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Chef From The Menu is a high society version of Saw’s John Kramer

One wants to play a game, the other wants to cook you a meal.


The menu and Saw are two movies you probably wouldn’t expect to hear in the same sentence because they couldn’t be more different. While The menu leans more into the psychological thriller side of the horror genre, the Saw franchise is a straight-up torture porn horror film designed to make you feel uncomfortable. The menu is sleek and polished, while Saw is dirty and gritty. They exist on two completely different plains, and yet they share a unique similarity about them that becomes hard to ignore once you see it, and they are their main characters. On the surface comparing Chef Julian (Ralph Fiennes) and John Kramer (Tobin Bell) sounds absurd, but when you look into the details of their characters, there are startling similarities.

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They both have a twisted view of art and entertainment

The whole thing about John Kramer (or maybe we should call him Jigsaw in this case) is that he wants to play a game with his victims. He wants a show that justifies his hero complex. Whether it’s dipping their hand in acid to retrieve a key or jumping into a pit full of used needles to search for an antidote, he’s a twisted man who enjoys watching chaos unfold. Chef Julian may not be as intense or as sinister as it sounds – at least not at first – but he loves dramatic presentation and monologue, and of course, good acting.

Jigsaw smiles devilishly in his studio and his iconic black and red dress
Image via Lionsgate Films


Kramer acts through tapes and a creepy puppet to deliver his monologue and explain his twisted thoughts, and while they’re undeniably fake and sadistic, he has an uncomfortable charisma and confidence that oozes from him. The chef is similar in the way he puts on a kind of performance before each dish is served. It gives a detailed explanation of the story behind the creation of each dish and sometimes includes props (like scissors). But he doesn’t just give a dramatic monologue to every new dish, he also includes his customers and employees. “The Mess” is the first time we see how delusional Chef Julian has become in his craft and the first time you can really see the similarities between him and Kramer. We watch as the chef humiliates his Sous Chef Jeremy, telling him and the entire restaurant that he’ll never be as good as he is. Jeremy then pulls out a gun and shoots himself, as orchestrated by Chief Julian.

That’s not where it ends though. One of the customers tries to leave only to be cornered and have his finger cut off for doing so. Next is another interactive dish that echoes an earlier story told by Chef Julian, in which he says he stabbed his father with a pair of scissors as a child in defense of his mother. This course, called “Man’s Folly”, is introduced by another Sous Chef named Katherine who reveals that she refused Chef Julian’s advances and was therefore ignored by him for eight months. She then stabs him in the leg and the dish is served only to female diners. And then there’s the spontaneous addition of “Tyler’s Bullshit” in which Tyler is asked to cook for the chef and is quickly humiliated while doing so and after he’s served. It is later revealed that he committed suicide. On a less traumatic but still slightly humiliating note, he also makes the men play hide and seek for his own amusement. And even when he reveals his final plan, it’s done through an awkward monologue as his team of fellow chefs prepare everything for class. Chef Julian values ​​the artistry behind his craft more than anything else and believes he is way above the repercussions due to his talent and hierarchy over everyone else. Which brings me to my next point.

Neither Kramer nor the Chief see what they’re doing as wrong

Ralph Fiennes in The Menu


The Chef is mysterious, cold, and a master at his craft, but he also harbors a twisted evangelical nature that slowly reveals itself as the film progresses. You’re not led to believe he’s a bad man at first – kinda weird? Sure, but not a bad person. And when his ultimate plan is revealed, he does so after many brilliant monologues about food as art and how his food tells a story. So his last lesson seems justified and sensible in his mind – he planned everything on a T and for him, it’s a natural conclusion. It’s all so reminiscent of John Kramer’s way of thinking. It places people who have made bad choices – whether big or small – into sadistic and nearly unbeatable traps. And while he surely derives some sort of unhealthy pleasure from it, he reasons his actions as helping those he targets, while exposing their misdeeds and punishing them for it.

Chef Julian does the same with the tortillas he sends to the tables, each one personalized for the customers who receive them. They detail everything from an affair a man is having, to a list of all the restaurants closed because of the food critic. Maybe it doesn’t seem like much at first glance, but when you factor in the entire movie, once the leader’s plan was revealed and the credits came out, that’s the first look. of how despicable his state of mind is. He brought these people here with the intention of reclaiming their lives, and the tortillas are his twisted way of justifying his actions. This can also be seen in the way he tells the actor (played by John Leguizamo) that he was invited simply because Chef hated his film. Chef took the film as a personal attack since he wasted his day off seeing it and therefore thinks Leguizamo’s character must die for it.

tobin-bell-saw-2
Image via Lionsgate


It’s all those little moments in between the blatant cruelty the chef inflicts on his team of fellow chefs that show just how much his superiority complex has grown. And like Kramer, he sees nothing wrong with what he does, he truly believes that everyone deserves to be hurt in some way, if only to learn a lesson. They are two men who are so seriously out of touch with reality and see themselves as above everyone else, and that what they do is godly and useful to society. But what is perhaps most unsettling about them is how human they can be at times. They’re not always cold and ruthless, and when they let that deep-seated vulnerability shine through, even for a moment, you can’t help but get sucked in, and that’s the scariest similarity of all.