Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Brühl, Uma Thurman, Sam Keeley and Mario Batali
by Jay S. Jacobs
“In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport.” That quote, made by pioneering celebrity chef Julia Child, has just become more prescient in the modern world. It is no longer merely a statement about France – this simple fact has gone world-wide.
Bradley Cooper knows this. He worked in kitchens in his younger years. Then, about a decade ago, he played a lightly fictionalized version of celeb chef Anthony Bourdain in the short-lived FOX series Kitchen Confidential, a somewhat light but deeply shadowed look at life behind the scenes with a fine restaurant’s kitchen staff.
His latest film, Burnt, returns Cooper to the kitchen. A somewhat more somber film, though in many ways very funny, the movie fillets the highs and lows of high cuisine. Cooper plays Adam Jones, a formerly beloved chef whose Paris bistro crashed and burned under the weight of his substance abuse, his womanizing, his self-doubt and his destructive streak.
A few years later, Jones tries to revive his career and open a chic London eatery, with the help of his eternally patient former partner, played by German actor Daniel Brühl. He slowly goes about rebuilding a perfect staff, hiring a single mother named Helene played by Sienna Miller, old friend David played by Sam Keeley and Michel, a former employee he later screwed over, who is played by Omar Sy.
As he scrambles to get a foothold in the competitive gourmet world of London, and perhaps to even get that evasive three-star review in the Michelin guide, the chef has to overcome his own personal demons, self-doubt and anger issues to find personal redemption.
We were recently invited to a New York press event in which the stars of Burnt talked food with celeb chef Mario Batali, who also worked as a technical advisor on the film.
Mario Batali: This is just like Sunday supper at my house. We hang out like this. We talk a little stuff about business, then we really get down to what we’re looking for. The question for the cast is what initially attracted any of you to this project. Do you actually like food?
Bradley Cooper: Very much.
Mario Batali: Excellent.
Sienna Miller: Yeah, it turned out that we were all pretty into food, by coincidence. We were around this incredible food as we were cooking it, and we were being fed it. That was a huge perk of doing this film.
Bradley Cooper: And actually the cast. The fact that it was always going to be conceived as an international cast was very alluring. We shot it in London. That was a really cool aspect. Very true to kitchens. There’s always tons of different languages going on. It was a really awesome aspect of it.
Mario Batali: Did you learn anything? In all of the intensive practice, was there anything that you learned as either a maitre d’, a chef, a cook, or a critic that you were surprised by or otherwise perplexed? Was it all so obvious, or are there nuances that you guys understood or started to capture?
Daniel Brühl: I was attracted by the film, because I opened a restaurant myself five years ago. Because my acting skills weren’t so good, my acting skills and my cooking skills were so bad that I decided to open a place. What I learned is that we are very far away from getting a Michelin star. The perfection, the level of quality in this restaurant where I was trained – Marcus Wareing’s restaurant in London – was just incredible.
Mario Batali: It’s fastidious. You did a very good job of capturing the exasperation with the talent, and yet your complete faith behind it which was evident without having spoken so often. It was really very real, because that’s how the front of the house treats a lot of us cooks in the back. Thinking, yeah, all right, have your little fit. Come on, come on. You did great that way. I was really interested in it.
Daniel Brühl: Thank you.
Mario Batali: So in terms of being the critic Uma, you walk in with a brilliant and supercilious wave that I imagine you go into a lot of places. When they bow down to you, you did such a great job. Was it hard to pretend to be a critic, or was it a natural thing? When you’re talking about food, she talked about food in the right way. It wasn’t just like “blah blah blah…”
Uma Thurman: Well it was just a lot of fun. The cast was already assembled, to join everybody. I liked the exasperation with Twitter and Yelp. I thought that was funny, the idea that the irritation that the crowds… the popular demand… was over superseding opinion. This question is good for you actually, as a professional in the arena (to Mario) did we capture the…
Mario Batali: Well completely. The pressure is so on. As much as the social media forms a lot of the general opinion, it’s still the main critic of The New York Times, or The London Standard, or the papers that people read, that really give you your bona fides. You could have a lot of Yelps and people are like, “Yeah, whatever. Those are all your cousins and we know it.” That doesn’t diminish the value of Yelp to a consumer who is travelling around the world. But when you have four stars here, or three stars in Michelin you can… it’s like F-you to anyone who ever challenged you as a chef. You could say, “Look, here’s the paper of records saying exactly what matters to us.” That’s a really big part of our business. As the young chefs try to figure out how their part of the piece – Sam your character is a testament to just how hard they’ve got to work. How much apparent suffering they have to do, was that part of your situation?
