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Haute Cuisine Is Weird

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The main course, and some glasses so you can actually see it.

"I'm not sure I like this future of cooking..."

Haute cuisine or grande cuisine; the food of the wealthy people, the cuisine of "high-level" establishments, gourmet restaurants, and luxury hotels. Haute cuisine is characterized by the meticulous preparation and careful presentation of food at a high price.

And in fiction, often the source of ridicule, with humor usually focussed on one or both of the following aspects:

  1. The food is, at best, bland, or at worst highly unusual. If the food is weird-looking instead of gross, the excuse will be that the chef is striving for artistic value. See High-Class Cannibal for a particularly unpleasant option.
  2. The proportions will be very small, unable to satisfy anyone, thus leaving the guests hungry even after consuming an entire "meal".

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.

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 Foreign Queasine, where unappealing dishes come from a strange place of origin; Snooty Haute Cuisine, where the focus is on the wealth and high standards of those who can afford it; and Exotic Entree, where the food is a sign of evil rather than wealth and taste. Overlaps with Micro Dieting in the "ridiculously small portions" variation.


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  • An ad for Frank's Red-Hot Sauce has a man looking at his fancypants hifalutin' restaurant meal and Freak Out, screaming, grabbing a fire axe, and smashing open an emergency window where a bottle of the condiment is kept.
  • An ad for Harvey's has a man take one look at a Nouvelle Cuisine dish, and walk right out of the restaurant, loudly singing a parody of "I Am Woman (Hear Me Roar)" and attracting a huge amount of fellow blue-collar men who proceed to storm the local Harvey's.
  • 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.
  • A commercial for Wendy's had founder Dave Thomas going to a haute cuisine restaurant to try their food. The waiter brings him his order and says "Enjoy it!" enthusiastically. He then lifts the cover to reveal a rather tiny meal. Dave replies "Enjoy what?"

    Anime and Manga 
  • Abunai Sisters: In "Abunai Dinner", the fancy (poisoned) Chinese meal Matsumoto tries to trick the sisters into eating consists of a single meatball. Matsumoto claims that it's a 4000-year-old recipe favored by the Empress Dowager herself.
  • Being a manga about how any cooking style can make tasty food, Food Wars! manages to zig-zag this with Alice Nakiri's focus on molecular gastronomy. While her meals taste good to the judges and she's not seen as any lower for focusing on the science side of food, she's often on the losing side because she doesn't take the customers' experience with the food into consideration. Once she's able to prepare a dish that uses her tech to add flair rather than be a close approximation, she starts to improve on her way of cooking.

    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 (aka caviar). Later on, he asks for some real food instead, like wild boars.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: In one comic published in the Dutch Donald Duck magazine, Goofy, while teaching the reader about the history of cuisine, tries to open his own fancy restaurant, but the inspection committee keeps turning him down because the plates are too full until Goofy has reduced the portions to ridiculously tiny amounts.

  • 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."
  • This is the topic on one of the tracks on Patton Oswalt's comedy album Werewolves and Lollipops, "Great Food is Cooked by Psychos":
    "There's a place I've got to go to, I haven't been there yet, it's in Las Vegas, it's called Fleur De Lys. And the way the guy describes it, it's the owner, like, writing about his own restaurant. Listen to this crazy, mental patient, ritualistic behavior that he thinks is important, alright. It says: 'Every day, at Fleur De Lys, we fly in three thousand ice-pink roses and put them each in their own silver-dusted crystal decanter.' And you read that and you go, 'Wow, that's a— THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE FOOD!'"
  • In Freezing Hot, Iliza Shlesinger pokes fun at trendy tapas restaurants for food that's "small, not filling, and expensive."
    "It's an absolute joke; I don't like anything about it. Comes on a wooden block like you're eating lunch at Home Depot. Some guy, with his bare hands, balls up some ham in the corner and then throws some shards of manchego cheese and some haphazard drizzle of honey so you can eat like an Andalusian farmer taking a lunch break in a field in 1830 for, like, a hundred bucks."

    Fan Works 
  • The current page quote comes from This Bites!. While training in the Kamabakka Kingdom, Sanji is told to continue learning the island's cooking techniques that he'll need to learn how to use a rotary evaporator, a real device that's typically only used in chemical labs. Sanji is understandably skeptical.
  • In Jealousy Draco asks Snape out on a date at Hibiscus. Snape comments on it to Harry afterward.
    Snape: Well, that was unexpected. Is Hibiscus the restaurant where they charge you a galleon for an appetizer the size of a grape?

