Further proof that there’s no such thing as a free lunch: You could be eating human flesh.
Today’s advisory comes from comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who turned his guerrilla satire toward pretension in the restaurant world, specifically on the industry of food bloggers and influencers who take free meals in return for kind words on social media.
In his new Showtime show, “Who is America?” Cohen tricks a so-called South Florida food blogger into eating what he thinks is human flesh. And the diner has nothing but effusive praise for it.
Let that swish around your palate for a minute.
Baron Cohen, in disguise as a supposed reformed criminal turned world-renowned chef, puts on a three-course tasting for supposed food blogger Bill Jilla, whose website, dinnerreviews.com, now returns an error message.
The prank begins with beans on toast, which Jilla calls “incredible” in the clip. Things escalate quickly when he is served a strawberry-flavored condom stuffed with veal, which Cohen’s character claims was “anally aged.”
“This is the best braised veal I’ve ever had,” Jilla says. “As soon as I cut into the prophylactic, there was a juice that burst out... A true artist and an amazing chef.”
The piece de resistance are two strips of meat, which Cohen’s character says are “filet of vegetarian-fed Chinese dissident.” Jilla hesitates — then digs right in.
How does he taste?
“Superb,” Jill says. “It’s like butter soft. Who needs a knife?”
And then Baron Cohen asks Jilla to thank the family of the young man he just ate in homage.
“To the Lau family, thank you very much. Its truly an honor and pleasure,” Jilla says. “It’s just simply melting on my palate.”
Actually, it was venison meat, said chef Cindy Hutson, whose restaurant, Zest in downtown Miami, Baron Cohen’s staff rented out for the shoot. The producers asked for deer meat, as well as chicken. No one from the restaurant was allowed in during the shoot, she said.
“They didn’t ask for a prophylactic, I’ll tell you that much,” Hutson said, laughing.
Baron Cohen’s production company worked hard at finding a mark.
They turned to Jilla, a virtual unknown in the industry. A LinkedIn profile claims Jilla was former travel agent. But none of his dining reviews could be found in a decade of archival research. DinnerReviews.com, Inc. is registered with the state of Florida, and his partner, Thomas House, answered a number listed for the company.
“We’re not responding to any of that, sir,” he told the Miami Herald. “So you can lose the number, OK?”
Previously, the show contacted several legitimate food critics and restaurateurs, such as Aniece Meinhold, owner of the MiMo restaurant Phuc Yeah, Chat Chow producer Giovanny Gutierrez and Miami New Times food writer Laine Doss.
All were told they were to wait at different locations and would be brought to the restaurant after hours, Meinhold. But calls or texts canceled their appointments at the last minute.
“It had ‘weird’ written all over it from the beginning,” Meinhold said. “I think if I’d been served a strawberry condom, I would’ve got up and left.”
Baron Cohen’s new show has spent its first season lampooning mostly politicians into embarrassing truth-telling. He convinced a Georgia lawmaker — who has since resigned — into yelling racial slurs and former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh into endorsing arming kindergarteners with machine guns.
Yelpers, foodies and influencers, take note: Sacha Baron Cohen is on to you.