They are the lucky few: 12 guests who’ve managed to secure a coveted seat— $1,250 a head—at Hawthorne, a gastronomically ground-breaking restaurant on a private island at the center of The Menu. It is there, however, that their luck will run out.
Hawthorne is helmed by Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), an intimidating culinary mastermind whose menu is different from what the guests are expecting. Among the diners are the archetypal Insta-food influencer (Nicholas Hoult), the food critic (Janet McTeer), and the celebrity (John Leguizamo). Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays the girlfriend of Hoult’s character, arrives uninvited and without any idea that she’s in for the night of her life. The film, according to production designer Ethan Tobman, turns “the restaurant into a microcosm of society.” Tobman sat down with us to tell us how, exactly, he cooked up Hawthorne.
Where is "Hawthorne" and the island it sits on?
Not where we expected! We were planning on shooting in Scotland. Most three-star Michelin restaurants are in cold, rainy, and dramatically seasonal environments, so Scotland was perfect. But then, just two months before shooting [in the summer of 2021] Covid started raging in the United Kingdom , so we did a sudden 180 and decided to film on Tybee Island, Georgia near Savannah. We’d been so excited to film on Scotland’s brutal, northern, moss-infested coastline that director Mark Mylod told us to keep that look, which meant an extraordinary amount of landscaping trying to mask Savannah’s low marshlands. Every weathered tree and piece of gnarled driftwood was brought in by the art department. But to be able to create that nature around Chef Slowik—a man obsessed with the perfection of nature, and ultimately haunted by it—turned out to be a deliciously meticulous experience.