Hunger is a 2023 Netflix project from filmmakers from Thailand. The genre of the film is a socio-psychological drama about the world of haute cuisine. If we compare Hunger with the concept thriller Menu (2002), then Asian cinema is more atmospheric, and most importantly, it is imbued with an almost biblical confrontation between key characters, the chef of the Hunger restaurant Paul and Aoi, a street food master from the old quarter of Bangkok.
The suspense of the film “The Hunger”
20-year-old Aoi gets a chance to break out of poverty and devote herself to her beloved culinary arts. On the street, where she was frying delicious pad-si-ya noodles on an open fire, she was noticed and invited for an interview by Ton, the sous chef of the Hunger restaurant. The head of this establishment is the unsurpassed master of exquisite and prohibitively expensive dishes, Paul Taylor.
The chef examines Aoi and accepts her into the city’s best culinary team. The talented student soon surpasses her teacher and leaves for an upmarket restaurant called Flame, financed by the wealthy Mr. Tosu. The girl challenges the dominance and popularity of Chief Paul. But further events lead Aoi to make a difficult decision. She gives up her professional ambitions and returns to work at her family’s Pad See Ew.
Mantras from Chef Paul
The cuisine of the Hunger restaurant, where the art and dictatorship of Paul Taylor dominate, is the most refined and prohibitively expensive. The highly professional chef Paul is so devoted to his work that he burns himself in it and burns everyone and everything around with his passion. He is constantly improving, literally raves about the idea of creating new tastes. At the same time, he is uncompromising, sometimes harsh with his subordinates, demanding full dedication from them and severely punishing them for mistakes. He goes to the goal, sweeping away all obstacles in his path, and often knows no boundaries.
One viewer cannot unambiguously say that he has a negative character in front of him. In the scenes that tell why the main character began to cook for the rich, he appears as a smart and fair person. Here are the most important arguments of Chief Paul:
- Any gourmet dish is made from products that poor people supply to the kitchen. Therefore, they must be generously paid, which he does.
- The best specialists are not obtained from students of culinary academies who cook according to templates and textbooks. Simple chefs from the streets who can think outside the box become masters.
- To become a leader in cooking, you have to be hungry in every sense. Success will come if you skillfully direct hunger in the right direction.
Why did Aoi retreat?
Aoi is extremely hardworking, patient, and diligent in mastering her cooking skills. But to go with a parade step over the heads of colleagues and loved ones, as the ambitious Paul does, is against her upbringing and outside her system of moral values. The girl is unwilling to put up with Ton’s machinations and Mr. Tosu’s greed. She cannot free herself from the burden of social responsibility, is not ready to neglect the interests of the family, is not able to act against her conscience and break the law.
Aoi was deeply disappointed when she didn’t win the contest. Better cooking is not enough to surpass your teacher. It is necessary to impress a well-fed public, spoiled by luxury and money, immersed in aesthetics and status.
The understanding came that she has no place in the cruel world of gourmet cooking, where greed, greed, the desire to succeed in any way and demonstrate one’s superiority rule. Aoi gives up her dream of becoming a famous chef and returns to her roots. She is relaunching her cafe shop, where she cooks delicious and inexpensive Crybaby noodles from her father’s family recipe for those who are really hungry.
Meaning and theme of the film
“Hunger” provides a clear contrast between two culinary talents that have a different approach to the profession. Chief Paul’s obsession with his work, despite the collateral damage to himself and those around him. And the moralizing of the chef Aoi, who understands that in order to achieve the pinnacle of professional excellence, she is not ready to pay a price corresponding to the ultimate goal. The plot structure is such that the viewer immediately understands that the movie is not only and not so much about the vicissitudes of the kitchen for rich gourmets.
The main theme is expressed in search of an answer to the questions:
- What price is a person willing to pay to be the best at what they do?
- How is it necessary to maintain a relevant level of skill in order to maintain uniqueness, not go “in circulation” and not be overthrown from your throne by competitors?
In addition to purely professional and career aspects, the creators touch on important socio-psychological topics:
- What does he feel, that he has the opportunity to spit on the opinion of ordinary people, but he is hated by them, and in the society of a wealthy consumer, along with admiration, he meets frank contempt?
- What is it like to be unsurpassed, to be adored, but to remain misunderstood?
A bright thread in the context of Asian cinema is the theme of the relationship between the student and the teacher, it tells about the envy and betrayal of a loved one. The author’s message in the film is very deep. What is hunger for a person? Ordinary people eat unpretentious dishes to get enough. Spoiled by luxury, the rich are not hungry and turn their meal into a show. Presentation, impressions, the opportunity to show off in front of others are important to them. Showing the life of different worlds, the film seems to say: “What you eat reflects your social status.”
Watch “Hunger”, which vividly and spectacularly displays mouth-watering plates with various culinary masterpieces. And then, to reflect on what you saw, go to a Pan-Asian restaurant in your city. Or wander the streets of Bangkok and try the popular Padthai. As Chef Paul says after serving the main course: Enjoy!