Young and Hungry

Every Chef’s Fantasy Comes to the Big Screen in ‘Bitter Feast’

The trailer for Bitter Feast strikes me as way too serious for a film that feels like it should be a send-up of Swimming with Sharks or Hostel. I mean, the very premise sounds like a bad joke (or a chef's wish fulfillment): a canned cook takes revenge on a food blogger whose harsh critique causes his termination.

To be honest, the back story sounds more interesting than the film itself. Writer-director Joe Maggio claims that former New York Times critic Frank Bruni was his inspiration. Or, more precisely, one of Bruni's harsher reviews:

The origins of BITTER FEAST go back to June, 2007. I was reading a Frank Bruni review of Gordon Ramsay’s first New York City restaurant, “London Hotel.” There was a lassitude in Bruni’s writing that gave you the sense he liked the food, but wanted to dislike it, and so he delivered this odd, middling, lazy review, ultimately condemning it for lack of what Bruni considered “the most important thing of all – excitement.” It struck me that this was totally ridiculous and unfair. Then I started thinking what I would do to Frank Bruni if I were Gordon Ramsay. After many strange imaginings, I concluded that more than anything else, what Ramsay would probably want is to somehow force Bruni to live in Ramsay’s shoes for a bit, to teach him empathy, to force him to care about cooking with the intensity that Ramsay cared about it, and then to randomly and arbitrarily shit all over Bruni’s dreams. Thus, BITTER FEAST

Bitter Feast seems to unfold like many horror films: It's an Old Testament morality play soaked in blood. People who commit sins are punished. Of course, such characters are usually punished for casual sex. This time it's for the arrogance of having an opinion — and perhaps having no soul.

The early reviews on Bitter Feast sound promising enough, even though none of them make me think Maggio is striving for dark comedy. Here's what LA Weekly had to say about the flick:

The premise seems like an extra act to Ratatouille: a disgraced celebrity chef (James LeGros) kidnaps a food blogger (Joshua Leonard) who slammed him, forcing a regime of torture and cooking lessons upon his quarry. In writer-director Joe Maggio's delightfully nasty Bitter Feast there are no heroes, only levels of villainy, with two outsize egos bruised in different ways. Once the premise is launched, the film settles down to a simple series of mind-game one-on-ones between the chef and the blogger, each struggling to hold on to the safety of his carefully cultivated persona. Zesty fun for its actors, Feast is at once a sly parody of the celebrity-chef culture spawned by all the cable cooking shows and competitions, and a creepy little chamber-piece. Even Maggio's point of view on blogging captures something unique: Leonard's character likens himself to the Iron Sheik, applying an unlikely but apt wrestling analogy to online provocation.