Eat This New York

Filmmaker Andrew Rossi and co-director Kate Novack open their entertaining documentary about the odds against making it in the New York City restaurant business with three bewildering facts: There are currently 18,000 restaurants in NYC; 1,000 new ones open annually; four out five of these new eateries fail within five years. And yet despite these overwhelming...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Filmmaker Andrew Rossi and co-director Kate Novack open their entertaining documentary about the odds against making it in the New York City restaurant business with three bewildering facts: There are currently 18,000 restaurants in NYC; 1,000 new ones open annually; four out five of these new eateries fail within five years. And yet despite these overwhelming odds, wide-eyed idealists like transplanted Midwesterners John McCormick and Billy Phelps, best friends from Minnesota, risk nearly everything they have to make a go of it. They hope to create that special place that offers not only good food and an inviting environment, but popular enough to withstand the New York City real-estate market and the vagaries of an unstable economy. Neither have any experience in the food industry, only a few romanticized notions about life in New York (McCormick got most of his from watching the Bowery Boys) and the corner café as the hub of a community (Phelps got his from ideas about Paris between the wars). After scouting for the ideal location, they decide on a small, wedged shaped corner in the hipster mecca of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, right where the Hispanic and Orthodox Jewish communities meet. At first, they plan to open "Moto" on Halloween, 2001, but as the money runs low and meetings with loan officers and potential chefs and investors go awry, the date keeps getting pushed back. Watching McCormick and Phelps's sweat to get Moto up and running is like a dose of good reality TV, but he really interesting parts of the film are the interviews with the luminaries of New York's food world. Gourmet magazine editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl speculates on why New Yorkers eat out so often (busy schedules, tiny kitchens). Le Cirque's Sirio Marccioni remembers ticking off both Ari Onassis and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor during his days as maitre d' at the famed Colony. Daniel Boulud (Daniel) reminisces about growing up on a farm in France and developing a close relationship with food, while Geoffrey Zakarian works with a Feng Shui master to help redirect the energy in his highly rated hot-spot, Town. These cutaways don't necessarily reflect what Moto, Inc., is going through, but it makes for an interesting counter-weight to the struggle, giving audiences a good idea what McCormick and Phelps have to look forward — that is if Moto ever actually opens.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Filmmaker Andrew Rossi and co-director Kate Novack open their entertaining documentary about the odds against making it in the New York City restaurant business with three bewildering facts: There are currently 18,000 restaurants in NYC; 1,000 new ones ope… (more)

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