Review: Hot Docs pay tribute to director & servers everywhere with ‘Dish’ Special

Posted Apr 27, 2017 by Sarah Gopaul
The enlightening 2010 documentary, ‘Dish — Women, Waitressing & the Art of Service’, is screening in a tribute to Canadian filmmaker Maya Gallus at Hot Docs.
A scene from ‘Dish — Women  Waitressing & the Art of Service’
A scene from ‘Dish — Women, Waitressing & the Art of Service’
Hot Docs
Waitressing is a very old profession. In North America, it was long viewed as a vocation dominated by women. But this has not been true across the world. Maya Gallus’ 2010 documentary, Dish — Women, Waitressing & the Art of Service, explores the various roles and status positions waiting holds in Canada, France and Japan.
From the iconic waitresses of ‘eggs-over-easy’ diners and truck stops in Toronto to the gritty and glamorous “sexy resto” serveuses in Montreal, the service industry is shown to have many faces. The film also takes viewers to the elite world of haute cuisine in Paris, where female servers are simply unacceptable, and the bizarre maid cafés of Tokyo, where modern-day geisha tread a fine line between service and servitude.
Gallus is a former waitress herself and she uses the documentary to introduce audiences to these women who talk about their experiences, and reveal the fantasies and desires customers project onto female servers: substitute wife, girlfriend and/or servant. In North America, the service industry is shown to be female-dominated, but many of the women are relegated to lower-end establishments: truck stops, diners and bars. The more sophisticated the dining experience, the more respect and money the server commands — and the more likely the server is a man.
The women interviewed are very candid about their jobs, what they think of their customers and why they entered the profession. Generally and most obviously, they started because they needed to work. But most of these women are not ashamed about turning waitressing into a career; what they do is hard and necessary work, and they are proud of what they accomplish in a day. On the other hand, the sexy servers in Montreal provide a slightly less idealistic view of the industry.
Limits are obviously impossible to avoid; thus, filmmakers can’t be viewed negatively for only exploring certain types of restaurants in certain countries. Instead, they sensibly choose to juxtapose the familiar stereotype of waitressing with some very different versions of the business.
A Gemini award-winning director and producer, Gallus is the subject of this year’s “Focus On” retrospective at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, which highlights the work of a mid-career Canadian filmmaker. Dish is one of six films screening as part of the program.
Director: Maya Gallus