Sam Keeley: Yeah, I guess so. I spent a lot of time in Marcus Wareing’s restaurant in the Berkeley and studied one chef in particular. Just watched him and learned his story, about where he came from. These guys are in it because they’re so passionate. They work insane hours, obviously as you know, and for very little money. They just want to get it right. They love the food and the whole thing behind it. I studied this one guy, Jake, who was younger than me, but was Marcus’ right hand man. He would run the kitchen when Marcus wasn’t around. It was fascinating to see.
Bradley Cooper: Oh yeah, I remember that kid.
Sam Keeley: He was a really quiet kid, but when he switched it on he was just this animal in the kitchen. They’re all covered in burns and slash marks from knives.
Mario Batali: I still have them, even now. Every now and then, something tricky can happen. In the screaming and passionate scenes that Bradley did so well, did it feel like you were being yelled at, guys?
Sam Keeley: Well, yeah.
Mario Batali: Sienna mostly, with that embarrassing turbo situation? I mean you guys are actors, so you know what’s going on, but how did that capture anything in the Wareing kitchen? I imagine he’s a little calmer, than maybe our script led everyone to believe. Is that true?
Sienna Miller: He probably has his moments, but it has leveled out. I think he can definitely go there.
Mario Batali: I think what happens as chefs mature, they realize that yelling is not the most effective way to change the behavior of the people that are working with you. In fact, a quiet lecture delivered sotto voce, yet within earshot of the people that you work with, might shame you more quickly. When I used to yell at someone, I would always have to go back and apologize because I felt like an idiot. Then, of course, I’ve diminished everything I just yelled about into a whimpering little apology and say, “Hey, you’re doing okay anyway.” So effectively the yelling was such a crucial part of it. Bradley, you felt pretty jacked up about it because you did the thrill pretty well on that. Did you talk to Marco Pierre White at all about that?
Bradley Cooper: I did yeah. And Marcus and Clare Smyth at Hospital Road and Gordon Ramsey.
Mario Batali: Who is actually the PhD student of all PhD students of yelling chefs right?
Bradley Cooper: But what’s so interesting is I just love the family of it all. You worked under Marco, so did Gordon and so did Marcus. I think Marco – and he will say it openly – has changed a lot over the years. Has calmed down a lot. But, no, there’s tons of stories, which you know more than anybody. I think the movie was actually pretty tame.
Mario Batali: Well, compared to Marco’s worst days, yes. But I think it captured probably more of the 21st century vibe right. I mean that was 1985 and Marco would literally take scissors and cut guys chef coats up while they were on them, like: “You don’t deserve this!” Snip, snip, snip. What crazed mind comes up with this way of torturing people. It’s such a cruel thing. Yet the pressure and the intensity when the Michelin guy is in there. I think, without wrecking the movie, there’s a scene where there is some sabotage that is so well done and so well thought out that it’s just like: wow that’s a pay off that I thought was great.
Bradley Cooper: Also, I always thought that how erratic that the Adam character becomes into the kitchen, it’s all geared towards himself. It’s all based in self loathing, that he screwed it up.
Mario Batali: Well, right. That’s fundamentally why chefs yell, because they realize they did not train their staff properly. The reason they’re mad is because they should’ve known to train them for the inevitable fact that at 7:30 you have to move much faster than you do at 5;30. You have to accept a window of acceptable variation. If you don’t do that, you’re mad at them. But they’re just 17-year-old kids. They’re 22-year-old kids. You have F-ed up. You feel so bad about it you’re lashing at everybody that you can. How was the food on set?
Bradley Cooper: Unbelievable.
Mario Batali: Like you ate their real food?
Bradley Cooper: We were cooking. In the way that they set it up, Marcus created the dishes. Then we would have recipes, these were all set by the commis and then all of the other cooks were actually…
Mario Batali: Commis are not Soviets. They’re the lesser level of chefs.
Bradley Cooper: All the other cooks, they were not extra actors. They were cooks, people that work in Michelin star restaurants around London. We were cooking the food, we were eating the food, too. We were testing it constantly. Then we would actually in between takes eat a lot of the meat. Ricardo was just doing brilliant work in the grill.
Sam Keeley: (jokes) Because the catering wasn’t that good.
Mario Batali: They are craft services all over the world but they’re not three-star Michelin restaurants, right? Did anybody take home any recipes that they’re going to cook at their house now?
