The Pivotal Scene Foreshadowed By The Menu's Iconic Amuse-Bouche

This article contains spoilers for 2022 film "The Menu."

Like many tales, this one begins with an amuse-bouche of sorts — i.e., an "amusing bite" to whet the appetite for what's to come. In this case, the amuse-bouche in question is the one served by the highly acclaimed, albeit fictional, Chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), to 12 well-heeled foodies in search of a transcendent epicurean experience in 2022's Golden Globe-nominated 2022 film, "The Menu." The black comedy slash horror slash existential rumination on the "cult" of foodie culture arrived for streaming on HBO Max in early January, following a brief theatrical run.

But — fair warning — if you haven't yet seen this fresh take on the rarified world of $1,250-per-head tasting menus orchestrated for the privileged few by charismatic bold-name chefs, then do consider averting your eyes right about now, because spoilers lie ahead. And that matters when you're talking about a movie like "The Menu," which keeps the audience guessing right up until the climax — unless, of course, you've seen the film's first 13 minutes and also happen to have the benefit of hindsight. 

Having seen the film, we do. And it turns out, what happens in that pivotal moment near the end of "The Menu" has been cleverly foreshadowed throughout the movie's brief set-up and culminating in the chef's presentation of a now iconic amuse-bouche. If you've gotten even that far into the film, then you may already have some idea as to precisely what Chef Slowik has in mind for his apocalyptic dessert course. 

Amuse bouche? Or burnt offering?

"The Menu" opens on Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), discussing a once-in-a-lifetime tasting hosted by Chef Slowik on secluded Hawthorn Island. Mild-mannered Tyler is so slavishly devoted to foodie cult-ure, he's willing to pay $2,500 for himself and Margot, his last-minute plus-one, to attend. With money being no object for the tasting's dozen well-heeled invitees, the central question becomes: What will be on the menu? Clues are everywhere, all of them increasingly foreboding. The subtle tip-offs start with the flowering shrub the island and the restaurant, itself, are named for; in Celtic and Gaelic folklore, Hawthorn is regarded as a harbinger of death (via Trees for Life).

Next, during a tour of the military-style barracks where the chef's brigade resides, the restaurant manager, Elsa, hearing the word "burnout," informs the guests, "We never burn anything unless by design." This foreboding overshare pays off soon after — in the form of the chef's amuse-bouche, which could be interpreted as a literal "burnt offering." Consisting of 16 tiny melon balls arranged meticulously into a checkerboard, it's crowned with an unidentifiable charred disk about the size of a DVD, its inner collar festooned with a snowy-looking dairy reduction of unknown provenance. 

As you might imagine, the amuse-bouche looks less than appetizing. However, the guests seemingly appreciate it — at least to the extent their jaded palates will allow. What they don't realize, however, is the amuse-bouche, itself, foreshadows the menu's brutal denouement. 

Just desserts

"I want to live inside this thing," Tyler remarks of the fire-scarred amuse-bouche. Ironically, while other guests will eventually have that "opportunity," Tyler will be dead before dessert. But that's apparently fine by Tyler, who tells an increasingly bemused Margot, over the amuse-bouche, that chefs are, indeed, godlike. Not long after, we learn the whole truth: Tyler sees death (as orchestrated by Chef Slowik) as the ultimate epicurean adventure. 

Indeed, this tasting at Hawthorn turns out to be a well-organized mass murder-suicide. Slated to die are Chef, his staff, and the guests, who (with the exception of Margot) we learn were invited because they either have offended Chef personally or personify what Chef finds most loathsome about highfalutin foodie culture. Ironically, it's precisely that cult-ure that's imbued Chef with the power and influence necessary to act as a god ... by turning his unwitting guests into human s'mores.

During the evening's career-defining dessert course, each guest is crowned, helplessly, with a chocolate cap and a collar of marshmallows. If the disturbing tableau brings to mind the amuse-bouche that Tyler longed to live in, with its milky white snow and its charred lace-topped melon balls, that would seem intentional on the part of the storytellers. With everything set ablaze, the hellish meal finally reaches its surprisingly brutal end. And it's just desserts for all — except Margot. A fellow member of the service industry, he allows her to leave, doggie bag in hand.