‘The Menu’ Dishes, Explained: What Does Chef Julian’s Meals Symbolize?

The return of the slasher (not looking at you, “Texas Chainsaw”) with “X,” unique genre-bending brilliance like “Barbarian,” “Nope,” and “Fresh,” surprisingly interesting films like “Smile,” and then the “eat the rich” genre, including movies such as “The Invitation” and, of course, “The Menu,” have made the year 2022 absolutely amazing for horror fans. Even with some fantastic movies that we saw in 2022, “The Menu” stands out with its unique use of food culture for satire and its deliciously dedicated cast. Every character is a delight to watch and makes you want to take a bite from the menu. Simultaneously an epicurean’s nightmare and dream, “The Menu” will give you something different to take away with every new watch.

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“The Menu” explores elitism through the ‘content-ilization’ of food, something that is a necessity in everyone’s life. Most of its satire is on the nose, and at no point is the viewer confused about what it is trying to communicate. Mylod uses stereotypical and almost overly heightened characters for a simple yet effective message. Why must the artist lose their purpose for the sake of the consumer? In “The Menu,” Julian is serving his last meal, and each and every dish is carefully curated for the people present. Here’s the scrumptious list of foods served in “The Menu” and the meaning behind them. 


Lemon Caviar Served On Raw Oyster With Mignonette

We can’t be exactly sure what chef Slowik’s welcome dish is meant to represent because, unlike the other courses, he isn’t here yet to explain the reasoning for it. Margot exclaims that she prefers the oysters on their own, but Tyler doesn’t agree, giving an unneeded explanation for why the oyster needs the mignonette and the lemon to give a mouthfeel. According to us, it seems the chef is adding a sour taste (lemon) to something that tastes of the sea because when the boat is on its way to Hawthorne, it’s not just a waste of resources and destructive for the ocean but also bringing the cream of society to the island makes the chef “sour” from losing his passion and becoming a shell of himself (as we learn later on). 

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Amuse Bouche

Round like candy and surrounded by charred lace, this cucumber dish with charred lace and milk snow is an interesting foreshadowing of the last meal of “The Menu.” I don’t know about you, but charred lace represents the fire, and is also placed on top of the melons, like graham crackers in a s’more. The milk snow in the color of marshmallows, and the entire dish giving a similar appearance to a s’more all look like signs for a little hint of what’s to come in the unexpected end of this last meal. 


The Island- First course

When the guests arrived, Julian mentioned that they would be eating fats, salts, sugars, proteins, and even entire ecosystems, amongst other things. His first course is the ecosystem of the island they’re on. Freshly harvested scallops, plants, and flowers from the island—even slightly frozen seawater that flavors the dish as it melts is from the island. According to Julian, the humans on the island are but nanoseconds, whereas nature is timeless, so this meal is to help them accept everything around them and forgive anything that may be in their way of doing so. A full world is in the mouths of a handful of people because they can afford it and afford to make it worthy of the status of fine dining. We even hear people say that at least we can say “we’ve been here” after tasting the first course.

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Breadless Bread Plate- Second Course 

Julian begins the second course by making a speech about the importance of grain and bread in the “common man’s” life, a product that has been in the world for over 12000 years. Even Jesus taught us how to pray by begging for our daily bread, so how then can the people at Hawthorne, who spent $1250 a plate for this meal, get such a measly item of food? They are not the common man, so even at a place that is famous for its bread, there will be no bread but just the savory accompaniments specifically curated for the guests of the day. Lilian Bloom’s food critique even mentions that the emulsion is slightly cracked and cannot be served at a place with a price like this; it doesn’t matter how it tastes; it only “looks” split, explaining perfectly well why nobody there (except maybe Margot) is deserving of bread.


Chicken Tacos With Scissors In It- Third Course 

A meal to evoke a memory or maybe a meal that will be remembered. The chef narrates an old tale from his childhood where he used to enjoy a taco night every Tuesday with his family, but one day his father came home drunk and hurt his mother, so Julian took a pair of scissors and stabbed him in the thigh. That is why the dish is served with a pair of scissors stabbed into the chicken thigh. But more importantly, it comes served with freshly made tortillas that have images of past memories of each of the guests at the restaurant. The finance brothers get some illegal bills, Tyler gets an image of himself clicking pictures of the food the chef specifically mentioned not to, and the old married couple (regular customers) get a picture of a man and a young woman enjoying a meal. It is clear at this point that everyone is here for a reason, and Julian has decided to be their judge.

