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Haute Cuisine Is Weird

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A common stereotype in fiction is that wealthy people eat unusual or bland foods. The proportions will also often be very small. If the food is weird looking instead of gross, the excuse will be that the chef is striving for artistic value.

City People Eat Sushi used to be an example of this back when sushi was considered exotic, weird, and expensive by westerners, but since The '80s sushi has become popular amongst all demographics. Molecular gastronomy serves as a go-to modern example, due to its use of specialized equipment and its tendency to render ingredients into unrecognizable and confusing forms.

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This trope often overlaps with Conspicuous Consumption when it involves rare or expensive ingredients, exceptional technical expertise from the chef, or loads of time and effort — regardless of whether it actually produces a palatable meal. Often, it only has the appearance of those things, revealing the diners' pretentiousness.

Frequently involves a Stock "Yuck!" and a Formal Full Array of Cutlery.

Compare to Wine Is Classy, Hollywood Cuisine, and French Cuisine Is Haughty, food stereotypes which might appear alongside this trope. See also Alien Lunch and Foreign Queasine, where unappealing dishes come from a strange place of origin; and Exotic Entree, where they're a sign of evil rather than wealth and taste.


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Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • An ad for Navy Federal Credit Union plays it for laughs when it shows a soldier and his pals trying to enjoy the food at a fancy restaurant run by the soldier's older sister. The food is so tiny that the squaddie and his pals are squinting.

    Comic Books 
  • In Asterix the Gladiator, Asterix and Obelix are invited for a quick lunch by a wealthy Roman. Obelix is particularly disappointed to discover it consists of very small toasts of pâtés made with nightingale tongues, roach gums, or sturgeon eggs. Later on he asks for some real food instead, like wild boars.

    Comedy 
  • Referenced by George Carlin: "You want to know some REAL gourmet food? Toasted snail penises; candied filet of panda asshole; deep-dish duck dick. Now you're talkin' cuisine."
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    Film - Animation 
  • Arthur's Perfect Christmas: Downplayed with a special holiday brunch at "La Bruncherie" ("A Fancy Place for Brunch!"). Buster's dish is essentially a cheese omelette reduced to small, unrecognizable nuggets, so he ends up ordering a side dish of the parsley garnish.

    Film - Live Action 
  • Parodied in Always Be My Maybe, when Sasha and Marcus go on a double date to an expensive restaurant. The dishes are all very pretentious, very small, and very expensive — their multi-course meal of venison (that comes with headphones that play the sound of the animal dying), a tiny greens-and-seafood salad (microgreens served with dehydrated seaweed and "fish dandruff"), asparagus soup "extracted with a centrifuge", the flavor of Caesar salad, and lavender "sugar bubbles" for dessert. It all comes up to $6400.
    Marcus: Well, I'm not wrong about the fact that I'm hungry as hell after a $6,400 dinner. Hey! Can I get a monochrome burrito to go?

    Literature 
  • Zigzagged in The Sol Majestic by Ferrett Steinmetz. The Sol Majestic restaurant prides itself on aggressively avant-garde food creations, including trees that grow leaves with different flavors and bubbles of molecularized food-smoke. Despite spending a lot of detail discussing what kind of extravagant waste these methods entail in space, the book stops short of criticizing the food itself.
  • In The Hunger Games franchise, the Capitol party-goers have a special drink that causes the drinker to vomit so they can eat more food.
  • White Sheep Varjak from Varjak Paw hates caviar, while the rest of his Idle Rich family loves it.
  • Clan cats in Warrior Cats view cat pellets as bland and disgusting food that only pets like. Sure, kittypets always have food in abundance, but it's gross compared to freshly-hunted prey.
  • The Wheel of Time: Farm Boy-turned-General Mat Cauthon acquires two menservants used to working for high-ranking nobility, who serve him perplexingly fancy food in their efforts to outdo each other. Mat's confusion at being served an artistic arrangement of smoked tongues and quail eggs is compounded by the fact that the servants somehow acquired the ingredients in the middle of a cross-country voyage.
  • Pretty much every restaurant dish in American Psycho is artistically bizarre. Some are even inedible (mud soup and charcoal arugula)— or so Patrick describes them.
  • In Good Omens, nouvelle cuisine was invented by Famine, who loves the idea of very rich people spending a lot of money to go hungry. A deleted scene in the TV series would have given this a Setting Update with molecular gastronomy.
  • In Rats, Bats and Vats, main character Chip was an indentured servant at a fancy French restaurant before the war broke out. He notes several times how the patrons would come in and pay outrageous prices for tiny dishes. It's his dream, if he ever wins his freedom, to open a steakhouse right next door to the restaurant so the rich people who previously scorned him will have to go next to it and watch his patrons eat huge portions of meat served at a fraction of the price of their fancy, unfilling meals.
  • Discworld:
    • In Hogfather, the manager of an expensive Quirmian (Fantasy Counterpart Culture French) restaurant discovers the ingredients have all been replaced by mud and old boots, and explains to a bewildered waiter that this doesn't matter.
      Manager: Nobody expects it to be food. If people wanted food they'd stay at home. This is cuisine.
    • In Nanny Ogg's Cookbook, Nanny suggests that dishes which fetch a high price in Ankh-Morpork for being "exotic" were invented by desperate people who didn't have access to conventional foods. "Nobody is going to invent shark-fin soup because they want to."
    • The Curious Squid in Jingo are mentioned as tasting awful, but are worthwhile to fishermen because they can be sold to chefs who use their skill to create dishes containing no trace of the squid whatsoever.
  • In Cetaganda Miles Vorkosigan encounters this at the funeral of the Cetagandan Dowager Empress: Trays of meat were sculpted into flowers, vegetables masqueraded as crustaceans, and a plate of simple boiled rice had every grain individually hand-arranged in an elaborate spiral pattern.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Parks and Recreation: Parodied with a "molecular mixology" bar where, among other things, Bud Light beer is transformed into a candy floss-like confection and a cocktail is sublimated into an "aromasphere". The working-class visitors are confused and dismayed.
    [a waiter starts massaging whiskey-infused lotion onto Ron's hands while Andy looks on in horror]
    Ron: Can I ask if this entire establishment is a practical joke of some kind?

