Director: Sitisiri Mongkolsiri| Script: Kongdej Jaturanrasamee| Cast: Chutimon “Aokbab” Chuengcharoensukying (Aoy), Gunn Svasti (Tone), Nopachai “Peter” Jayanama (Paul), Prachan Vong-uthaiphan (Bang), Ratchawat Vichianrat (Mar) ea | Time to play: 130 minutes | Year: 2023
In a fast-paced opening scene, a Thai kitchen team is nervously working. Accompanied by a haunting jazz soundtrack, they chop and scramble herbs, vegetables, and shellfish to survive the merciless eye of their chef. The sous chef counts down until Chef Paul enters the kitchen at eleven o’clock. He just makes sure to have his plate on his lap during Hungerbecause for the next two hours this kitchen tyrant is going to serve a lot.
Meanwhile, street chef Aoy is sautéing at one of Bangkok’s thousands of roadside restaurants. All passersby can see and smell his skills, including junior sous chef Tone. He convinces a penniless Aoy to become an apprentice to Chef Paul, who runs the decadent Hunger restaurant. He cooks unappetizing and overpriced dinners for the Asian country’s upper classes, who radiate contempt for his clientele. Happily, the world’s richest throw their money across the shelf to devour chef Paul’s works of art.
Under the cruel chef, Aoy begins her way to the culinary pinnacle, where she and the team have to endure countless humiliation and bullying. The steel hierarchy within the kitchen primarily serves as an allegory for the vast class differences in Thai society. For this, director Sitisiri Mongkolsiri and writer Kongdej Jaturanrasamee don’t use subtle flavors but rather pepper their message. The irony of this is that the social elite are more likely to consume the name of the notorious chef than truly appreciate her culinary skills. For many of them, happy holidays are pearls before pigs.
Chief Paul’s motto for his subjects is: Learn to break through. His reign is an example of the heartless world the characters find themselves in. Mongkolsiri and Jaturanrasamee thus outline a black and white representation of Thailand, which, due to a lack of nuances, sometimes falls into a moralistic lesson through scant dialogues. Cinematographer T-Thawat Taifayongvihit, however, knows how to better understand the world in upheaval through images. From wagyu, to rice noodles, to a whole beef, he knows how to beautifully portray all kinds of food, as well as the surreal feast that surrounds it.
During the film, Aoy manages to break free from Chef Paul’s grasp and escape the straitjacket of the culinary world in Thailand. In terms of subject matter, the film mostly resembles arthouse films like The menu in Parasitebut the plot is closer to game shows like kitchen master or the animated series Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma. as for that Hunger a tasty snack for the eyes, but ultimately offers a five-course menu with separate exotic and tempting dishes that sadly don’t layer deeper together.
Hunger can be seen in Netflix.