Sienna Miller: Yes, turbot. (laughs) I have eaten much more turbot than I ever thought I would, and can fillet it which is exciting! I can buy a whole one and take it home. That’s a good new skill. Also I can make pasta, so I’ve been making homemade pasta.
Mario Batali: You did an amazing scene where you were rolling it out with such aplomb. She knows how to do it.
Bradley Cooper: Yeah, she really did it. She really did that in the scene. That was fantastic. You have no idea how hard that is to act, number one, but then make pasta while you’re acting.
Mario Batali: Because at that point she wasn’t acting. She was just making the pasta.
Sienna Miller: (in a hippie voice) I was just being, man…
Bradley Cooper: (laughs) That was just the wonderful thing for all of us… that we actually got to do the work. For an actor that’s always the easiest thing, if you’re actually doing it.
Mario Batali: When the chefs that were actually helping you execute the mise en place, were they the same ones every day or were they…?
Bradley Cooper: Same ones.
Mario Batali: So they didn’t have a job for a month? They were only with you?
Bradley Cooper: That’s right. That’s right. It felt like a real brigade.
Mario Batali: That’s exactly what a real kitchen feels like.
Bradley Cooper: Everybody got to know each other. For example, when we had that scene when Adam berates everybody, you know they’re all there and it really was good…
Mario Batali: And they’re like, “Yes. Somebody else is taking it right now.”
Bradley Cooper: Silently, though…
Mario Batali: When that stuff goes on, that’s all you’re really thinking about. You’re just trying to get as close to the corner and as away from the center of attention as possible.
Bradley Cooper: Of course.
Mario Batali: Because obviously when someone makes a mistake, the whole kitchen pays for it. How much awareness do you now have in a dining experience when you’re sitting at a restaurant table? Here’s what happens in my family. We’ll finish our appetizers, and we’ll be done and for five minutes they’ll watch us. Then a busboy will come up surreptitiously, quietly, just getting ready to clear the table. For some reason my wife or my son picks a little something off the plate. The whole team has to back out again, because you can’t clear the table while they’re still eating. Do you ever notice anything about that in restaurants when you’re going around?
Sienna Miller: The thing I heard that was the most extraordinary thing was that if you’re at a table of people, five of you. You’ve ordered different things. Your main courses are ready and they’re on their paths, if someone from that table stands up to go to the bathroom and it takes more than two minutes every dish has to be thrown away. So I just know that if I’m at a dinner table and there are people, I’m like if we’re waiting you do not leave the table. You just stay there.
Mario Batali: Right. In New York now you have to go like 400 yards away from the restaurant if you want to have a cigarette. It could be a month before they come back and you’re waiting for the entrées. A delicate piece of fish can’t hold on two minutes. Certainly a ravioli can’t either. You’ve got to throw it out and restart it.
Bradley Cooper: I never thought about the smoking thing. You’re right. That’s got to be a nightmare.
Mario Batali: They go so far away, because we make them go so far away. Like: “Yes, you have to go to Washington Square Park – the very center. You can’t possibly smoke in front of this. My guests are very upset with you.” Now what do you think about when you have to wait a few more minutes at a reservation…? Uma? You guys never wait for reservations.
Uma Thurman: Not with you, Mario.
Mario Batali: But is there any sympathy toward the situation? You guys have seen it now from a very different way. I would say that among the people at this table, all of you at any of my restaurants have always been incredibly respectful and most delightful, so you’re welcome back at any time.
Bradley Cooper: Thank you.
Mario Batali: But there are people that throw a little fit. They tend not to be the famous people. They tend to be the entitled people. Have you ever seen anything like that at a restaurant? Will you ever in the restaurant’s defense come up to them and say, (clicks tongue) “Please?”
Sienna Miller: It’d be weird to get involved at that point, with a complete stranger. But they definitely get a bad look.
Mario Batali: Right. That’s good, that’s good enough.
Bradley Cooper: It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, but I remember when I was a kid being at a seafood restaurant. The guy actually did it to me. I was a prep cook. He asked me what I put in the crab cakes. I didn’t understand what he was saying. He really wanted me to say as many ingredients as possible, to tell me that my crab cakes weren’t well made, because the more you put in them, the worse it is.
Mario Batali: Right. Anything but crab is always a mistake.
Bradley Cooper: And I thought what an asshole….
Mario Batali: He didn’t trip you up, though.
Bradley Cooper: No. I didn’t really answer him. Then he just explained how smart he was about food.
