The Menu: the film that criticizes haute cuisine and the parallel with the closure of «Noma»

Mark Mylod’s film, The Menu – still in theaters but already streaming on Disney+ for a few days – a very dark satire on the world of haute cuisine. It is unfortunately impossible to talk about it without revealing salient parts of the plot, therefore Spoilers aplenty follow: it would be better to see it as I did, who almost miraculously knew nothing about it.

The film begins by showing us a small group of people boarding a boat to reach the restaurant where they will dine that evening: an exclusive experience from $1250 per coverwe find out during the conversation that the protagonist – Anya Taylor-Joy – she has with the man who accompanies her. He’s the caricature of foodies: the enthusiast for whom the great restaurant a place of pilgrimage for a secular cult (in this case perhaps better to say “pagan”).

Upon arriving on the island where the restaurant is located, guests spot a small fishing boat from the beach scallops – just what – explains the mother who welcomed them – they will eat that evening. At this point of the vision, I am convinced that I have understood where the film is going to go, because these elements are clearly drawn from one of the scandals that have caused the most discussions in the fine dining sector in recent years: the story of The Willows Innrestaurant on the island of Lummi off the coast of Seattlewho claimed to only source from the surrounding nature for their ingredients and instead bought from CostCo (how to say: at the Metro) and whose kitchen staff – what a memorable, truly cinematic detail – cut out the scallops to make them similar to those, much smaller, typical of the ocean around the island. Although the inspiration for this story is evident, well – I didn’t understand anything.

At dinner we meet the chef (Ralph Fiennes) who opens the evening by solemnly recommending to the guests to savor the upcoming food, and to don’t just eat it. it is now clear that something is not right – yet the arrogance, pomposity, even the obvious traits of sociopathy are certainly not lacking in realism: on the contrary, they are rather hyper-realistic. Herein lies part of what makes The Menu such an enjoyable film: a plot works when it takes the nature of the characters it has built to its natural consequences; and the paradox here precisely that a very realistically described chef can actually prove to be one psychopath. It helps that every detail is perfectly taken care of – from the specific lexicon to the plating, to the human types of haute cuisine – and it is not surprising that the production relied on the consultancy of Dominique Crennthree-star Michelin chef atCrenn Atelier of San Franciscor.

At first, even the dinner menu respects all the canons of a restaurant of this category: the only one to object, in fact, is the only one not accustomed to this kind of experience, our Ayna Taylor-Joy, who finds absurd a course that consists only of sauces served without accompanying bread. is the beginning of a descent into hell for everyone, but only she has already sensed it: all of us who frequent haute cuisine have instead eaten something similar over the last few years, that is, ever since chefs realized that carbohydrates they are enemies of very long tasting itineraries, perch give satiety.

Then when the evening begins to fall into the violence and someone tries to escape I thought back to how often I or a colleague described how kidnapping tasting dinners that had lasted into the early hours of the morning; and how the solemnity and obsessiveness of the world of haute cuisine lend themselves well to a psychological thriller – perhaps more than a hagiography in Chef’s Table.

On the finish, there is no possibility of salvation for the guests – but the great restaurant itself will also succumb. almost inevitable at this point to note how the release of The Menu coincidentally overlapped with theannouncement of the closure of Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant that more than any other has shaped the discourse of fine dining over the past fifteen years. In his statement, the chef Ren Redzepi he described how unsustainable the model of his restaurant for its too high work intensity – a system that has long relied on a host of unpaid interns, motivated by the prestige of a restaurant that was doing resumes and willing to tolerate very long working hours. When the theme of sustainability began to become central in the catering sector, it didn’t take much for the theme to extend from the environmental impact to work: how can a restaurant that does not pay its collaborators be sustainable? And yet, when Noma began paying interns, the bills became unsustainable. The parallel with the plot of The Menu is already striking, but there is another singular element: in conclusion, in the film salvation will be offered to a single character, pardoned by means of an anti-gourmet and cheap food: a Hamburger. During the pandemic period, Noma’s usual international clientele could not travel to Denmark, and Copenhageners would never have been enough to fill a restaurant with an average expenditure exceeding 500 euros per person. Thus, Noma was forced to invent a different formula to survive: opened a hamburger shop.

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The Menu: the film that criticizes haute cuisine and the parallel with the closure of «Noma»