Up Close with Jeff Toste, Director of Haven Brothers Documentary
Saturday, March 08, 2014
Founded in 1888 as a horse drawn food wagon, the Haven Brothers Diner is one of the oldest restaurants on wheels in the country. Not only locally recognized, the famous food truck has been featured on the Travel Channel’s Man v. Food Nation, and has even made its way to mid-town Manhattan for an appearance on the Today Show.
Due to its rich history and current popularity, it’s no wonder that local filmmaker Jeff Toste decided to capture the diner’s history on film in 2010. And now, over three years later, Toste has completed his documentary entitled Haven Brothers: Legacy of an America Diner, which will be released this summer.
With this in mind, GoLocal caught up with Toste to discuss the evolution of the project and what this local landmarks means to the city of Providence.
A Conversation with Documentary Filmmaker Jeff Toste
What inspired you to want to make this film?
I love Americana.
Why did it take three years to complete?
I was turned down for grant money. My Kickstarter failed. I couldn't find reliable help. I did, however, eventually find Ken Chappell, who was a huge help on interviews and 2nd camera. So I mostly worked solo, including extra hours to raise the funds for needed equipment. And/or had to turn down work to make the time to edit. Nothing good comes easy.
What's the focus of the documentary?
The story centers around the fact the diner was almost lost to Providence's transformation from a "smudge on the map" in the 80's, to the "Renaissance City" of today. Much of the city's history did not survive, but Haven Bros. did thanks to public outcry. In the words of Umberto Crenca of AS220, "What would be missed?" It boggles the mind that something so important to people can be erased.
What has Haven Brothers meant to Providence?
M. Charles Bakst, retired reporter from the Projo said it best when discussing what Providence would be without Haven Brothers stating, "It would be a hole in the soul of the city." Additionally, it is part of the "authenticity" of Rhode Island. We are the birthplace of the diner. Beyond that, people have a love affair with this place. And many of those people are characters as unique as the diner itself.
What are some of the most interesting things you learned while making the film?
It may be the first diner owned by a woman in a time when women could not even have custody of their own children.
I read that you've been entering the film into festivals. How has that experience been thus far?
Actually, I am still deciding what festivals if any I will enter. I have no money or means to get to them. Many folks don't know it costs more to promote a film than to make it. Festivals can get you exposure, but they don't pay unless you win the "distribution lottery."
What’s the main thing that you want viewers to take away from the film?
A good story about a unique place in earth. It was a privilege to tell the story of Haven Brothers and I hope I have done it justice.
For more information about Haven Brothers: Legacy of the American Diner, including forthcoming release date information, visit the film’s Facebook page.
EDITORS NOTE: an earlier version of this story did not identify a $5,000 pre-production grant that this project received from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities in 2011.
Related Slideshow: RI’s Food Trucks
Rocket Fine Street Food
Specializing in American comfort food with finesse and high quality, often locally sourced ingredients ingredients, Rocket offers delicious items such as Mom’s Baked Mac ‘n Cheese and the Ron Swanson burger, all made from scratch. Vegan, Vegetarian, or gluten free? Not a problem; Rocket has you covered.
Where to find them: East Side/Thayer Street, Kennedy Plaza, several farmers’ markets (Ship St., Armory, Downtown). Visits Brown University, RISD and Johnson and Wales.
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LA-style Mexican street food without leaving Providence—Mijos has it all. Try their tacos, tostadas, burritos and more, all at great prices on the go.
Where to find them: Brown Medical School, College Hill, Pawtucket Farmers Market, Armory Farmers Market, Kennedy Plaza, and more
Mama Kim’s brings tasty Korean BBQ flavor to College Hill, its usual cooking grounds. The food is cheap, delicious, and locally supplied from fresh ingredients. Get everything you never knew you loved, from wraps, rice sets, sliders, and daily specials. You can even request a dish to the chef.
Where to find them: Llower Thayer Street, near Brown University’s SciLi
Sausages and beer! “French-influenced, New England grown”, Hewtin’s brings gourmet hot dogs and sandwiches to the street. Order your favorite dog and lay on as many delicious toppings as you can fit!
Where to find them:
Tuesday: Downtown at Grant’s Block, 11:30am-2pm
Thursday & Friday: North Main Street, Smith Street, Roger Williams National Memorial Park, 11:30am-2pm
Friday: North Main Street, Smith Street, Roger Williams National Memorial Park, 11:30am-2pm
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Where to find them : Thayer Street, East Side, Downtown
Fancheezical is B.Y.O.G.C: Build Your Own Grilled Cheese. Choose from any cheese, toppings, and bread your heart desires. There are even gluten-free and vegan options.
Where to find them: Thayer Street, The Avery on the West Side, Kennedy Plaza, Grant’s Block Visit Brown, RISD and JWU, sometimes PC
“Get your BBQ on…like Donkey Kong!”, says Eddie’s BBQ truck. Get good, ole fashioned southern style BBQ dishes, or try something new like BBQ fish, tofu, shrimp, or eggplant.
Where to find them: South Kingstown and Narragansett (does not visit colleges specifically)
Poco Loco Tacos
You can see this bright yellow truck from a mile away. Offers a delicious selection of tacos and burritos, or get creative and build your own.
Where to find
Tuesday: Grant’s Block 11am-2pm
Wednesday: Knight St 8pm-12am
Thursday: Promenade St at the Providence Blood Drive Center 11am-2pm
Friday & Saturday: Scurvy Dog on Westminster 11pm-2am
Plouf Plouf Gastronomie
Providence, Newport, Pawtucket
Don’t sacrifice quality for ease—Plouf Plouf Gastronomie offers organic, homemade French cuisine. Try their fish, steak, or if you’re feeling adventurous...the snails. The ever-changing menu is sure to have something new that fits your craving whenever you see it drive by.
Where to find them: Visits to Providence, Fall River, Newport and Pawtucket
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Where to find them: Narragansett Beach, Providence
Cupcakes taste better when served out of a 1950s IH Metro Van. Sugarush offers season options like margarita lime, s’mores, egg nog, and lemon with lavender frosting. All cupcakes are vegan, so everyone can enjoy.
Where to find them: Hope St, Lippet Park; Visits RISD and Brown for many events
Championship Melt serves grilled cheeses ranging from classic to crazy, in a hard to miss yellow truck. They offer Vegan, Gluten Free, and Lactose intolerant options. Look out for specials like their Chicken Parm Grilled Cheese.
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