Mario Batali: That’s something about New York and London, I imagine.
Bradley Cooper: No, this was Somers Point, New Jersey.
Mario Batali: Obviously a training ground for New Yorkers. Where they learn how to be New Yorkers. Let’s go down and embarrass the busboy at the crab place first and see how it feels. Oh yeah, I did. Great, let’s go get on the train and be tough to somebody. Now we’re in Manhattan, here we go. As you go out to eat at the fancy Michelin star restaurants, a lot of the trait is in the tasting menu. And the Michelin critics’ alleged behavior, which you had to be able to figure out as well as you could in the movie. Are you more prone to ordering tasting menus or a la carte now?
All: Tasting menus.
Mario Batali: And why is that?
Sienna Miller: The experience. You want the whole experience. If you don’t have the time… obviously, it depends. But if you’re going to go to a restaurant that has that option, you’ve gone to a really great place. You might as well commit.
Bradley Cooper: It would be like going to the theater and saying I don’t want to see Hamilton. I’d like to see Kinky Boots, please.
Mario Batali: When you’re there…
Bradley Cooper: That’s what I’m saying. When you’re there, you’re like actually tonight…
Mario Batali: Can I skip the second half?
Bradley Cooper: Just a couple of monologues by Noel Coward will be good. I don’t know where Hamilton and Kinky Boots came from. (laughs) That’s so random.
Mario Batali: They’re both fantastic musicals here in New York! Bradley’s auditioning for one of those two apparently. Alright so that’s enough of my questions, let’s hear what you guys have to ask…
Brad you do an amazing job of conveying your character’s complex inner life. How did you relate to him personally? What did you draw inside of you to portray that?
Bradley Cooper: I had a tremendous amount of research. Being able to speak with people in that world. Then, just the script was fantastic. If I had to relate to anything, that idea of the trying to have a goal that you’re setting out to do. An obsession to do the best you can at that, I can definitely relate to that. More than any other character I’ve played, I really saw how different I was from this guy. He lost the joy in what he did. That’s a hell of a thing to lose, as I’m sure you concur, because food is so joyful. If you’ve lost joy in cooking, then wow you are lost. That’s where he is for so much of the movie. Then characters like Helene really re-inject him with the thing that he lost back in Paris.
Mario Batali: I have one question before the rest. My wife wants to know. She knows you didn’t shuck a million oysters, but did you shuck ten of those oysters?
Bradley Cooper: Oh, probably sixty.
Mario Batali: She said “I saw a lot of arms without any bodies, so I was assuming that it was a prep cook.”
Bradley Cooper: No, it was me. There was no double in the whole movie. In fact, they did this thing where the guy loosened about ten of them in the beginning, but we got through them in like half a take. So I was like oh. Then I had this stupid idea that I would bring the bag out which wasn’t pre…
Mario Batali: It looked good though.
Bradley Cooper: No, it was good, but that was the first day of shooting. As you know, I have shucked oysters when I was a prep cook. If you’re ever going to slice your hands, it’s going to be while shucking an oyster. I really thought, I even said to John, I said, “Bro just to let you know if this goes south. You better find a lot of other stuff to shoot.”
With the food aside, this is a film on many levels of recovery and also reinvention. Talk about how you saw your character. Particularly Mr. Cooper, with the recovery, it was not just from substance abuse. It was from a lot of other things too.
Bradley Cooper: In terms of what I was just commenting on before, I think that we find this guy… he’s white knuckling it. He pitches to Tony how he has all the answers and he knows exactly what he’s going to do. But he has absolutely no clue really, because he’s the same guy he was, just minus all the things he did to inoculate himself from his emotions. You’re watching this guy actually spiral even further and further down in the movie, the way that I saw it.
Sienna Miller: For me, I really liked the humanity of this character and how honest it was. She is a single mother. She is doing her best. She’s passionate about cooking, but she’s juggling a lot of balls. Everything seems to be compromised at a certain point. She’s trying her best. I wanted it to be a very real person. I didn’t want to wear makeup or portray it in any inauthentic way possible. The women that I’ve met that work in these kitchens, it’s a very male dominated environment. They have to be really tough and strong. She’s got depth and she’s got pain and it resonated.
What was it like to have to say “yes chef” when everything inside you wanted to “go fuck yourself?”
Sienna Miller: That’s the nature of being in a kitchen, I think. A lesson anyone with the head chef is going to experience. Oui, chef.
I thought the movie was very much like a sports film in another way. It has the arc of the comeback story, the competition. Did any of you feel the same way? Did you get passionately into that competition?
