Chef Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) had it all – and lost it in “Burnt.” The former enfant terrible of the Paris restaurant scene had earned two Michelin stars and only ever cared about the thrill of creating explosions of taste. Michelin awards 0 to 3 stars to restaurants on the basis of the anonymous reviews. The reviewers concentrate on the quality, mastery of technique, personality and consistency of the food, in making the awards.
To land his own kitchen and that third elusive star though, Jones will need to leave his bad habits behind and get the best of the best on his side, including the beautiful Helene (Sienna Miller). Directed by John Wells (known for his high-profile hit projects such as “ER” and “West Wing”) “Burnt,” is a remarkably funny and emotional story about the love of food, the love between two people, and the power of second chances.
Food has become a lifestyle obsession, rather than the fuel it was considered twenty years ago. Television schedules have every variation of cookery shows, the kitchen is the center of the home, farmers markets abound, cook books are the new coffee table tomes, and social media entices people to new pop up venues. Chefs are regarded as rock stars, and behave accordingly.
Director John Wells was attracted to Steven Knight’s screenplay for “Burnt” partly because of this ever growing foodie culture, and partly because it was a special look into the unique world of restaurateurs. Wells acknowledges that, currently, London is the world capital of fine dining. “London is where young chefs go to succeed, so it made sense that Adam goes to the place he can make the biggest impact to stage his comeback.” he says.
The involvement of renowned celebrity chefs and Michelin awardees was essential for the director and writer to place an audience in the middle of the action. “I couldn’t have done it without chefs of that calibre, because I don’t know what they do,” says Wells. “I came into this project thinking I can cook, but quickly realized I don’t.”
World famous chef and restaurateur Mario Batali came on board with scribe Steven Knight in the very early stages of “Burnt’s” development. A winner of multiple James Beard awards, Batali owns restaurants in cities all over the globe, has penned numerous cookbooks and is a ubiquitous presence on the Food Network. His early days were spent training in London and Northern Italy, a background that would prove crucial to informing Knight’s script for the film.
British chef, restaurateur and TV star Gordon Ramsay also helped the filmmakers craft “Burnt” into an authentic depiction of the industry he knows so well. Ramsay, whose restaurants boast a collective 14 Michelin stars, trained Cooper alongside Claire Smythe, Executive Chef at his signature London location Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Smythe is the first and only female chef in the UK to earn three Michelin stars.
Marcus Wareing, Michelin star chef and presenter of the top rated BBC TV Master Chef, was also approached by writer Knight. “I was intrigued to know that someone was writing a film about my world so I met Steven and we spent a lot of time talking. I told him lots of backstage stories from my own kitchen experience, and from others. It’s a small world we work in, so we all know what happens in each other’s kitchens.” Wareing’s interest in food began when he worked for his father in his fresh fruit and vegetable business. “The respect that my father showed for basic ingredients set me on the path I’ve followed since the age of 15. Working 16 hours a day, it’s been my whole life.”
Michelin stars are hugely important to a chef, awarded by a team of anonymous inspectors who scrutinise many aspects of the restaurants – the food, the presentation, the ambience of the restaurant and the originality of the dishes. “They are the Oscars of our world.” says Marcus Wareing. “But, unlike Oscars, they can be taken away from us, so on a day to day basis we have everything to lose. It keeps us constantly striving, challenging yourself. At the same time, if you don’t achieve stars, you must recognize what you have achieved. The kitchen is the engine room but the dish has to be incredible – Mother Nature at its best, delivered by man – perfection.”
“Burnt” opens November 4 in cinemas nationwide from Pioneer Films.