Documentary Explores Pittsburgh Restaurant Roots

Sep 7, 2015

Avenue B plating a dessert course at Churchview Farm.
Credit David Bernabo

Pittsburgh's restaurant scene has evolved dramatically over the past 40 years, and the documentary Food Systems, Chapter 1: A Night Out, explores the transformation. Director and Pittsburgh native David Bernabo said the films touch on different parts of the restaurant industry.

"The first part looks at restaurant history from the late 70s until now," said Bernabo. "The second part looks at farm dinners at Churchview Farm and the farmer's table, then the third film, which is in progress now, is the whole food cycle: supply, distribution, access, education, preservation."

Bernabo traces the change in food culture to chefs building on common dishes, developing their own styles and tastes. He singled out French restaurant La Normande, which brought authentic French food to the city, and the arrival of the Big Burrito Group. Both helped shift the dining scene with quality food and the training of a new crop of chefs, many of whom would go on to open their own restaurants.

The work that goes into running a restaurant is often hidden to outsiders. Bernabo said he wanted restaurant workers to speak honestly about what they do, for his film.

"I think a lot of restaurant and food writing now -- and there's a lot of it now -- it kind of glosses over the actual work and glorifies the top chef," said Bernabo. "But there are a lot of people working in those restaurants, and there's a lot of thought and a lot of effort and very little pay that actually goes into it. I want to show that whole picture of what goes into making a restaurant work."

The film has four screenings in Pittsburgh beginning Sept. 14. More information can be found at foodsystemsfilm.com.