Mark Mylod’s dark comedy film ‘The Menu’ revolves around Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), a celebrity chef who runs an exclusive restaurant named Hawthorne, located on a private island cut off from the rest of the world. The film follows a group of wealthy individuals who end up in the restaurant to savor Slowik’s creations, only to come to know that they will not be leaving the establishment alive. While other customers accept their death after unsuccessfully trying to escape from the restaurant, Margot Mills/Erin, who doesn’t represent the elite class, saves herself from the chef’s murder plot by ordering a cheeseburger. Naturally, the viewers must be eager to know more about the nuances and significance of the dish. Well, here’s what we can share about the same! SPOILERS AHEAD.
What is the Significance of the Cheeseburger?
Before cherishing the reputation of a globally renowned chef, Slowik did work as a local chef who cooked dishes to his customers’ contentment. When Erin gets into his private room, she comes across a newspaper photograph in which Slowik cooks a burger with immense joy displayed on his face. When he advanced in his career, he lost the same joy since he started to cater to a group of elite-class customers, who pretended to enjoy Slowik’s food. The chef eventually realized that his customers dined at his restaurant for the sake of their reputation and to boast about their status and wealth which led them to the exclusive establishment.
Slowik sets out to kill a group of his customers who represent the aforementioned elite class for killing his joy of cooking for satisfying one’s heart and hunger. As far as Slowik is concerned, the rich represented by the group pushed him to the realm of pretense as he started to create pointless “artworks” as an “artist.” Erin becomes an exception among his usual customers by ordering a cheeseburger. The young woman’s demand for one gives the chef an opportunity to cook a dish for satisfying one’s hunger and heart possibly after a long while. While his chefs cook for other customers, Slowik cooks the cheeseburger himself since he doesn’t want to miss the joy of preparing a dish that will serve its purpose.
Slowik’s customers, except Erin, are in Hawthorne to pretend to like the chef’s food. Even when the chef humiliates them, the other customers don’t put an end to their pretense, which is evident in Lillian’s attempts to find greatness in a pretentious dish and Richard’s eleventh visit to the establishment without even remembering a single item on the menu. By ordering a cheeseburger, Erin stands up for her hunger and the need for satisfaction and there isn’t a greater delight for a chef like Slowik than preparing and serving a dish for such a customer. That’s the reason why the chef displays immense enthusiasm concerning cooking a regular dish such as a cheeseburger.
Slowik knows that his customers will pretend to find any dish profound if he is the one serving the same. His understanding proves right when he sees a group pretending to like the accompaniments of bread without the bread or some random little leaves presented on a rock. Erin not only chooses to question Slowik concerning the same but also proclaims that she will return such dishes if he serves them again. By demanding a cheeseburger with fries, Erin makes it clear that she wants a dish that can be enjoyed with her heart while satisfying her hunger.
In many ways, the cheeseburger symbolizes Erin as well. Although the dish seems out of place at an exotic and exclusive restaurant like Hawthorne, a cheeseburger does the job of satisfying one’s hunger, making it the most valuable dish Slowik serves any of his customers over the other pretentious dishes. Likewise, Erin is Slowik’s most valuable customer because she questions the pretense of the chef, the food, and other customers by demanding a cheeseburger for satisfying her craving. By ordering a regular dish, Erin presents herself as a regular customer in front of Slowik, which convinces the chef that she doesn’t belong among the pretentious bunch.
Erin earns her freedom from the restaurant and Slowik’s murder plot for being a customer who is honest to herself and her chef. Without any pretense or ulterior motives, she expresses what she wants to eat and she makes Slowik work for it as a customer should. He lets her escape from the island for giving him a final opportunity to be an artist who creates meaningful artwork that satisfies Erin’s hunger.