Burnt: Bradley Cooper as Celebrity Chef

Should Bradley Cooper’s new movie be renamed Don’t Get Burned by this Snooze Inducing Movie? The moment I learned Bradley Cooper would be starring in a chef-centric, rom-com drama called Burnt, I was dubious about the filmmaker’s ability to provide even a modicum of authenticity to the subject. And based on the plethora of horrible reviews that came out before the movie was released—and my own opinions about the film—my suspicions were borne out.

The film, produced by The Weinstein Company, was based on a story from Michael Kalesniko, was directed by John Wells and written by Steven Knight. The cast includes Bradley Cooper as chef Adam Jones, and he is joined by Sienna Miller, Omar Sy, Daniel Brühl, Matthew Rhys, Alicia Vikander, Uma Thurman, and Emma Thompson.

Critics have blasted the film for being predictable, filled with clichés, and having an uninspiring plot. If my agreement makes me yet one more carrion bird tearing at the flesh of a cinematic carcass that was sadly dead on arrival, then so be it.

UNTITLED JOHN WELLS PROJECTThe Acting

While I appreciate Bradley Cooper, and the entire cast, as talented actors no amount of acting talent can compensate, or overcome, tired clichés, convoluted sub plots that add nothing to the thin storyline, and one dimensional characters. Adam Jones, the part played by Bradley Cooper is described as being a down on his luck former culinary star whose past has caught up with him. But what we see on the screen is a shallow, selfish, destructive, vengeful man whose infantile, maniacal, arrogance does nothing to endear him to anyone, off screen or on.

As a chef, I was hoping we could see a bit of the real drama, and Herculean efforts,  that go into the quest for perfection and the pinnacle of culinary creativity involved in earning one Michelin star. Chefs train for 15 years or more to become a chef at the helm of a high end kitchen, and then work even harder just to be considered for one star, forget three. The number of chefs whose restaurants have three stars is so small that the idea of a new restaurant attaining one just after opening is insulting to the audience, the chefs who achieve this rating, and the people who evaluate them.

In France only 26 restaurants have earned three stars, the U.S. has nine, and the UK has four, and even after earning one star, it can take years, or never, before a restaurant earns another star, so this entire part of the story was not believable.

YouTube Preview ImageThe Hype

The trailers and media hype hint at Adam Jones’ bad boy ways and claim he is an enfant terrible with a bad temper and bad addictions to match. Really? Now that’s a chef’s story we’ve never heard about. Over and over again we are told Adam drinks too much, takes drugs, and is driven to seek culinary perfection at the expense of his job, friends, and future. You don’t have to a foodie to know that Anthony Bourdain has beaten that dead horse until its good and tender, so move on Hollywood.

The Craft
Instead of substance and content we get dreamy almost sci-fi looking kitchens where we see no cooking going on just lots of barking of orders, sliding of plates in fast succession, and chefs toiling to get each plate just right that in real time that food would have been cold. The movie also falls short by not giving the audience an inside look at the creative process. It’s never explained how or why Adam Jones’ food is old fashioned and why his new menu is so unique and worthy of a being considered for a Michelin star.

UNTITLED JOHN WELLS PROJECTYou Eat with Your Eyes

Without time to view pictures of finished plates, and without context or insight into the concept behind each dish, the audience doesn’t understand how his talent is different or see the beauty of his presentation. Instead, we get coitus interuptis seconds long quick images of plates as they are sent to the dining room or leaned over by dedicated soldiers in Adam Jones’ army and his battle, some might say war, to earn his third star.

However, there are constant obsequious declarations and accolades uttered by smitten staff, or even more absurdly, by chefs that have already earned three Michelin stars. And some of these scenes are so hard to watch, or believe, you may squirm a bit in your seat or even begin praying for a commercial break to relieve the tedium.

Somehow, we are supposed to make the leap from soul suffering artist to successful chef and restaurant owner and forgive the bad behavior as just “chefs will be chefs” after all, aren’t they all arrogant? This is proven, often, by graphic operatic scenes of gratuitously violent outbursts and public humiliations of hardworking staff. What we don’t see is the hard work it takes to create, refine, and consistently serve food people are willing to pay hundreds of dollars to eat.

SiennaBut for me, the most egregious shortcomings are found in the scenes with Helene, Sienna Millar’s character, and the girl in this ridiculous rom-com. Involuntary eye-rolling and harrumphing occurs the moment she meets Adam Jones and he steps into her kitchen to tell her how to cook. She is the Yin of zero self-esteem and confidence to his Yang of egotistical declarations and puffed up pride.

Like so many stereotypes of women trying to make it in a man’s world, Sienna Miller’s character is a talented, innovative chef herself who deserves to work as an equal collaborator in the kitchen. Instead, the character finds herself in an unconvincing girl meets arrogant prick boy storyline that then becomes girl rejects boy, boy becomes violent, abusive, and heaps humiliation on girl, and girl becomes so besotted by his talent and obvious suffering, she is soon gazing at boy in adoration.

Did anyone notice Helene is the only one Adam Jones physically assaults in one of his predictable fits of rage? Yet soon after, Helene is looking at Adam Jones in awe and wonder and even gushing with puppy dog eyes after he refuses to give her time off to spend with her daughter. It’s a display that would be considered dégueulasse, which is impolite language, but apropos.

There are a few one liners in the movie that are mildly chucklesome, but overall, avoid the box office and go out for a good meal and support one of the talented local chefs in your area.

Burnt opens nationwide October 30, 2015.

About Summer Whitford (4 Articles)
Summer Whitford, known as The Food and Wine Diva, is a chef and wine pro turned writer. She lives in Washington, D.C. and writes about all the tasty things to cook, eat, drink, do, and visit—around the corner and around the globe. She has appeared on national television and radio and her work has been featured on national and international broadcast networks. Summer spent her childhood in France and Germany and imprinted with toutes les choses Françaises at an early age. With over twenty years in the business, Whitford has extensive experience as a chef/caterer, wedding and event planner, food and drinks educator, and writer of books, articles, newsletters, marketing and PR collateral, and television programming, with an emphasis on food, wine, culture, and travel. She is a chef trained in classical French and regional cuisine and was a chef and pastry chef in world-class restaurants in Florida, Missouri, and Washington, D.C. For 15 years, she owned Chez Vous Productions, Inc., a successful food specialty, event planning, and hospitality consulting business. She is the D.C. Editor for The Daily Meal as well as national contributor for food, drink, and travel.