The arrival of the foodie, I think, was hastened by the Food Network and the plethora of other cooking shows, on television and streaming. And stepping into the joys, ups and downs of exploring food and the culture attached to it can get you firmly stamped. It’s a club that will never be short of members. 

Proving this point to the maximum is the film “The Menu,” which pokes fun at the aforementioned food culture, twisting the experience into a well-spiced, hilarious thriller. 

The film is focused on a designer restaurant, a church of sorts, located on its own island—Hawthorne Island, a 12-acre farm-to-table destination where the uber-wealthy, the ridiculously famous and the self-absorbed pretentious pay $1,250 a head to sample the ever-changing tasting menu chosen by Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), who runs his establishment like a drill sergeant in his army. Yes, his army because the staff follows him like slavishly devoted soldiers, but maybe a better description is cult members. 

He is such a control freak that he instructs his diners—“Do not eat,” he demands that instead, they “taste.” This is just another example of the chef’s narcissism—he’s a legend in his own mind, which is what makes this black comedy delicious. 

For those audience members who love the thrill of thrillers, “The Menu” will not disappoint because the coveted food moves from being wildly pretentious to being downright dangerous. The shift from salivating over the food demonstrates that the food never mattered; it was simply a clever distraction. 

All of the guests are getting what they truly deserve and their crime is coming to this restaurant. The victims, that is to say the guests, include the following: Lillian (Janet McTeer), a food critic whose joy is writing the kind of reviews that close restaurants. Tyler (Nichols Hoult), a devoted foodie geek who invited his date, Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), who is not a foodie and represents the other slice of the audience who can see through the fluff. 

There are also three tech bros (Arturo Castro, Rob Yang and Mark St. Cyr) who are equal part obnoxious followed by the fading movie star, played by John Leguizamo, along with his assistant (Aimee Carrero), who’s using the dinner as a way to part ways with him.

The visuals are perfect with the movie divided into courses, with each dish, along with its ingredients listed for an easy read. The first dish features foam with each dish representing more and more of a deconstruction of a meal as we understand it. 

To say that Chef Slowik is a mad scientist of gastronomy is only half true. He literally treats each meal like a necessary lab experiment with the diners being used as guinea pigs. The truth of the matter is that he’s designed it meticulously so that each guest gets exactly what karma would dish out if it was a masterful chef. 

“The Menu” is kind of like the horror film “Saw” but not exactly. Directed by Mark Mylod, who cut his teeth directing British television series including “Succession,” here his ability to stage a thriller is evident. The screenplay is written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy and it’s brimming with keen, over-the-top observation.

Fiennes is pitch-perfect as the snobby chef, and Taylor-Joy, as the customer who can see through his performance, stands out and grows on you the more you watch her. 

The grand finale—the big finish—is funny as the chef deconstructs the s’more, calling it a “monstrosity” that will cleanse everything with its fire. 

“The Menu” tries to make many points and actually hits most. In summary, perhaps the biggest takeaway is that being snobby about food is silly.

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