Kurt Applegate, executive chef at Nitehawk Cinema, has over seventeen years of restaurant experience, but putting together his first Film Feast called on both culinary acumen and cinema prowess in equal measure. “This is a different thing because you’re relying on parts of the movie for inspiration for what you’re putting on the plate. It’s actually fun,” explained Applegate. Although it could be a welcome change of pace in a chef’s daily routine to conjure a menu based on a movie, it’s also extremely challenging. The food must be authentic, especially when you’re dealing with a parody artist like “Weird Al” Yankovic.
Film Feasts is a monthly series that has in the past featured everything from a plate of literally nothing, inspired by nihilists from The Big Lebowski, to an entire Memento-themed backwards menu by guest chef Carla Hall. Choosing an ideal source of inspiration has everything to do with how these events are hatched. As luck would have it, Weird Al is hosting Governors Ball this year. His 1989 cult film UHF has plenty of food references to choose from, not to mention the right mix of Fran Drescher, Michael Richards, and a diehard fan base. Applegate’s passion for heavy metal — he performs lead vocals for his band Beast Modulus — combined with a one-of-a-kind, insane-sounding challenge to pair the film with food, came together into a tangible plan.
However, unlike other Film Feasts, the partnership with Governors Ball came on shorter notice than usual; the chef had to act quickly. After watching UHF again and speaking with Nitehawk movie guru John Woods, who consults with the kitchen on all Film Feasts, Applegate narrowed down his menu to ensure he’d capture the movie’s key moments in a fun way. Working with Nitehawk’s beverage director, Matt Walker, Woods came up with a five-course menu complete with intermittent drink pairings.
The menu begins with an homage to one character’s day job at Big Edna’s burgers; attendees will find a spot-on interpretation of the fictional shop’s offerings. Additional courses include finger sandwiches (another character loses his actual fingers); a pizza topped with anchovies, and ceviche made to look like the movie’s “Wheel of Fish” game show scene, complete with a mystery box.
Applegate was able to compile the menu with relative ease. “There were a lot of food cues right in the beginning,” he said, “a lot of food references, so I kind of had to scale back.” The whimsical nature of the movie also lends itself to plating and presentation, which may be why guests might find mustard on everything or a drink that looks like it came out of a chemistry set.
One dish you won’t find? A bowl of oatmeal with a marble inside. “That was a little weird,” admitted Applegate.
However, despite the complexity of serving up to 60 people all at the same time in a movie theater, the nature of the event is worth the stress involved. “Trying to find that inspiration based on the movie, it’s a challenge. It’s a challenge that’s rewarding. People come here and actually get it. We have that clientele,” said Applegate.
The UHF Film Feast takes place June 2 at 7:15 p.m. and also includes an after-party following the completion of the movie; reservations can be made through the Nitehawk Cinema website.