Thursday, February 2, 2017

3+1 Short Paragraphs: Burnt

2015, John Wells (August: Osage County) -- download

Netflix is full of cooking shows, no not those weekly Rachael Rae "this is how you cook with evoo" type shows, but mini-documentary series that revel in cooking & eating. They even recently brought in the seminal show, A Cook's Tour with Anthony Bourdain. But one thing these shows remind me, that I think (great [?!?]) chefs are dicks. They are arrogant beasts and there is an accepted paradigm that great cooking only comes from utter tyranny in the kitchen. Bullshit.

Burnt, made by the guy who did the excellent The Company Men makes a movie about an asshole chef who seeks to redeem himself by ... well, by being an asshole again. But wait, no, this time he aims to be a Michelin 3-Star asshole chef. Bradley Cooper is Adam Jones, a disgraced chef who finishes shucking 1, 000, 000 oysters in New Orleans. That was his self-imposed penance for being an asshole in France. No women, no booze, no drugs just oysters. Then the movie abruptly leaves New Orleans and transplants to London where Adams bullies and emotionally blackmails a bunch of people into helping him fund and open a restaurant with which he convinces them he will gain his third star.

Despite this being a very well produced, directed and acted movie I could not get over this revelling in utter asshole behaviour. Look at the premise: he returns from utter catastrophe to manipulate people into furthering his very personal obsession with a rating star. Somehow we are supposed to buy into this worship of the great chef? Kind of, as there is a very minor plot stream where people are trying to convince Adam he would be better if he just became part of the family that is his kitchen staff, that he would get his third star if he only joined with them.

Like other cooking movies, we do get a bit of the food porn, the wonderful dishes, the prep with spoons ducked into plastic containers of ingredients but other than a brief moment at the beginning of the movie where Adam compares a Burger King burger to French food (salt, fat, cheap cut of meat), you never really get the idea Adam likes food. THAT is what I want from a food movie, so despite this being a well told story, I did not buy into Adam's redemption and he can keep his stars.