an intimate portrait of a complicated chef
After working at some of the world’s best restaurants, Jake’s aggressive personality kept him from finding a kitchen to call home. A chef without a restaurant, Jake began cooking fifteen-course menus out of his apartment. Alongside his dedicated wife Alexa, their “underground” restaurant becomes a foodie hot spot. The experience is unique: they present refined flavors while dirty dishes soak in their bedroom. A year later, they take out a lease on an abandoned chicken joint to open a real restaurant, 42 Grams. The film follows them developing menus, hiring and firing staff, shows Jake’s temper, the strains on their marriage, and what they risk in their pursuit of the American Dream.
I met Jake and Alexa after eating at the “underground” restaurant they ran out of their home. It was some of the best food I had ever tasted. I asked the couple if they would be open to me filming their food prep and presentation process, and they agreed. At the time they had no plans to open a “real” restaurant and the idea of being a culinary celebrity was a far-away goal Jake had scribbled in a notebook he kept in a kitchen drawer.
When I started filming, my initial goal was to make a film that focused on the intent of an artist. I understand the process of filmmaking and was curious to explore what I could learn about creativity through the methods of a chef. As I spent more time with Jake and Alexa, and as they got more comfortable with the camera, our conversations moved beyond the food on the plate and into their relationship, their struggles and their hopes for the future.
This documentary developed in real time: I kept filming as the decided to open a “real restaurant”, kept filming as Jake fired employee after employee, and kept filming as the accolades started pouring in. The film shows the cost of ambition, obsession, and the American Dream.
I’ve always thought of this film as a “submarine movie” – at the beginning you enter into the vessel and just go deeper and deeper and deeper. You’re trapped in this environment with these two people for two years. Jake refers to the restaurant, which is in the same building they live in, as a prison. You feel the intensity of being in close quarters with this tortured genius. I want the audience to feel like they’re there the whole time – along for the ride. We suffer when they suffer, we feel invested in the hard work that they’ve put in, and we celebrate when the goal is achieved.