    Music 

    Radio 
  • On The Ricky Gervais Show, Ricky once told a story about how he took Karl to The Ivy, a fancy restaurant in London, and that Karl ate a blob of wasabi. Karl apparently thought it was haute cuisine and that the wasabi was just one mushy pea being served in a tiny portion.

    Video Games 
  • Earthbound features trout yogurt, popular among the wealthy of Fourside.
  • Pokémon X and Y takes place in the France-inspired Kalos region, so the more expensive the restaurant, the more eccentric the food is. Dishes include a 3000-year-old bone boiled in snow for 100 days and a 180-year-old aged blue cheese that is described as smelling so strongly that it'll burn your nose.
  • In Dragon Age, Orlesian food tends to fall into this. The wealthiest nobles enjoy things like ham which is reputed to taste like despair (something of a running gag for the fandom) and a cocktail called aquae lucidus, which is made from wyvern venom and causes powerful hallucinations. It's worth noting that Orlais is the game world's equivalent of Bourbon-era France.

    Web Comics 

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    Western Animation 
  • In episode 25 of Miraculous Ladybug, Plagg dismisses the foods Adrien (who is rich) gives him.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Spice Up Your Life", Rarity and Pinkie go to the upper-class city of Canterlot to fix a friendship problem. It turns out a father and daughter duo of Indian-inspired ponies are fighting because their restaurant is unpopular. Nopony visits their restaurant, the Tasty Treat, because it hasn't been rated yet, and the highly influential critic Zesty Gourmand dislikes it because the food is nonconformist compared to other restaurants in the area (who are all identical, right down to the decor). Pinkie and Rarity, however, find the other restaurants displeasing due to their small proportions and bland-tasting food. In the end, after a grand reopening impresses the locals, all the restaurants go back to their thing, while Zesty is ridiculed and her opinion invalidated.
  • In the Sonic Boom episode, "My Fair Sticksy", when Sticks gets nominated for an Awardy Award, she and her friends are invited to attend the award ceremony. Upon going there, Sonic and Knuckles find such fancy foods as asparagus crustini, hempseed quiche, and goat cheese with red ridicio spread. Knuckles tries the goat cheese with red ridicio spread and finds it tastes terrible, so he calls it "goat cheese in a red crudicio spread". This quickly earns him the admiration of Professor Cluckins and Admiral Beaverton, who tell him he had the audacity to say what they're all thinking.
  • On the Futurama episode "Three Hundred Big Boys", Zoidberg spends his $300 refund on foie gras and caviar, but is disappointed to find out that it's just goose liver and fish eggs.
    Chef Elzar: Hey, that's what rich people eat - the garbage parts of the food.
    Zoidberg: I ate garbage yesterday, and it didn't cost me $300!
  • In Jackie Chan Adventures, the Rabbit Talisman is first discovered lodged into the shell of a Galapagos Tortoise that was sold to a club of rich people who liked to eat endangered animals.
  • In The Legend of Korra, the new Airbenders save a herd of Sky Bison from some hunters who want to sell them to the Earth Queen, who likes to eat exotic animals. This is said to be the fate of her father's prized pet Bear, Bosco.
  • In the South Park episode "Creme Fraiche", Randy has taken to obsessively watching Food Porn shows on the Food Network and recreating their complex recipes, even taking the job as the chef of South park Elementary. The kids however just want simple foods like Pop Tarts and chicken nuggets.

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