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The Mess- Fourth Course 

Ah! What a mess. In a quick turn of events, the sous chef shoots himself in the face for this next course. The dish created by Jeremy (the said sous chef) is a representation of the pressure one feels to be better in order to be successful. It’s impossible to meet expectations and standards, and according to the people of Hawthorne, the best way to deal with this is by killing oneself. A beautiful-looking dish that includes pressure-cooked (fun) vegetables, bone marrow, and beef jus (maybe to look like the blood-splattered from Jeremy blowing out his brains). We’re all messed up, and that’s alright. 


Palate Cleanser- Wild Bergamot And Red Clover Tea 

Tea is a drink that calms the mind, and after seeing someone just end their life in front of you, it would, of course, be the ideal choice of drink. Julian’s perfectly curated meal includes this palate and mind cleanser. ‘Sometimes all you need is a great cup of tea.’ 


Man’s Folly 

Before this meal is served, the male guests are given the opportunity to run away, which they actually do. Sous-chef Catherine is the maker of this dish, and before it is served, she tells the story of how Julian wanted to have sexual relations with her when she first started to work with him. When she denied his advances, she wasn’t fired, but Julian refused to look her in the eye. It seems even when there are men who are married and men who otherwise butter their female bosses, still run when they get the chance to save themselves, selfishly and foolishly. Even the finance bros who looked to be tight best friends ran without as much as a nod to the other. A true act of folly in our eyes.


Traditional Cheeseburger 

When Margot ends up at Chef’s home, she sees a picture of him looking his happiest wearing a “kiss the chef” apron. The frame reads “Hamburger Howie’s employee of the month.” Margot decides the only way she can survive Julian’s plan is by telling him exactly what he needs to hear as a chef. What seems to be his reason for loving being a chef and enjoying serving food to those in need of it is a cheeseburger. Margot tells the chef that he has not served any “real” food and that she wants to send his food back. Something no one would dare do because it would be a stab to their intellect at a place like this. She tells him he cooks out of obsession, not love, and that is why his food doesn’t taste good. She then requests that he make the one meal that he truly enjoys making and asks him how much it will cost, to which he says $9.50, a meager amount in comparison to the $1250 they’ve paid to be here. After receiving the juicy and tender cheeseburger with American cheese, she says she’s not hungry enough and would like to take the rest to go, which Julian obliges because it is not something a rich person would do, but a person of service would finish every bite of it. She truly appreciates his food and brings back the joy of cooking for him, leading to her simple and effective escape from the island. 

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S’more 

Made from marshmallows, chocolate, graham crackers, customers, staff, and the restaurant. The final dish of “The Menu,” or should we say Julian’s final act, is to serve the atrocious S’more, a dish that he considers an assault on the human palate but something that is associated with innocence and childhood that comes together only with applied heat. Julian’s last piece of artwork is gorgeously plated before it is “consumed” in fire. The purification of the culinary world from the critique and the artist. Only if both exist will the system exist, so the way to right things is by ending it all. 


Honorable Mention

A big twist in “The Menu” is when we find out that Tyler brought Margot to the restaurant despite the fact that he knew everyone there was going to die that night. The Chef in a turn of events decides to give Tyler a chance to cook for him because he clearly knows more about food than anyone else in the room. A blind fanatic who has taken away the joy of art by separating each color and matching it to its Pantone chip. Alas, when he makes his terrible dish of undercooked lamb in inedible shallot-leek butter sauce with the pressure the Chef puts on him he still can’t see that he isn’t a genius but just a fool who is obsessed with the wrong things about food. When the Chef is done tasting the food, he whispers something in Tyler’s ear. We never find out what he says to Tyler, but whatever it is, makes him hang himself, buying Margot her freedom. 

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To say the least, we all have been served well.


See more: ‘The Menu’ Characters, Explained: What Makes Margot & Julian So Different Despite Being ‘Service Providers’?


Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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