Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Filmmaker David Bernabo Looks Beyond The Menu

He examines the visible yet unseen labor in the service industry with his documentary, "Eating & Working & Eating & Working."


Here's what the majority of people think when aiming to decide where they want to have a restaurant meal: Is the food good? How far away is it from my house? Will I leave full? Are they nice to me?

Unseen and unthought about are the hours of physical and emotional labor that go into preparing and serving the meal, and, deeper than that, the layers of systemic racism as well as the gender- and race-based discrimination and harassment of employees that long have plagued the restaurant industry.

The multifaceted artist David Bernabo aims to address these issues in his film “Eating & Working & Eating & Working,” an 85-minute documentary released earlier this year. "It's a little behind the scenes right? Food is upfront and so are drinks. You're going there [to restaurants] to be entertained to some extent, so you don't want to think about the mechanics of how it's done,” he says.

“Eating” is Bernabo’s fifth food-related film. His four-part series, Food Systems, explores various aspects of Pittsburgh’s food culture by examining its restaurant history, its farms, home cooking and food insecurity. "I the idea of labor was lingering through all the other films. This was a chance to go deeper around all those subjects -- labor, sexism and systemic racism,” he says. 

The film reveals itself in duel, overlapping structures. Bernabo follows a series of restaurant industry professionals, including Oraphan Witayaprechia-Anan of Thai Gourmet, Curtis Gamble of Station, Gina Merante of Linea Verde Green Market and Jasmine Cho of Yummylicious from the start to finish of their work days. 

He divides the day into 13 chapters: “Everything is About Labor,” “Both Mental and Physical,” “My Mom Thought of the Name,” “Mental Labor,” “Left Elbow,” “Small Tasks,” “All Things Yummy,” “Sexism,” “Racism, Ownership and Redlining,” “I Was Thinking About Candy,” “Wage Labor, Using the Example of the Household Economy,” “If You Think That Capitalism is Problematic,” and “‘Argot,’ by Fred Shaw.” Scholars such as Alice Julier of Chatham University, thought-leaders including Liana Maneese of The Good Peoples Group and Nicole Battle, president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild, as well as journalists such as Celine Roberts of Pittsburgh City Paper add their voices to the narrative. 

Bernabo crafts a thoughtful, meditative piece which encourages viewers to think beyond the glitz and glamor of buzzy tasting menus and chef awards. Instead, he prompts diners to examine the cultural, emotional and physical labor, the mental health and self-care needs and racist and sexist burdens that those who work in the restaurant industry face while helping customers have a fun night out. “It’s hard to value labor if you think it didn’t take much to make that,” Julier says late in the film.

After watching “Eating," it's likely you'll value labor — and all the issues that surround it — the next time you visit a restaurant. Bernabo’s film is available on-demand at Vimeo, and he also hosts occasional screenings. 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Electric Scooter Rideshare Launching in Pittsburgh

Scoobi will offer an eco-friendly alternative to cars and a speedier alternative to bikes beginning in June

Is Kennywood's Phantom’s Revenge Best Coaster in USA?

The fastest amusement park ride in Pennsylvania is currently in the running for best roller coaster — and it’s gained plenty of speed.

Director and “Mr. McFeely” Discuss “Won't You Be My Neighbor?”

The director of the forthcoming Mr. Rogers documentary sits down with the longtime Mr. McFeely and Pittsburgh Magazine.

Pittsburgh Teen Chess Phenom to Host Her First-Ever Tourney

Chess enthusiast Ashley Lynn Priore hopes to enrich the Steel City’s involvement in one of the most classic and challenging of board games.

Hungry for Something Good, Pittsburgh? Where We're Eating in June

We're obsessed with Greekfreez vegan frozen treats, taking a first look at the new menu at Independent Brewing Company and traveling to The Tavern on the Square. Plus, we talk to Poulet Bleu pastry chef James D. Wroblewski II.

Working in a Steel Mill Turns Fantastical in 'The Glass Lung'

Pittsburgher Anjali Sachdeva’s first book blends the normal with fantasy in nine short stories.

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.

Pittsburgh Flicks and Nightlife in June

PM Nightlife Editor Sean Collier explores the popularity of Coughlin's Law on Mt. Washington and the future of Jump Cut Theater.

Pittsburgh's Can't Miss Concerts in June

The Pittsburgh music calendar is packed this month. Check out some of our suggestions for the best ways to spend those steamy summer nights.

June: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

Check out some of the finest stage plays, dance performances and exhibits taking place this month in Pittsburgh.

Undercover: What We're Reading in June

Reviews of Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance by Mark Whitaker and Abandoned Pittsburgh: Steel and Shadows by Chuck Beard

Perspectives: How Cold Is Too Cold for Spiders to Live?

A former Marine and Pittsburgh firefighter comes face-to-face with his biggest fear.

Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Faces Centennial Challenges

This year marks a milestone anniversary — and questions regarding the emerging digital economy — for the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh.

Highmark Stadium Struggles To Accommodate Music Fans

The Station Square venue could be a good place to see a concert. It's not there yet.

CMU Launches America’s First Degree in Artificial Intelligence

Starting this fall, undergraduates at Carnegie Mellon will have the option to earn a degree in one of the world’s fastest growing fields.