Films, Interviews
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Deli Man: interview with director Erik Greenberg Anjou

If you like food, you must see food documentary Deli Man. Run. Don’t walk. Grab a pastrami sandwich on the way.

Ziggy Gruber, deli man with the Zellagabetsky sandwich: 8 decker on special cut rye, corned beef, pastrami, turkey, roast beef, salami, tongue, swiss cheese, coleslaw, Russian dressing and red sweet pepper.

Deli Man talk, dinner, movie combo

Yesterday, I rounded up bunch of foodies, bloggers and food bloggers to check out Deli Man at Documentary Edge with all the trimmings. Our appetiser was a free talk by the directors of two food documentaries. Director Erik Greenberg Anjou, the director of Deli Man and one of the directors of documentary For Grace, Mark Helenowski. Both directors showed trailers and clips from the movie and after an hour of food discussion we were HUNGRY.

For our main course, we visited The Fed with the Deli Man dinner special. The Fed are official sponsors for Deli Man at the film festival so it seemed fitting to dine there before the movie. For $25 per head we enjoyed Matzo ball soup, pastrami with pickles and mustard, spit roast chicken and gravy, poutine, creamy slaw with peanuts, mash and gravy finished with coffee and NY cheesecake. Washed down with a cocktail and large serving of food talk we were very content. We rolled our bursting bellies out and finished up the evening with a screening of Deli Man.

Dinner at The Fed.

Dinner at The Fed.

Deli Man

A documentary that is funny, charming, heart warming, and hunger inducing in equal measure. It tells the story of Ziggy Gruber, the larger than life proprietor of a Jewish Delicatessen with just enough food porn and history thrown in to make you feel hungry and educated.

The food porn in this movie was enough to conjure involuntary noises from the audience and even though I had full belly, some scenes literally made me sigh out loud. Due to the meat-based menu of delicatessens, vegetarians need not apply. I know some of you will be planning to go to dinner after the movie but trust me on this, have a snack before the movie. Watching this on an empty stomach would be pure torture.

To find out more about the movie including when it is screening near you, check out the website here.


Q&A with Erik Greenberg Anjou at Documentary Edge Film Festival, Auckland.


Q&A with Deli Man director Erik Greenberg Anjou

I asked Erik to humour me a little Q&A to get an insight to his movie, process and deli knowledge.

1. Do you have an idea of the story you want to tell before you being on a project or does the story write itself as you go along?

Well, a little of both. I certainly have a strong conceptual sense of the story as I start researching and fundraising, and that story gets stronger as we approach principal photography and start shooting. So… I absolutely knew that Ziggy Gruber was going to be the heart of the film, and I also had a very exacting menu as to the identities of some of our other deli men and maven interviewees. But as often happens with documentary films… well, a strange thing happened on the way to the market! The best kind of documentaries, in my mind, aren’t scripted. They’re sculpted and re-discovered in the editing room. So my editor, Lisa Palattella, became a huge and seminal force in making the film something beautiful and whole. There were a lot of story threads that didn’t really take shape until way into the shooting – for example, how Ziggy’s romantic and family quest were going to turn out, and how exactly we were going to build a sense of the Jewish deli’s future given the dire odds the business is up against. So you just have to be really patient and persistent. Each unfolding slice of the story informs the morsel yet to come.

2. Favorite food movie?

I Like Killing Flies directed by Matt Mahurin. An extremely deep and funny film about the iconic and cranky restaurateur Kenny Shopsin. He is a brilliant chef, as challenging as he is original, and the film is unflinching.

3. Favorite deli?

Oi vey, this is the question that always gets me in trouble. I became close with many of the deli owner-operators over the course of making the film, and of course I didn’t get to visit each and every store in the country. But my personal favorites are Kenny and Ziggy’s in Houston and Ben’s Best in Queens. I’m also a huge fan of Caplansky’s and Centre Street Deli (Toronto), Nate ‘n Al (Beverly Hills, CA) and Hobby’s (Newark, NJ). For anyone visiting the States and some of these Jewish nodes… I always invite them to go off the standard beat a little bit. Places like Katz’s and the Carnegie are great, of course, but they’re not neighborhood stores. The smaller stores really harken back to the older deli days, where the owner-operator was always out front – in charge of the unique vibe as well as the delicious food.

4. What to order in a NY deli so you don’t sound like a noob!

Well, you’ve got two plans of attack here. First… if you’re feeling bold, be a noob! It’s a great way to invite a potential barb or attack from one of the snarling waiters or waitresses who are the guardians of deli’s gate. If you’re not so adventurous… You can never go wrong with matzoh ball or mish-mash soup, a half-tongue and half-pastrami sandwich with spicy mustard, a full pickle spiced pepper plate, and some chopped liver. Bring a pillow, take a nap, and then rev up for some dessert!

5. Does it surprise you that classic dishes from a NY deli can be found in places like Auckland, NZ?

Yes and no. On one hand, New Zealand feels very far away from the world’s deli capital, New York. On the other hand, Jews like a lot of ethnic groups have been an exilic and traveling tribe. So… just like there are going to be Chinese and Thai and Indian restaurants in the Antipodes… Why not some good Jewish delis? I think the cuisine matches up against anyone’s!

Director Erik Greenberg Anjou and Fyvush Finkel on the set of DELI MAN.

Director Erik Greenberg Anjou and Fyvush Finkel on the set of DELI MAN.


All press photos courtesy of Cohen Media Group


1 Comment

  1. Sounds like a good night out! I can imagine that watching this doco without having eaten first would be a terrible idea!!

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