Director Joe Maggio creates a nightmarish world of a chef gone horribly, horribly bad with gory thriller Bitter Feast, which premiered June 18 at the Los Angeles Film Festival. When popular food blogger J. T. Franks (Joshua Leonard) slams chef Peter Gray (James LeGros), it's the last straw for Gray's declining career.
Maggio, who calls himself a "pretty good cook" who can make a "mean-ass paella," concocted the movie's premise after reading former New York Times critic Frank Bruni's "lazy, silly ... and totally unfair" review of Gordon Ramsay at The London in New York (which Bruni, incidentally, awarded a not terribly unkind two stars). In an interview (via Eater), Maggio elaborated:
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 con- demning 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 prob- ably 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.
Mario Batali makes a cameo appearance as Gray's steely boss who sticks the knife in his career after the review. Of his role, Batali dishes, "The whole thing is like me talking to myself if I was telling myself how to fail." But it's critic-blogger Franks who Gray really blames for his downfall.
From there on, "Bitter Feast" is a display of the theory that revenge is a dish best served cold with a number of cooking challenges, punishments and gore aplenty as Gray takes DIY butchering to a new level. In his captivity, Gray forces Franks to execute "a series of deceptively simple food challenges - from preparing a perfect egg over easy, to grilling a steak precisely medium rare - punishing him sadistically for anything less than total perfection." Beware, reviewers!
The official trailer for Bitter Feast: