'Spinning Plates' Director Joseph Levy Talks Haggis, Cilantro, Chocolate Chip Cookies

Jacqueline Lesko

The documentary filmmaker, whose new foodie film has just been released, takes THR's Taste Test.

Director Joseph Levy's new documentary, Spinning Plates, tells the intertwined stories of three strikingly varied restaurants: the avant garde and acclaimed Alinea in Chicago, enduring and homey Breitbach's in Iowa and struggling-yet-hopeful La Cocina de Gabby in Arizona.

"Each one is a different entry point into dining," says the L.A.-based filmmaker, who first delved into the world of professional kitchens while producing Food Network series Into the Fire in 2003. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Levy is an avid diner. "If I could eat out at a different restaurant every night, I would," he states. "My limiting factor is just my weight." To celebrate the release of Spinning Plates, he takes a spin at THR's Taste Test.


Current Fixation
"Margherita pizza at Olio. Blew my mind."

Known for Cooking
"Chocolate chip cookies like you've never had. About 10 years ago, I started developing the ultimate version of my favorite dessert. I bring them to Thanksgiving every year, and it's fun watching the pre-meal scramble as people hide them around the house and stuff them into purses to make sure they get some. I won't give out the recipe but I've had a deal with friends -- whoever introduced me to my wife would get the recipe. I'm getting married next year to a girl who was introduced to me by a friend trying to get my recipe. I can't believe that actually worked."

Destination Dinner
"Lunch at Franklin Barbecue in Austin. I'm from Texas, and Texas has the only barbecue for me. Dinner at Commander's Palace in New Orleans. Chocolate Table for dessert at Alinea in Chicago."

Go-To Take-Out
"Godmother sandwich at Bay Cities Italian Deli. Unless I see Vittorio first at the hot food case -- which I always do. And he lures me in with his mystical cooking. Then I walk out having bought $40 of food for lunch. Maybe I should have someone else hold my wallet when I walk in there from now on."

Adventurous Bite
"Haggis -- when in Scotland … umm … eat haggis."

Simply Won't Eat
"Cilantro. I call it the evil weed. Not sure if I have that gene or not. I just can't stand it."

Favorite Snack
"A burger from Gott's Roadside in Napa Valley during a day of wine tasting."

Dietary Regimen
"Apple for breakfast, chicken breast and broccoli for lunch, egg whites and potato for dinner. Go on a monthlong eating trip the next day. Rinse and repeat."

Big Wish
"That Mark Peel would reopen Campanile … I miss the trenne. And Mark probably misses a time when he didn't have to hear me complain about not having trenne. Sorry, Mark."

Embarrassing Experience
"One time I was sitting at a restaurant in Vegas that I had shot one of my Food Network shows at. I was dining alone around a lot of groups. At the end of my meal, I asked for the check, but they instead brought out their grand dessert platter that had almost one of everything they made. Everybody around me looked over in disbelief, as though I had ordered dessert for 14 people. There was only one thing to do … start eating."

Guilty Pleasure
"Cappuccino Crunch gelato at Al Gelato. Especially if it follows their meatball sandwich."

Last Meal
"I would go to Patsy's Italian Restaurant in New York and ask Sal to make me his Mozzarella in Carozza, Steak Pizzaiola and anything else with which he'd want to send me on my way."