Mark Mylod, director of the film The Menu, asked Ralph Fiennes to really cook the best hamburger in the world


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How much did this aspect influence the character of Ralph Fiennes?
One of the big things that bonded me and Ralph Fiennes was trying to answer one question: ‘Who is his character and what lifestyle does he lead?’ We couldn’t frequent many of those multi-starred restaurants because of COVID and the current restrictions, but all the documentaries and books available take you on a deep dive. He too was impressed by Grant, how avant-garde his choices were, starting with helium balloons made out of sugar… There were some high-end molecular gastronomy chefs in the series that he was drawn to until become a character part of our movie. So we were inspired by Grant and other great chefs of the caliber of Ferran Adrià, Rene Redzepi, Heston Blumenthal and Thomas Keller.
We took little elements, maybe not the psychosis, or maybe a little bit and built the foundation of the character. We both started from the assumption that we didn’t want to bring a psychopathic villain to life, but to paint the character of a suffered artist.

What are the practical difficulties related to the centrality of food in the film?
The organizational machine is very complex. We set up a prop kitchen and then, right next to it, a warehouse where the set was built. There is an entire kitchen run by Kendall Gensler, a world-class food stylist. She has prepared several variations of each dish. Then, once they’ve agreed on the right one, almost like the photos you see when she goes to a cheap restaurant, Kendall and her team replicate it and make a double take. There is that of the protagonist and then a fictitious plate with which she lines up before shooting. The moment the camera is rolling, it inserts the image that has the exact amount of dry ice, the right type of frozen seawater flakes, or any type of ingredient needed. All the elements are just right and sparkly, fresh and still steaming from the burger or whatever. This way it will always be literally fresh out of the oven.

Do the actors on stage really eat?
90% of the time they eat during the shoot. I’ve always given them the option of using a spit bucket which is very handy and easy to handle. In our case, of course, due to the nature of our cuisine, the plates are tiny and delicious and the problem doesn’t arise. However, there are a number of ingenious tricks, such as when we ask them to eat one scallop after another which, however delicious it may be, soon tends to lose its freshness. So we inserted a slice of potato, unless it’s an important detail to frame.

I have to ask about the burger
One of the funniest evenings ever was when an internationally acclaimed chef, Dominique Crenn, taught Ralph and me how to make the best cheeseburger in the world. Why have we come this far? Simple: we wanted Ralph to be able to cook the best cheeseburger in the world. Thus we had an exceptional tutorial. As a result, I’m still a terrible cook, but now I can cook the best fucking cheeseburger in the world.

Mark Mylod, director of the film The Menu, asked Ralph Fiennes to really cook the best hamburger in the world