The better the chef, the bigger the jerk. It’s telling of his considerable culinary skills that Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) is a grade-A asshole. The one-time child prodigy turned enfant terrible of the Parisian restaurant scene, Adam nabbed himself two Michelin stars before souring his career with drugs, demons and diva behaviour. Now, two years sober – but no less arrogant – the rock-star chef relocates to London in a bid for a second chance and that elusive third star.
Cooper trained in a real kitchen with celebrity chef Marcus Wareing, and wears chef’s whites with ease. In his comeback kitchen, he barks orders at his staff – including single-mum saucier Helene (Sienna Miller, continuing her impressive streak of supporting roles) – with the foul-mouthed cruelty of a drill sergeant. But while the cooking scenes mimic the full-tilt pace of actual dinner service, it comes at the expense of any slow-burning tension. Even the film’s most searing moments (a tyrannical tantrum following poor table turnout) lose their intensity by how swiftly they’re snuffed out.
A fistful of undercooked subplots – drug dealers, rows with a rival chef – and pointless cameos (Emma Thompson, Uma Thurman) add unnecessary weight. By the credits, you might feel that ‘Burnt’ is fixated on the wrong chef. Cooper’s Adam is magnetic, sure, but it’s Miller’s scrappy Helene, with her lived-in, head-down hustle on the line, that will leave you wanting seconds.