    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.
  • Ratatouille: As the movie takes place in a French nouvelle cuisine restaurant, the food, including the eponymous ratatouille, is served in small portions. However, it is presented in a realistic manner, not comically exaggerated, and nobody points it out in-universe.

    Film — Live Action 
  • 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 $6,400.
      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?
    • This crops up again when Sasha's own restaurant food is discussed. A celebrity chef, she leans towards small portions, especially when compared to how Asian dishes are traditionally served at home — large and hearty.
      Marcus: Asian food shouldn't be served in a shot glass. It should be served in a big-ass bowl. You're just catering to rich white people.
  • Back to School: Low-brow connoisseur Thorton Melon decides his shrewish wife's hors d'ouerves are not enough for his appetite and decides to turn them into a large hoagie. The guests are amused; his wife isn't.
  • Demolition Man: Taco Bell, the last surviving restaurant in the future, is treated as an incredibly high-class establishment. The food served appears to be condiments separated onto individual chips or miniature tortillas with a decorative drizzle of sauce.
  • L.A. Story: The portions at L'Idiot are absolutely tiny.
    Harris: I'm done and I don't even remember eating.
  • My Dinner with Andre: Wally remarks he didn't expect his quail dish to be so small while eating as Cafe Des Artistes.
  • The Menu takes place in a very exclusive and expensive restaurant run by one Julian Slowik, so naturally this trope pops up, such as with the "breadless bread plate" (a meal made up of small dollops of the kind of condiments you'd typically dip bread into). The dishes end up going from merely weird and pretentious to disturbing once it's revealed that they're tied into how Slowik has become disillusioned with the industry and as a result is planning on killing everyone in the restaurant once the evening ends, himself included.
  • The Nutty Professor (1996): Sherman's parents attend a high-class soiree thrown by the college. While his mother is charmed by the elegant servings, his father is annoyed, saying he can't be filled up on tiny food and asking where the real food is.
  • Pig: The food options at Eurydice are portrayed as utterly ridiculous, and Rob criticizes Derek severely for having opened the restaurant rather than the pub he always wanted. Derek agrees.
  • Trinity Is STILL My Name!: Played for Laughs when Trinity and Bambino, a pair of uncouth gunslingers, come into possession of a lot of cash and decide to visit the fanciest French restaurant in town. They're deeply unimpressed with the meagre portion sizes and force the waiter to leave the serving platter behind. Even a few of the high-society diners appear quietly approving of their efforts to have a good dinner on their terms.

