Izzy Astuto ‘25/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The world of fine dining is a competitive, cutthroat business full of dedicated, artistic professionals passionate about creating a meal that tells a story. Many outside of the community, however, are left confused and hungry.
This is the initial setup of The Menu, Mark Mylod of Succession fame’s newest release. The movie focuses on Anya Taylor-Joy’s Margot Mills, a hired escort going with her client on a boat to one of the most exclusive restaurants out there, Hawthorne, run by celebrity chef Julian Slowik on a private island.
The night goes south fast, as Slowik’s real intentions to torture each and every one of his guests becomes clear. He announces during the fourth course of the meal that everyone in the restaurant will die by the end of the night. Margot’s presence is the most direct conflict in the movie, as she wasn’t on the original guest list. However, this development creates the broader issue the movie tackles, which is one of class.
While Slowik is a celebrity chef, having risen to a position of fame and wealth, he still works in a service position, and is often taken advantage of by the customers at his restaurants. All of the customers on the night that this movie takes place were chosen specifically because of their flaws in Slowik’s eyes.
One is Janet McTeer’s Lillian Bloom, a food critic who led Slowik to fame, but also has risen to such notoriety that she is capable of destroying people’s livelihoods with one bad review. We watch her character taste the food, incapable of genuinely enjoying it and just looking for any way to tear it down.
However, the entire culture around fine dining hasn’t just affected those who enjoy it from the outside. Instead, it has reached a level where many chefs, in an effort to make their food into art, ignore how they’re turning a necessity into entertainment for the wealthy. Many try to make some grand, liberal statement of the state of the world in their meals, yet their food will never actually be accessible to those groups of people.
In episode one of The Final Table, a Netflix original cooking competition show, unique for its focus on finer recipes, pair Chef Charles Michel and Chef Rodrigo Pachecho make a dish with crickets. Their reasoning is to prove that more sustainable and accessible food can be used in these high class dishes, which is incredibly ironic considering they end up coating the crickets in literal gold during plating, proving just how out of touch some of these chefs are. In The Menu, we see this concept being mocked with one of the opening dishes, where Slowik hands out a bread plate with no bread, because bread is historically a food of the lower class, recognizing that his customers will now only be the exorbitantly wealthy.
That is why the ending scene for Margot is so impactful, where she tries to make a connection with Slowik on a much more personal level. He has let himself get so caught up, even in his final menu, in appealing to the audience that he has lost sight of what made him want to become a chef in the first place. His love of cooking has completely diminished, until he makes Margot her simple cheeseburger, and he genuinely is able to enjoy his craft once more.
Separate from the themes of the movie, it is also spectacularly well done from a filmmaking standpoint, incorporating some unique techniques. Specifically, as homage to a cooking competition show, each course of the menu is shown off in a black box cutaway sequence, where the food is shown in detail. Each dish is a satire of what would typically be provided at this type of restaurant in real life, adding to the film’s clear self-awareness of the type of people it is satirizing.
The Menu is consistently funny, with black comedy woven throughout every disturbing scene, making it a very enjoyable, yet educational experience, highlighting class issues better than some pretentious chef’s menu ever could.