of quite leadership and teamwork eventually allow Linn to realize his potential as a open-flame pizza-making craftsman. So much so, people line up around the storefronts for one of his unique over-charred pizzas. And, like Silverman, Linn gets substantial praise from the Washington Post food critics – a make or break for any D.C. restaurateur.

My hat is off to Atlas-Harrison. In addition to showcasing Silverman and Linn, Atlas-Harrison marshalled strong, on camera interviews and testimonials from legendary chefs and restauratueurs Michel Richard (2-time James Beard Award Winner), Mike Isabella (Braco Top Chef All-Star), Danny Meyer (author, “Setting the Table) and Washington Post food writer Tim Carman.

New Chefs on the Block is a slick, highly polished production. Exquisite cinematography with a wide-range of shots timely executed, allow the film’s extraordinary success stories to pop with color and subtle nuances delivering a mesmerizing tale of two seemingly naive chefs with unshakable passion and headstrong faith as they bring their dreams into fruition. Warmly recommended.






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