How Realistic Was The Fine Dining Experience In The Menu?

Welcome to the always delicious, mostly insane, high-class restaurant of Hawthorne. Chef Julian Slowik will now seat you. But beware, in order to dine on each meticulously designed, expertly prepared course, you'll need to participate in chef's highly symbolic menu — or else. Bon appétit!

This successful thriller-comedy film was released in November 2022 and only increased in popularity after viewers could feast their eyes on it from the comfort of their homes via HBO Max. "The Menu" stars Ralph Fiennes, Nicholas Hoult, and Anya Taylor-Joy, and highlights the cultish, ostentatious world of fine dining while simultaneously tearing it to shreds. The satire packs a hilarious punch from start to finish as we watch a group of wealthy elites and foodies drool over and attempt to analyze Chef Slowik's overly-conceptualized dishes. For one main course, fresh scallops are served with flora and rocks found on the island, drizzled in frothy seawater. With dish names like "Breadless Bread Plate" and "Man's Folly," it's easy to see just how ridiculous this menu really is.

Taylor-Joy plays arguably the only normal person in the whole joint, constantly questioning where the actual food is and criticizing the chef's absurd methods — a big faux pas in that world. It's certainly a wild ride, but did you know the film's director consulted a skilled professional chef to get all the details just right? Between the plethora of eye-rolling, snobby remarks to the food prep shots, the accuracy is spot-on. 

Chef Dominique Crenn infused 'The Menu' with her culinary expertise

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, "The Menu" director Mark Mylod called his palate "primitive," revealing that he "knew very, very little about that high-end world of molecular gastronomy." So, he reached out to the passionate head chef of Michelin-starred restaurant Atelier Crenn, located in trendy San Francisco. Featured in "Chef's Table" and "MasterChef," Dominique Crenn sought to bring out Chef Julian Slowik's authenticity using her own expertise. She herself uses poetic imagery in her menus at Atelier — oysters and rosé get described with wordy verses like "See the efflorescing beauty with rosy cheeks rises," for example (via Prince of Travel). If Slowik was a real person and not a fictional murderer, perhaps he'd find an artistic kinship with Crenn.

Crenn didn't just design each dish in the movie's 10-course fine dining experience, she also understands Slowik's emotional connection to his creations and the high-pressure struggles involved in this career path. "We work 18 hours a day, every day, under pressure to feed thousands of people a perfect meal. And one person can walk into the restaurant and put you down, or a writer can judge you for using too much salt," she told the New York Times. Similar to more traditional artistic careers, public judgment and scrutiny are inescapable. "The Menu" does an exceptional job of pairing a respected chef's imagination with commentary on the darker side of this level of consumerism and just how far it can be pushed.