Food writer Bill Jilla
Food writer Bill Jilla
Courtesy of Showtime

Sacha Baron Cohen Punks South Florida Food Writer Into Eating "Human Flesh"

In the past few weeks, Sacha Baron Cohen's Who Is America? has shocked the nation by showing politicians endorsing kindergarten gun-training sessions and gallery owners contemplating their portrait painted in human feces.

This week, it was time for the food industry to get a taste of Cohen's trickery. Naturally, the episode was filmed in Miami.

In the episode, which aired last evening, Cohen plays Rick Sherman, a man who learned his culinary skills while serving time in prison. Now a free man, Sherman wants to open a restaurant in Miami, and his plans are being documented for a TV show. South Florida food writer Bill Jilla, from the site DinnerReviews.com, is invited to critique the chef's meal, which includes beans on toast, veal in a condom, and the main course: loin of vegetarian-fed Chinese dissident over cauliflower fillet — in other words, human flesh.

Jilla stares blank-faced while he listens to the story and then tucks right into the meat. He declares the flesh like butter. "Who needs a knife? It's melting on my palate." Jilla was also asked to thank the deceased man's family for the bountiful meal.

Jilla's site, DinnerReviews.com, has been taken offline since the episode.

Several months ago, producers for Who Is America? reached out to writers and restaurant owners in Miami's culinary industry, including Aniece Meinhold of Phuc Yea, Gio Gutierrez of Chat Chow TV, and this New Times food editor. Once booked for the show, we were all asked to meet at different locations in downtown Miami. I was met by a producer who handed me a bio of the chef, along with several clippings. An online search for Rick Sherman produced one article that was likely planted. After several hours, we were told there was a power outage and filming would not take place that day.

The episode that included Jilla was filmed at Zest in downtown Miami on a day when the restaurant was closed.

Watching the cringe-worthy scenes, you might think you'd never take the comedian's bait, but Chat Chow's Gutierrez makes an interesting point. "Take into consideration the pressure of being on camera and being set up," he says. "I mean, he's nailed Sarah Palin and so many others. Before this guy shows up, they hype you up, give you fake news articles to help you believe he's real, and then makeup, lights, camera."

So would Gutierrez eat a person on camera? "I mean, I haven't said no to many things in my life, so I'd probably do it just for the experience because flesh is flesh in my book." The culinary maven does draw a line: "In the show, the critic talks to the camera to thank the guy's family that he's eating for such a tasty treat. That's fucked up."

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