When choosing famous people to have to a dinner party, you want to ensure the big-personalitied celebrity chefs stay strictly in the kitchen. Burnt reinforces every suspicion we’ve ever had from reading the biographies of Michelin-starred virtuosi and watching Masterchef – that talent and a warm, laidback character seldom go together.
Bradley Cooper plays Adam Jones – a brilliant chef who burnt every bridge in Paris after a decade-long ascent through the industry and then sent himself into purgatory to pay penance by shucking a million oysters before pursuing a second chance. Now clean, sober and ready to make amends, he tips up in London where he ruthlessly unseats erstwhile colleagues in an attempt to open the best restaurant in town. Like Ramsey and Bourdain, Jones suffers no fools, prompting some effectively uncomfortable moments in the kitchen as he upbraids his staff. Well, you can’t make a restaurant movie without breaking some eggs.
Director John Wells (August: Osage County, The Company Men) throws the zippy, energetic script up onto the screen in the same manner Jones hurtles imperfect dishes into the trash. The multicultural supporting cast includes a surprisingly excellent Sienna Miller, who cooks like she’s a seasoned professional, Frenchman Omar Sy (The Intouchables) and a reliable Daniel Bruhl (one step from being typecast as the Grumpy European following his portrayal of Niki Lauda in Rush). Add a sprinkling of the superb Matthew Rhys from Brothers & Sisters and you have a perfectly balanced meal.
But this is Cooper’s kitchen, and Jones’ relentless pursuit of a third Michelin star has that can’t-look-away quality as he snarls “You lack arrogance” at a young mentee, and puts down rivals with bitchy jibes about the quality of their cooking. Adding weight to his already impressive CV, and the international flavour of the film, Cooper also gets to flex his French-speaking muscle with aplomb.
Once the rather expository dialogue is dispensed with during the entrée, the film’s main course is delivered hot and fast, with beautiful cinematography of London the palate cleanser between scenes. Jones’ galling arrogance may be distasteful to some diners, but the lively and engaging plating ensures Burnt is an undeniable crowd-pleaser.