The Culinary Easter Eggs You Missed When Watching The Menu - Exclusive

If you thought that "The Menu's" Hawthorne looked temple-like, you're not far off. Production designer Ethan Tobman crafted Chef Slowik's restaurant that way on purpose: as the ultimate reflection of the chef's headspace, which — without spoiling too much of the movie that has Rotten Tomatoes riveted — often converts into a hellscape. "I take what's in someone's head and I create a world to parallel it," Tobman told Tasting Table in a recent exclusive interview.

Hawthorne wasn't designed to terrify. It becomes the ultimate horror movie set, nonetheless, in no large part thanks to Tobman's dedication to what he calls "emotional architecture." 

"If I want to feel ... that the kitchen is a place of worship, I'm going to design it like a church. I want there to be a cross on the back wall," Tobman explained. "I want him to feel like he's sermonizing from the pulpit. I'll build his floor a little higher and all the chefs a little lower so they look like they're genuflecting to him because they're in a cult." 

At the same time, says Tobman, the set was a homage to the island. "If Slowik is inspired by the island, I want to use every material the island has to offer. He'll harvest that ecosystem to create the island," the set designer explained. "Where I landed was the idea that chef is inspired by nature's perfectionism, but haunted by it. In effect, he wants to destroy it." 

If you saw the film, you may well have picked up on most of that. But did you catch Hawthorne's tributes to our culinary legends? 

How The Menu's set pays tribute to culinary legends

Ethan Tobman did his research. Ralph Fiennes, who transforms into Chef Slowik for "The Menu," didn't cook much during the movie, but he presided over a fully functional kitchen. 

"It's not a kitchen that is built for a movie," Tobman explained to Tasting Table. "A lot of the lines cooks that we interviewed would talk about working elbow to elbow and getting home at night, and not stretching out on their beds because they're so used to working in such a small [space]. It was a really tricky game to figure out how [to] combine the practicality of filmmaking with the reality of kitchen design."

If you haven't watched "The Menu" yet, when you do, tear your attention away from Fiennes' tumultuous dedication to his art, Anya Taylor Joy's scorn for it, or Nicholas Hoult's blind admiration of it. Focus, instead, on Hawthorne and its haunted kitchen. Maybe it'll remind you of somewhere else. 

"The other thing that is definitely Easter eggs here is we wanted to make a nod to certain chefs," Tobman let on. "For example, the spice wall from El Bulli, who runs an extraordinarily OCD ... catalog of spices, we rebuilt that and we put it in the freezer." 

You'll also notice that the dry cellar looks a lot like the one that Magnus Nilsson has in Fäviken. As for the s'mores course? "Grant Achatz is definitely an inspiration for the s'mores course," he told Tasting Table. "We're not copying, but we're nodding to certain chefs that both help us give authenticity, but also firmly establish this as a satire."

"The Menu" premiered November 18, and is now playing in a theater near you!