Trisha Ziff’s A Tale of Two Kitchens is a meditative observation of two restaurants that have humbly liberated men and women yearning for connection and purpose in a time of inequality and injustice.
The documentary’s title, a spin on A Tale of Two Cities, shares the same motifs of Charles Dicken’s popular novel in terms of carrying the theme of liberation and acceptance. Ziff’s tale simply documents the inspiring quests of the staff members of Cala (San Francisco) and Contramar (Mexico City), two restaurants owned and operated by acclaimed chef Gabriela Cámara.
Both restaurants are inherently open to hiring everyone regardless of their color, race, and past mistakes. When interviewed for the documentary, a bartender in Contramar briefly discussed how the owners of the restaurant never hesitated to hire him, nor judged him for what he was, despite just leaving prison days after his job interview.
Another waiter also admitted the generosity Cámara and her crew have made for the entire team by giving their community an opportunity to be professionally involved with something meaningful.
A Tale of Two Kitchens, by the feels of it, is essentially like reading a magazine feature filled with astonishing quotes. It is sometimes visually luscious and overtly descriptive without really saying any words. Running for only 30 minutes, it moves and breathes tactfully, although more background and profiles surrounding the two restaurants would improve the documentary’s shortcomings.
For not a single moment does the documentary focused itself on the foods the restaurants are serving. And by the looks of the customers being recorded on camera, it might not be the authentic cuisine they are looking after, but the experience of belonging in a multicultural space.
This is what A Tale of Two Kitchens successfully provided: a sense of being part of something that accepts. The documentary rewards by being open, never opting for exclusivity and secrets. It’s a pure simple tale that you watch over the couch, or through your phone on a Monday night, and feel positive immediately after.