How can a dining experience enhance a film?

Taste Film aims to marry food and film with their bespoke events. What does a themed menu add to a movie?


Meg Fozzard



Meg Fozzard

Film and food are intricately linked. If you think of Matilda, you think of Bruce Bogtrotter’s chocolate cake. If you think of Pulp Fiction, the Big Kahuna burger might come to mind. And with the film Ratatouille – the clue is in the name. Keen to take advantage of punters who might want some popcorn with their film, cinemas have been charging extortionate prices for what is, at best, very mediocre grub for decades Recently, there’s been a rise in ‘dine in’ experiences in cinemas. At Odeon’s Luxe branches in the UK and the Alamo chain in the US, you can order food and drink directly to your seat. But what about cinemagoers who fancy a more bespoke evening of viewing?

I was intrigued when I found out about Taste Film, an experience which screens cult classics alongside a timed set menu, which is crafted to each film to enhance its most memorable moments. Their website says ‘we believe that films should be more than watched, they should be lived, and no sense is more meaningful and evocative than taste.’ Previous screenings have included The Silence of the Lambs where the line ‘“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti”’ is paired with Goose Liver Pate with Fava Beans and a nice Chianti Jelly.

I was invited to their screening of Jon Favreau’s Chef. Favreau, who directed, wrote and co-produced the film, stars as chef Carl Casper, who has grown disillusioned by the old-school menu he has to cook at the behest of the restaurant owner, Riva (Dustin Hoffman). There is very little conflict in the film, apart from a public meltdown in front of a food critic and a further meltdown on Twitter. Oh, and a slightly awkward encounter with his ex-wife Inez’s (Sophia Vergara) ex-husband Marvin (Robert Downey Jr). Having been fired from his job and on his ex-wife’s advice, Chef Casper acquires a food truck and travels the country selling Cuban food, along the way exploiting his son Percy (Emjay Anthony) for labour but ultimately reconnecting with him as well. His former line cook Martin (John Leguizamo) quits his job in the kitchen and comes along too. What’s not to love?

Before the film began we were told that this is Taste Film’s most requested film, and it is obvious why. Chef boasts scenes of beautiful food on screen enough to make you salivate. It must be a tall order for those in the kitchen. I noticed early on that the food scenes that were shown in the film were not always replicated on our plates, instead cleverly side-stepping more complex food moments with their own interpretations.

When a ready-to-be-roasted pig is brought into the kitchen on-screen, we were served Piggy Fritters with Smoked Bacon Mayonnaise (a vegetarian menu is also available). A scene that I do wish that I had got to taste is when Chef Carl cooks an amazing pasta dish for his girlfriend Molly (Scarlett Johansson), but I did enjoy that when Percy remarks “Mom cuts off the crusts”` I was served the fanciest Crustless Cheese on Toast I think I will ever eat.

One of the highlights of the night was one of the parts of the film that I remember from previously watching it. Casper dresses down Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), a food critic who calls his Chocolate Lava Cake undercooked. Under any other circumstances would I choose to eat a dessert mid-way through a meal and before the main course? No, probably not. But it an amazing experience to eat a Triple Chocolate Lava Cake alongside the line “It’s fucking molten, you asshole!”

One of my favourite things to watch on YouTube is Binging with Babish, where the host recreates food from popular TV shows and films. ‘Babish’ (real name Andrew Rea) is such a fan of the film that he’s got a tattoo of a carving fork that is almost identical to the one Caspar uses, and has recreated various dishes from Chef on his channel. The Babish Culinary Universe now has 9.69 million subscribers., and there is clearly an appetite for crossover between food and film. I’m willing to bet that there are plenty of people like me, who are never going to recreate the food at home, but enjoy the certain magic in seeing food on our screens broken down for us. In 2019 Babish teamed up with Jon Favreau and chef Roy Choi to recreate Chef’s famous Lava Cake, but for less effort, hungry viewers can go to Taste Film.

My question when visiting Taste Film was not “Is this good or bad?”  – the food was always going to be amazing and I already knew that Chef is a decent film. My question was “Does this experience enhance the film?” and I think in the case of Chef, it definitely does, where the food is obviously such a big part of the story. For me, the experience of eating an interpretation of what I was seeing on the screen really complemented watching Chef. It made me feel closer to what was happening in the film by being able to taste it for myself. Most of all, it was a delicious new way to see a film that I thought I knew well. It felt like a real experience, which watching a film should always strive for.

I wonder if Taste Film would be brave enough to tackle Boiling Point, another film about the restaurant business, which is probably the polar opposite to Chef in that it is a very stressful film to watch. I’d also be intrigued to go back to another upcoming film on the roster where I can only vaguely remember characters eating – The Wolf of Wall Street (quaaludes?) or Love, Actually (a canapé that ‘looks like a dead baby’s finger’?). Those might pose more of a challenge in terms of adding to the experience.I’d love to go back and find out.

Published 13 Oct 2022

Tags: Chef Taste Film

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