‘The Menu’ Cast on Being ‘Teased’ by Prop Food and Why Audiences Love Watching the Ultra-Rich Suffer

The Menu” brings a troupe of wealthy diners to one of the finest fictional restaurants in America. There are rare oysters, elevated tacos and a bread plate sans bread — or, unaccompanied accompaniments. The comedic thriller recruited award-winning chef Dominique Crenn as its chief technical consultant, but according to the cast, they didn’t get to enjoy much of the world-class food seen on screen.

“It was kind of a tease because we didn’t get to eat very much of it, at the end of the day,” Reed Birney told Variety on the red carpet at the New York premiere of “The Menu.” “As soon as we started eating the thing, Chef would do something and cut it off. And they would take the plate away and bring a new one for the next tape.”

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Carried by an ensemble cast featuring Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult, “The Menu” is a dark and captivating satire of the restaurant industry through the eyes of Fiennes’ renowned and unhinged chef Julian Slowik.

Asked what drew him to the role, Fiennes said, “It was an unusual script. It was an unusual tone. You couldn’t read how it would end up. The character is full of interesting contradictions, which I like. He’s got a power trip going on. At the same time, he hates what he is doing. He loathes himself for selling out. So he’s got a real interesting tension inside. And I thought the progression of the story — how it unfolded as each course gets weirder and weirder — was unusual and a bit wacky and crazy in a fun way.”

Taking place at chic island restaurant called Hawthorne, the film skewers the insufferable foodies, snobby critics and entitled elites who have ruined the art of cooking. On the heels of “Triangle of Sadness” and “The White Lotus,” “The Menu” is the latest Hollywood project to take aim at the ultra-wealthy.

According to Judith Light, “it’s about time” we mock the rich and put America’s growing wealth disparity on display. “Do we let people who have that kind of wealth dictate our country?” said Light. “Do we allow ourselves to not be understood as one humanity? Do we not pay attention to social inequity? The question of this movie is, ‘Who will you be before you die?'”

She continued, “We’re obsessed with wealth, and we feel depressed by it if we don’t have it. It’s time to call it out. It’s time to talk about it.”

“The Menu” producer Betsy Koch added, “I hope that people see this movie and clock the different levels of servitude and exploitation that take place in industries like this. People that give their lives and their bodies and souls to it night after night in this very high-pressure situation. We’re implicating the audience a little bit to take a closer look at their own participation.”

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