  • In The Alchemy of Chaos, the protagonist and his dormmate are invited to a High Dinner at their college. Each of the ten courses is artistically beautiful and absolutely delicious, but they're also so small that they can be consumed in three small bites if you're taking your time. Between that and the regular intermissions between courses (the true value of the High Dinners is the opportunity to network with faculty outside one's department), they're still hungry when they get back to their dorms, at which point the roommate (who had been to one before) produced a loaf of bread and a bag of apples so they could actually eat.
  • 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.
  • Babel, or the Necessity of Violence: The main characters get a taste of British high society at the Oxford commemoration ball. It's a mixed experience for many reasons, but they're equal parts confused and disgusted by some of the fancy desserts:
    Robin: You know, there's a Chinese character, xiǎn, which can mean "rare, fresh, and tasty". But it can also mean "meagre and scanty".
    Ramy: Your point?
    Robin: Sometimes rare and expensive things are worse.
  • The Bone Maker: Kreya and Jentt's meal at a friend's opulent estate begins with an artfully plated something that looks like a squishy white square and tastes of herbal soap. They spit it out in unison but, fortunately, find the other courses much more palatable.
    Jentt: Vegetable, animal, or mineral?
  • 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 that 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.
    • Maskerade has a subversion when the Anhk-Morpork opera makes Brindisian (Italian-ish) food for the visiting singer. This being Ankh-Morpork, they don't actually know how to make it, burning the pasta. Fortunately Nanny Ogg makes traditional food, claiming there's no need to make foreign food for foreigners (and the singer himself being from Ankh-Morpork but taking a foreign stage name cries at finally eating home food again).
  • In Good Omens, nouvelle cuisine was invented by Famine (of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse), who loves the idea of very rich people spending a lot of money to go hungry. When introduced, he's just had lunch at a very exclusive restaurant, consisting of "a string bean, a pea, and a sliver of chicken breast, aesthetically arranged on a square china plate", a dish which he personally invented some time ago in Paris.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy states that "an Antarean parakeet gland stuck on a small stick is a revolting but much-sought-after cocktail delicacy and very large sums of money are often paid for them by very rich idiots who want to impress other very rich idiots."
  • 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.
  • In Ramona Quimby, the book "Ramona Forever" has Howie's uncle Hobart and Ramona's aunt Bea get married. At the wedding, which is a very formal occasion, they eat very small sandwiches, leaving everyone unsatisfied and hungry.
  • 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.
  • Esmé Squalor of A Series of Unfortunate Events enjoys this trope, being The Fashionista with everything, including food. Her signature drink early on is the "aqueous martini" (cold water with an olive in it) before she moves on to parsley soda. She also enjoys frequenting "Cafe Salmonella", a restaurant where literally every meal (including soup, salad, sabayon, bread, and ice cream) is made using primarily salmon.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Frasier: Invoked by Daphne (who is from Manchester) in an argument with Niles over whether he's haughty, and she says he'd eat a worm if she only gave it a French name.
  • Gentefied: Chris's more outlandish fusion ideas that prove to be popular with the rich hipster crowd are called out as weird by his more tradition-inclined family. Watermelon radish tacos, anyone?
  • Good Omens (2019): As in the novel, Famine is responsible for high-end cuisine's small portions as a way of starving people. His introductory scene sees him dining with an associate at a molecular gastronomy restaurant. The "first course" is a balloon of lavender-scented air that the waiter sprays in their faces.
    Famine: I've never seen a room full of rich people so hungry before.
  • Hell's Kitchen: Season 4 saw Matt, whose Signature Dish was "Exotic Tartare", a food version of Frankenstein's Monster made of raw venison, raw quail egg, lime zest, olive oil, diver scallops, caviar, capers, and grated white chocolate. Essentially, Matt thought throwing various highbrow ingredients together made something even more highbrow. It was the first Signature Dish Gordon Ramsay puked out instead of spitting out.
  • Mr. Bean: Played for Laughs when Mr. Bean treats himself to a birthday meal at a fancy restaurant. He orders steak tartare without knowing what it is, reluctantly tries one bite, and spends the rest of the meal trying to dispose of the rest.
  • Gordon Ramsay has made his dislike of this trope very clear on many occasions, and numerous are the episodes of Kitchen Nightmares where he's dealing with a chef who makes pretensions to it. While he may not be doing it intentionally, he often comes down much harder on these chefs, Sebastien's Pizzeria being a standout example.
  • 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?

  • One issue of MAD Magazine has a restaurant reviewer for flies gave a bad review to a nouvelle cuisine restaurant, noting that it served tiny portions on enormous plates.


    New Media 
  • The Reddit community /r/WeWantPlates/ collects pictures of bizarre and unappetizing objects restaurant food is served in instead of plates.

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

    Tabletop Games 
  • Changeling: The Lost: Exaggerated with the Knights of the Knowledge of the Tongue, an Entitlement for whom perfect food is everything. For this, they'll plumb the depths of the Land of Faerie for the most exotic goblin fruits (and meats, sometimes sapient) to produce dishes that might Taste Like Purple and induce literal Foodgasms, at minimum.
    ...lesser gourmands might offer plates of still-crawling (and ichor-slick) centipedes or a bowl of tiny heads forever howling (even as they tumble into the stomach). Actually distilling the essence of fear in a flavour, that's the task of the truly great chefs de cuisine''.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • EarthBound (1994) features trout yogurt, popular among the wealthy of Fourside.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: One Dark Brotherhood quest has the player character Kill and Replace a world-renowned chef, then recreate his signature dish with a touch of extra poison. If they choose the "strange" dialogue options, they add a sweetroll, vampire dust, and a giant's toe to the dish, and the confused sous-chef defers to "The Gourmet's" presumed genius.
  • Psychonauts:
    • The only way to recruit the Hearty Knight in Waterloo World and win the level is to offer him only the finest meal as befits "an elite warrior of my stature." And since he's a Frenchman, the meal is of course escargot, i.e., snails.
    • Parodied in Psychonauts 2 when Sam tries to disguise the very questionable composition of her pancakes behind haute cuisine buzzwords.
      Raz: What sort of substitutions?
      Sam: If I told you, that would compromise the perceived flavor profile.
      Raz: Isn't that just straight-up dirt?
      Sam: ... For the umami.
  • Pokémon X and Y takes place in the France-inspired Kalos region, so the more expensive the restaurant, the more eccentric the food is and the longer your servers go on about it. Dishes include soup made from a 3,000-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. The exception is Sushi High Roller, a ridiculously exclusive and very expensive restaurant whose full-course meal consists of... five different forms of sushi, delivered with to-the-point descriptions.

