A luxurious boat. A scallop served with foam on a seashell. A private island housing only a Michelin-star restaurant. A once-in-a-lifetime fine dining experience.
Sounds like the meal of one’s dreams, doesn’t it? Yet, the longer one stays, the more it becomes a nightmare.
In director Mark Mylod’s satirical dark comedy “The Menu,” Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her food-fanatic partner, Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), board a yacht with other members of high society to share a 10-course meal on a private island at renowned Chef Slowik’s (Ralph Fiennes) magnificent restaurant, Hawthorn.
Have you ever eaten sea plants served upon ocean rock? A bread plate without bread? Tortillas with your sins printed on them? Well, Hawthorn has it all.
Something about this dinner isn’t quite right. As the night progresses and the guests attempt to enjoy their meal, Chef Slowik’s cult of cooks and carefully curated menu create an ominous feeling on the island, off-putting to those dining. Soon, everyone comes to understand that this, in fact, may be their last meal. Ever.
How could such an extravagant outing turn into such a chaotic disaster, with wealthy individuals becoming hopeless lunatics, begging to leave? Truly, this film serves to shock.
A clever take on fine dining, “The Menu” critiques the food culture that has permeated our society, which values extravagant presentation and technique over taste and simplicity. Food has turned into an exciting, lavish experience rather than what it’s supposed to be at its core: energy to fill you up and fuel your day. Restaurant goers visit high-end restaurants to examine the food, tasting every hint and noting each ingredient. Instead of simply enjoying what they’re eating, they’ve turned their dishes into specimens to dissect.
At Hawthorn, the guests are all either affluent individuals who visit to display their wealth or foodies who want to flaunt their culinary knowledge. They eat Chef Slowik’s food for show. This is why Chef Slowik has lost his love of cooking: his guests don’t truly enjoy his craft for what it is. When Margot requests that he make a hearty cheeseburger instead of an ornate tasting, for one moment, Chef rekindles this love—he’s finally making something to satisfy another’s cravings. The simple cheeseburger stands for the opposite of the restaurant he’s built: it’s filling, easy to make, and is often poor man’s food. Yet somehow, the greasy dish is all he really needs to feel content again. Food does not need to be fancy to be delicious. Sometimes, fast food trumps the most expensive meal.
“The Menu’s” refreshing take on fine dining offers food for thought. The next time you eat a fancy meal: will you indulge yourself, critique the food, or be utterly disturbed?