Monday, October 11, 2004

I Like Killing Flies

I watched an independent film last night called "I like Killing Flies." It was about a restaurant owner/chef named Kenny Shopsin. This might quite possibly be the best food/restaurant movie I have ever seen. Shopsin's restaurant is in New York, some of you might be familiar with it but I wasn't. It is a low budget documentary about the life and philosophies of Kenny Shopsin, one of the coolest, most down to earth, intelligent and abrasive restauranteurs I've had the pleasure of watching. It is straight from the trenches and almost made me want to say fuck "high cuisine". Almost. It took me back to the days when we weren't rock stars or celebrities, we were cooks. Ughhhh...sorry, I started to wax poetic. Back when I was nobody people came to eat my food. Now they come to find all the faults. I still feel and always will feel that I am just a good cook. It now seems food has taken a backseat to bullshit and just cooking great food is the least important part of our career. Playing the network who you know/how you look game is what it's all about now. It makes me sick. I will probably die broke because I don't prescribe to that shit. It's forced upon me and I hate it. I know I should be grateful but it's hard when you just like to cook. People's work should speak most loudly. Here's a Calvin Trillan story on him. Watching that movie made feel good for a brief instant knowing there is a person like Kenny in the world.
A favorite moment was his policy of no 6 tops. A six top walk in and he says " No fucking six tops, get out!" When the customer explained there was no-one else in there he pointed out .." No..YOU'RE in here, when you leave THEN there will be nobody in here." He then went on how you have to enforce policies.
Another great statement was "People seem to think we have some other obligation other than to open our doors and cook for them" "Fuck them, I work twice as hard as they do"
He's brilliant in his observations. "Everybody's 7 years old. See that guy? He's got a job, a wife , he's gonna die, he's a good father...he's gonna to go to work on Wall Street and slaughter a third world nation and he's having chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast.""Good for him!"
I can't really relay how sincere this man is, but the core of him is his work ethic. The main point being is that there is you(cooking) and the customer. The only thing between you and them is a plate of food. Your only job at that point is to make them happy. If you don't you've failed. You've given the customer nothing and you've failed in your job. Although his style is what I'd call cool ass, funky, real diner food, this ethic can be applied at any level. We must simply make people happy with our food. Fuck ourselves and our ego. Fuck our white coats and our "look at my custom made Bonnet cooking suite" bullshit. The essence of what we do is simple and clear and it is our only obligation. Strip it down and we're paid servants. Most couldn't handle that realization. I think it makes us better than most. We're content in our place.
Finally, his most endearing belief; " People have to realize that they are pieces of shit. All the people everyone thinks of as "good"people are also pieces shit. Constantly telling yourself you're a good person is like driving a brand new car without a scratch on it, it's an enormous responsibility that is almost impossible to live up to. But if you realize you're a piece of shit, and you can do one or two good things for people, then you're ok." Right on Kenny. Right fucking on.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Trillin article on Shopsin's:

"If somebody comes in here and is flabbergasted by the number of things on the menu and tells me, 'How can I choose?' " he has said, "I realize that they're essentially in the wrong restaurant."

5:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

shopsins is right near my office, and i try to go often. i always take out of town guests, because it's one of manhattan's great hidden treasures. a total no-bullshit place, and they have cool toys and free candy.

did you see the movie in a theater, or on dvd, or on cable?

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A producer friend of mine gave me a dvd. It looked burned so I don't know if it's available for the public. You might try googling for it. Next time you go to Shopsin's tell them Angry Chef gives Kenny all the respect I can muster. Is he still there" I think he was about 60 or so in the flick, wondering if he's still rolling.


10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

absolutely he's still there. eve died within the past year or so -- we all miss her. just about all of the kids work there, too.

i did a little checking around and it looks like the film isn't officially on dvd yet. and i didn't realize that matt mahurin did it -- he's also one of our cover artists! (i'm an editor.)

11:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matt Manhurin has also been a customer of ours. I wish I could mention my restaurant but you know what happens once a servant speaks honestly.

The movie did mention Eve's passing sometime in 2002 (3?).

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That was me.


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Blogger Diane said...

What does "six top" mean?

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Anonymous Matt said...

Saw your blog about Shopsin's and was wondering if you could help us out - we're putting on a charity event to help the hungry in New York City at Suba restaurant on the LES. At the event, the Director of I Like Killing Flies will be there to take Q&A - check out the blurb below -

Invite friends for a three course dinner, including wine service, and a movie at Yann De Rochefort's Suba restaurant, a contemporary Latin restaurant and lounge on the Lower East Side, rated by Time Out New York as one of New York City's Top 100 Restaurants. THINKfilm will present an exclusive screening of Matt Mahurin's West Village restaurant documentary, "I Like Killing Flies". Matt will also join us for a Q&A!

When: Tuesday May 17th, 7 - 10pm
Where: Suba Restaurant - 109 Ludlow St Lower East Side, NY 10002
Tickets: $100

Please feel free to forward the listing to anyone who you think might be interested - we have 20 seats left and would love to sell out!


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Blogger bushka said...

Just found your blog, more in common than I'd like to think about right now. Still getting through it all. Usual long day, hot kitchen, busy, with a moronic, fresh out of c. school apprentice with that superior attitude problem, which annoys the fuck out of me. There is an enjoyment in kicking them down while teaching them, I have to admit. If only we had it this easy when coming up through the ranks. Just wondering though, have you ever butchered a live animal (mammal) with your own hands? For me it was somewhere between interesting, erotic and downright scary. Dig your blog. Cooking is a personal passion and conviction that can't be denied. If you can't do it 24/7 and love it, then get out now for all those that will have to suffer your lame ass.

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Anonymous CarlAllChefedOut said...

Diane said...
What does "six top" mean?

It's the opposite of "twelve bottom" in the space-time continue-uhm.

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Anonymous CarlAllChefedOut said...

Bushka you should kick them! It needs to be done as this country doesn't have a proper apprenticeship program like the rest of the industrial world where you work 4 days a week for beer coupons and grub and then go to 'tech' once a week to learn a respectable(?) trade.

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