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Controversial Flick "The Menu" Serves Up Restaurant Realism and Murder, and Chefs Love it

We asked chefs to share their very real thoughts about the horror-comedy foodie film.
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If you were an elite Instagram foodie invited to an exclusive restaurant on an island, would you say no? Probably not—especially when the restaurant is run by one of the most famous chefs in the world. The concept seems almost normal when compared to other foodie explorations across the world, but the new restaurant movie "The Menu" takes a shocking turn and we wondered what real chefs thought of the dark comedy.

"The Menu" is a story about a young couple who visit an exclusive destination restaurant on a remote island. The restaurant is known for preparing a lavish tasting menu from acclaimed chef Julian Slowik, played by Ralph Fiennes. However, the menu includes a few unexpected ingredients and "shocking surprises" for all of the VIP guests invited.

Spoiler alert: The surprise is murder.

This comedy-horror film, which premiered on Nov. 18, has already blown up at the box office at $34 million and landed an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics are saying this movie "played too close to the bone," putting a comedic look at the foodie culture that has blossomed from lavish restaurants like Hawthorne, the fictional restaurant on the silver screen. With dozens of tiny courses (which somehow always include a course featuring foam), "The Menu" pokes fun at a foodie culture that is prevalent at ultra-famous restaurants around the world. We asked chefs to tell us what they thought of "The Menu" and here are their surprising thoughts.

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"When the dishes started rolling out, I stared at the screen with my mouth open," says Chef Christina Russo, The Kitchen Community. "The menu created for the film was, and is, composed of the sort of dishes that most chefs dream about creating but never actually manage to find the time or talent to create. Until that is, about three-quarters of the way through the movie and the meal that the plot pivots on."

Along with the intricate dishes and the creative plot twist, the portrayal of the demanding environment also hit close to home for many chefs who watched the film.

"I started my career in high-pressure, demanding, expensive restaurants where the experience of eating was as important as the food being served, and the ability and talent to combine both were all that mattered," says Chef Dennis Littley of askchefdennis. "Discipline and devotion were all important, and the portrayal of that environment and the demanding and exacting standards that the head chefs required from the kitchen staff was scarily realistic."

And yet, there was a relatability there for Chef Dennis as he journeyed through the film.

"Even though 'The Menu' takes that idea to the nth degree and plays around with it, the absolute dedication and focus that the film captured perfectly mirrored my formative years in the multiple high-end kitchens where I cut my culinary teeth and really learned how to cook and what being a chef meant, and means," he says.

All in all, while "The Menu" is meant to be a dark comedy about a particular foodie culture that is seen as pretentious, both chefs still seemed to enjoy the concept of the movie and the incredible culinary art that took place throughout the 107 minutes on screen.

"As a study of the death of food-based joy, professional culinary purpose, and career happiness, it's quite possibly the best film I've ever seen," says Chef Russo.

When the man famously known for playing Voldemort in the Harry Potter franchise is called to play an evil chef in a new film, you know the movie probably won't disappoint.

Kiersten Hickman
Kiersten Hickman is a freelance health and nutrition journalist. Read more about Kiersten