The Real Dining Experience That Inspired New Film The Menu

Imagine having a dinner reservation at the hottest, most exclusive restaurant available on your vacation. Imagine that it's so exclusive, that in order to get there you need to take a special boat to a private island. That's essentially the premise of "The Menu," only things take a sinister twist. 

Serving both as an homage to and parody of foodie culture, the film, co-written by the multi-Emmy winner Will Tracy ("Last Week Tonight," "Succession") and his former co-writer from The Onion Seth Reiss ("Late Night With Seth Meyers") and directed by Mark Mylod ("Game of Thrones," "Succession"), is a horror-comedy fusion starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult as a couple setting out for dinner at the exclusive Hawthorne restaurant, run by genius-cook-gone-mad Chef Slowik, played by Ralph Fiennes (per IMDb).

As Tracy and Reiss explained on "Late Night with Seth Meyers," the structure of the movie was inspired by a gourmet tasting menu — think Alinea or Eleven Madison Park — and each portion of the movie represents a different course with the tension constantly increasing. The Chicago Sun-Times compared it to both "a cross between 'Saw' and Agatha Christie" and notorious parody horror movie "Cabin in the Woods," though instead of horror movies themselves, the butt of the dark jokes is foodie culture and the pretentious meals embraced by some celebrity chefs and molecular gastronomy enthusiasts. While the movie is an outlandish parody, the actual set-up of the film was inspired by an experience from Tracy's real life.

Taste of terror

There is in fact a gourmet restaurant so exclusive it requires you to take a boat out to its private island to experience it, and Will Tracy went to Cornelius Sjømatrestaurant (Cornelius Seafood Restaurant in English) on his honeymoon in Norway several years ago. As he told Seth Meyers, he was just sitting down to his highly-anticipated five-hour tasting menu meal when he saw the boat that had brought them there slowly pull away and started to panic.

"I'm a sort of world-class claustrophobe," Tracy said. "I immediately started to kind of panic a bit. I felt like, what if something goes wrong? We were kind of putting our lives in their hands, right? I mean, what if someone has a heart condition? We're miles from the mainland." 

Fortunately for Tracy, who describes himself as "one of those unbearable foodie people," his meal at Cornelius Sjømatrestaurant proceeded normally, unlike the fate that awaits the characters in his movie. While the real Cornelius boasts of its fjord to table meteorological menu "inspired by the weather of the day and the raw beauty of the local fjords," the titular dining experience of "The Menu" features something a little more sinister.

"The Menu" received praise when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September (per Variety) and currently has a 91% Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes with an 89% Audience score. It opens in most theaters on November 18, 2022.