‘The menu’ – Revenge is a dish best served cold

Quickly slicing and dicing the pretensions of “haute cuisine,” director Mark Mylod (“Game of Thrones” and “Succession”) confuses the absurd egomania of bullying chefs and the captive consumers they pander to. As James Croot noted, gourmet “tasting” evenings are presented as “a theatrical experience” to affluent clientele who find themselves drawn to the kind of meal no one else can afford and you wouldn’t want. certainly not serve at home.

Hawthorn, the fictional island restaurant depicted in the film, is a mix of very rustic destinations like Norma in Copenhagen, Blue Hill in Stone Barns, upstate New York; Mugaritz in the Basque Country, the Willows in the Pacific Northwest and Chef Francis Mallman’s private island off the coast of Patagonia. In such restaurants, adored by food critics and juries, but affordable only by wealthy gastro-tourists, the chefs are not seen as mere cooks, but rather as “storytellers” who do not just feed the people, but “weave a story of meaning, gestures, and emotions.

The restaurant has its own shell beds, where diners watch their dinner being harvested. It has a “Nordic-style smokehouse,” free-range goats, and the wines are “hyperdecanted.” The celebrity chef (Ralph Fiennes playing the kind of quietly demented camp commander he first mastered in ‘Schindler’s List’) may be a man, but the dining room manager is a woman deliriously overplayed by Hong Chau, who applies his strict rules. Dishes are delivered by a coordinated cadre of cooks dressed in crisp white shirts and roughly threaded aprons.

The plot has many outlandish twists, but the food is all too real, like the “breadless bread dish” of gelatinous dips and emulsions. According to Julia Moskin, many details weren’t made up for fun, but taken from real restaurants. The spice racks are replicated from the kitchen of (now closed) Spanish restaurant El Bulli, the homemade granola in gift bags is a nod to Eleven Madison Park, and the idea of ​​the “perfectly unripe” strawberry is taken from chef René Redzepi of Noma. A course of a single raw scallop, perched on a steep rock surrounded by neatly plucked seaweed and seaweed, is indistinguishable from an actual dish available at Atelier Crenn in San Francisco. It’s no coincidence – Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in the United States to earn three Michelin stars, designed all of the equally ridiculous dishes in the ten-course meal and ensured that other culinary details were authentic.

Mylod said recreating a modern gourmet kitchen was disturbing. Long working hours, sexual harassment and verbal abuse are among the horrors inflicted by chief bully Slowik and the system he represents. “We were reading the brief while we were filming,” he said of the NYT report on the Willows, a restaurant on a remote island in Washington state.

The twelve guests are gathered like well-padded apostles attending some deranged Last Supper, each having paid $1,250 for the privilege of a four-hour, twenty-eight-minute meal planned to the finest detail by Slowik. They don’t know what to expect in this grisly twist on an Agatha Christie country house murder mystery, in which plates of bitter recriminations and increasingly violent surprises are served cold.

While the film doesn’t do much to whet the appetite, it’s more than satisfying with whips of hepatic bile, the two main pigments of which are yellow bilirubin and its oxidized form, green biliverdin (when mixed, they are responsible for the brown color of feces). 400 to 800 milliliters of bile are produced per day in adult human beings, more than enough to go around this dark comedy of dark table manners.

Writer and co-producer Will Tracy, the film crew’s main foodie, came up with the idea during a visit to Bergen, Norway, when he took a boat to a fancy restaurant on a private island. neighbor and realized they were stuck there until the meal was over. more. ‘La Grande Bouffe’ may have done it first (and better), but there is plenty to enjoy in this sumptuous demonstration of rapacity and gluttony.

“This movie probably wouldn’t have happened without ‘Mind of a Chef’ and ‘Chef’s Table,'” Tracy said, referring to the kind of behind-the-kitchen-door TV shows that aired hits over the years. of the last decade. The producers hired David Gelb, creator of the “Chef’s Table” series, as a second unit director to film Hawthorn in exactly the same style as his previous shows, with lingering close-ups of blue flames, glowing tweezers, herb gardens and perfectly aligned food spots.

“The more serious you are about something that seems silly, the funnier the work becomes,” said Tracy, who knows all about parody, having written for “The Onion” for many years with creative partner Seth Reiss. Worst of all is Tyler, the needy, pushy know-it-all who’s watched every episode of “Chef’s Table” “two or three times” and can’t help but show he knows a Packet is a expensive countertop freezer that makes ice cream, sorbets and snow. Many cast and crew were tempted to sample delicacies between takes and had to constantly remind themselves that food was mostly inedible props.

The ensemble cast is uniformly excellent, with Nicholas Hoult (“Peter the Great”) as the self-obsessed foodie looking unerringly like Jared Kushner and the ever-delectable Janet McTeer (“Ozark”) playing a food critic. renamed. John Leguizamo may have based his fading movie star on Steven Seagal (whom he starred with in ‘Executive Decision’), but it’s Hong Chau, dressed in elegantly austere black and white, who really stands out. . Amy Taylor-Joy (“The Queen’s Gambit”) manages to be both cute and tough, resolutely refusing to be intimidated by Slowik’s early statement that “chefs play with the raw materials of life and death. “.

Clever intertitles simply punctuate the story arc and there are plenty of great lines casually tossed aside and easily missed. Personal favorite – “You have to try the mouthfeel of the mignonette.”

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