It may be less than 30 minutes long, but “A Tale of Two Kitchens,” the Netflix documentary about Chef Gabriela Cámara, will stay with you far longer.
Of course, it will make you very, very hungry, too.
The film recounts how Cámara opened her first restaurant Contramar in Mexico City in 1998, just after graduating from college and with no professional restaurant experience, herself. She just wanted to create a beach cafe with food that would make people happy. It was such a smashing success that 17 years later, she came to San Francisco to open her second restaurant, Cala, along with its sidekick, Tacos Cala, to great acclaim.
“A Tale of Two Kitchens” is a look at both restaurants, one in the United States, the other in Mexico, and the culture they share. Cámara doesn’t shy away from talking about the dichotomy that now exists, as Mexican immigrants are being vilified in the United States yet the popularity of Mexican food in this country has never been higher.
Cámara has notably taken the chance to hire convicts to work at Cala, giving them not only new skills, but a second chance. At Contramar, her staff is so loyal that many have worked for her for more than a decade, and a few are even second-generation, as a son is shown in the film excited to work alongside his father as a server.
She has no intention of slowing down anytime soon, either. She’s currently working on a new restaurant, Onda in Santa Monica, with Chef Jessica Koslow of the wildly popular Sqirl in Los Angeles. And she was recently named a cultural advisor to the Mexican president.
This year, Cámara also debuted her first cookbook, “My Mexico City Kitchen: Recipes and Convictions” (Lorena Jones/Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.