This Mountain Brook grad worked on HBO Max’s ‘The Menu’—an exclusive look behind the scenes

09 This Mountain Brook grad worked on HBO Max's 'The Menu'—an exclusive look behind the scenes
Behind the stage was a blue screen, where they went in and added the beautiful island views. (Sarah Mouyal)

Have you seen The Menu? The 2022 horror/thriller film is full of detail, lots of satire and obviously, food. We sat down with Assistant Art Director Sarah Mouyal, a Birmingham native, to learn more about the behind-the-scenes work that went into creating the film. Keep reading for an exclusive look.

A unique concept

20 This Mountain Brook grad worked on HBO Max's 'The Menu'—an exclusive look behind the scenes
An incredible set. (Sarah Mouyal)

Sarah Mouyal was born in raised in Birmingham and went to Mountain Brook High School before studying at Auburn University and San Diego State.

She landed the role of Assistant Art Director for The Menu, packed her bags and was off to Savannah, Georgia within a week.

sarahrose This Mountain Brook grad worked on HBO Max's 'The Menu'—an exclusive look behind the scenes
Sarah Mouyal, Assistant Art Director for The Menu. (Sarah Mouyal)

If you’ve seen the film, you know it takes a dark twist on fine-dining and “foodie” culture. This is what first caught Mouyal’s attention.

“This film is really unique. When I read the script, I just had a feeling about it, it was different. The whole concept of the mad chef and kind of making jabs at foodies and food-obsessed people was so funny. The more I watch it, the funnier it gets.”

Sarah Mouyal, Assistant Art Director, The Menu

The food in The Menu is full of metaphors, symbols and straight up jabs at the people eating. The more you watch, the more subtle hints and jokes you’ll find.

“The fact that it was set in a kitchen was so exciting, and really what drew me to the script in the film originally because I’m a foodie myself. There’s something about food and cooking that people are just drawn to.”

Sarah Mouyal, Assistant Art Director, The Menu

Behind the scenes

4 This Mountain Brook grad worked on HBO Max's 'The Menu'—an exclusive look behind the scenes
The details that went into the set are amazing. (Sarah Mouyal)

The movie was filmed in Savannah, Georgia. Believe it or not, the entire interior of the restaurant was built on a stage and included a fully functioning kitchen. The crew shot there for six weeks straight, longer than Mouyal has ever worked on one set.

I couldn’t wait to hear how the food was made. Was it real? Did they actually eat it?

“Nearly all of the food was real and fresh. We had a prep kitchen that was directly outside of the soundstage. Every day, I would walk by and try to see what they were making for the day. It was all high-end stuff exactly like what’s portrayed in the film.”

Sarah Mouyal, Assistant Art Director, The Menu

The dessert scene

themenu This Mountain Brook grad worked on HBO Max's 'The Menu'—an exclusive look behind the scenes
The best scene. (Sarah Mouyal)

According to Mouyal, there’s a long creative process when it comes to creating every scene. The team has to brainstorm what to use, how to make things look the most realistic and what materials will work best. Her favorite scenes often end up being the most challenging ones to create.

“My favorite food scene had to have been the finale, the dessert scene. That was actually a nod to the New York restaurant, Aliniea, where for dessert they cover the whole table. We took it to the next level and covered the floor of the entire restaurant with a chocolate sauce.”

Sarah Mouyal, Assistant Art Director, The Menu

I had to know more of how they pulled this scene off.

“That was definitely the most challenging scene to create. I mean, how do you pour chocolate sauce all over the floor with a crew walking around the set? We ended up making chocolate drip shapes out of a cured rubber resin that we laid out on the floor. We took a backlight to mark out where they needed to be.

For the tight shots, we did pour real chocolate syrup and graham crackers on to the floor.”

Sarah Mouyal, Assistant Art Director, The Menu

If you haven’t seen the film, definitely add it to your list.

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Callie Puryear
Callie Puryear
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