  • Angel Moxie: The main character decides to try some fancy food after getting a lot of money, and decides to go to a fancy restaurant. She says that she doesn't understand what the big deal is, although she admits the appetizer is tasty, only for her date to clarify that is actually the main course.
    Alex: This is a travesty of all that is holy and edible! Have you all no shame?!
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: Discussed in this strip with regard to ruining ordinary dishes by adding overly fancy ingredients.
    Man: I want macaroni and cheese, but I also want dignity. Please foul this food with truffle oil.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Archer: When the gang goes undercover at a Hollywood gala, Ray, Pam, and Cyril are forced to act as servers, and the food they're serving is things like kobe beef tartare sliders and mini quiches made from endangered eggs. Archer stacks them all together to make a tiny sandwich.
  • Funky Cops: In "A Fool's Errand", the duo stay in a fancy hotel as part of their assignment to protect a VIP, and see pizzas on the menu, including a small preview picture of them. They soon find out that said preview picture was the actual size of the pizzas themselves.
  • 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.
    Zoidberg: Where's the goose? Where's the fish?!
    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.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • "The Cutie Mark Chronicles" does the "ludicrously tiny portions" variation when young Applejack attends dinner with her Manehattan relatives and gets served a tiny orange kernel of something in brown sauce with a single sprig of wheat.
    • 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 (which are all identical, right down to the decor). Pinkie, however, finds 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.
  • Phineas and Ferb: In "Chez Platypus", the duo's parents took them to a trendy restaurant that served tiny portions (with Phineas jokingly asking to borrow his dad's glasses in order to see his food). As such, Ferb is still hungry the following morning. It inspires the boys to open a restaurant that is both trendy and serves decent portions.
  • 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 crostini, hempseed quiche, and goat cheese with red radicchio spread. Knuckles tries the goat cheese with red radicchio spread and finds it tastes terrible, so he calls it "goat cheese in a red crud-icchio 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.
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • The French nouvelle cuisine and the Japanese Kaiseki both place emphases on presentation and small servings. Indeed, the idea of haute cuisine consisting of small portions is Truth in Television to some degree; as explained here, there are various reasons for restaurants to serve relatively tiny portions, like the often expensive ingredients, and to make the dish look more appealing and elegant. It should be noted, however, that while is common for the portions to be small, in many haute cuisine restaurants you are set to eat from at least three to as many as nine courses, which means all those small portions still add up to a decent meal. It's also worth noting that haute cuisine portions are often small because they can be quite rich and filling.
  • This review of the "worst Michelin-starred restaurant in the world", Bros in Lecce, Italy, went viral in late 2021. According to the review, the 27-course dinner was more a bizarre sort of theater or performance art than a meal. Highlights included two reconstituted orange slices served with the remainder of the actual orange (the diners were scolded for trying to eat the actual orange), olive-flavored ice cream (delivered without comment, so that the diners thought it was pistachio-flavored before they took a bite), a cuttlefish-flavored marshmallow, something called "frozen air" that literally melted before it could be eaten, terrible service that did not accommodate allergies, and the crowning jewel — a citrus-flavored foam served in a plaster cast of the chef's mouth, which the diners were then expected to lick out of the mouth. The 27 courses put together didn't even constitute a meal in the end and were so insubstantial that everybody was still starving afterward.
  • Behold, char fish cooked in melted beeswax, which is served with other small components that sound extremely fancy and high-class all for a tiny dish. As one YouTube commenter pointed out, the artisan breads look more filling.