Bradley Cooper: It’s funny you say that. In no way would I ever compare it to Hoosiers, even though that movie is unbelievable. But we were talking about how I loved when Gene Hackman moved to this town living in Barbara Hershey’s house and helping her. He walks out when she’s tilling the field at one point in the middle of winter, and just realizes that he is just so not in his element. Where was he before? We talked about that specific aspect of the character, because that character is a little similar to Adam Jones, in a way with his arc. I really love the idea of: What does he do at night? Adam Jones. Because he’s not sleeping with women. He’s not doing drugs. Well, he’s definitely not getting 12 hours of sleep, either. What does he do? That’s sort of what Hackman does in that house. We had him walking around London, looking in shops, constantly obsessed. What made me think of that was Hoosiers. The Reece character, you have this nemesis, this other guy who’s competing and hiding just how competitive one is. But then we see that little of slice of his personal life. He’s completely destroying his restaurant, just because of a decent review that his old partner got.
There’s a beautiful connection between creating a meal and creating a relationship, also sense memories when you eat specific meals. What are your favorite meals that might draw a sense memory out for you?
Sienna Miller: It’s so hard. We’ve obviously been answering a lot of food questions. There are so many different types of food, but for me there’s something really comforting about my mum’s roasted chicken.
Daniel Brühl: Yesterday I had a fried black rice. I’m half Spanish, my mother’s from Spain. My mom does that a lot, too. It was spectacular at a restaurant called Estela. Boy, crispy fried black rice is just… (mimes ecstacy)
Sam Keeley: |A classic Sunday roast is always going to have something that reminds you of home and comfort and being a child, I guess, which is lovely.
Bradley Cooper: The thing about food is if you throw out any food I’ll tell you what the memory is. That’s the great thing. It really is true.
Mario Batali: Sunday gravy.
Bradley Cooper: Oh yeah, Grandmother. Actually pulling it out of the freezer. Freezing my hand because it was so cold, because we used to freeze the gravy for the week and make it on Sunday, then we just stacked the freezer with it.
Sienna Miller: That’s the thing about food though, it’s just so much more than eating for me. I think for anyone who appreciates it and lives to eat, which somehow all of us pretty much do, but the idea of everybody getting together around food. What that does for relationships and friendships. It’s like the most joyful thing about being alive, so it’s a difficult question to answer because of that.
Mario Batali: A family meal share was probably the most crystallized moment when you were finally on the team. That was when everyone realized, oh yes he’s going to have dinner with us. There was a satisfaction on the whole team, very much like when you have dinner with your family and everyone all of a sudden shows up. Oh wow, we’re all here. This is something really remarkable. Nutrition becomes more than just comestible. It becomes emotional. There’s something to that shared experience. Particularly when you go through a dinner service and work so hard together. With people who you don’t even have to love every day, but you need them then. At the end, you can look back at each other and say: “Yeah, we did it.”
Bradley Cooper: Do you do that in your restaurants?
Mario Batali: Yeah, always.
Bradley Cooper: Because I’ve never had that experience. We never had the family meal.
Mario Batali: In all of our restaurants because we’re lunch and dinner, we have breakfast, lunch and dinner family meals. You can just stop in. The late dinner family meal is like the 12:30 leftover bits of steak put in the pasta with everything. That’s the best one.
Actually Mario this question is for you but the other members of the cast can add in as well, after an entire day of working with very expensive ingredients and all sorts of fancy techniques when the chef goes home and cooks for himself what does he like to eat?
Sienna Miller: Oh that’s a good question.
Mario Batali: I like very simple things. It’s almost always based on product as opposed to technique, so simple duck egg from the farm market, over easy with a slice of fontina and as it is in season right now some shavings of white truffle, just make you feel like, “Yes I’m alone, but I’m the king of alone.” For me it’s the simple stuff or whatever. You make a quesadilla and you put some interesting stuff on it you’ve got. Leftovers play a big part of my favorite things to eat, because you’re not going to sit there and grill a whole steak at 1 o’clock in the morning. But if they had steak at the dinner table at the house – because I’m home at 6 o’clock every night for dinner – and then I go back to work, I know what there is in the fridge when I’m thinking about what I might make when I get home.
What do you think about the whole thing about chefs being rock stars these days? Are any of you so enamored with chefs that you felt like this is somebody really cool that I’d like to meet?
Mario Batali: When I became a chef in 1978, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, at Stuff Your Face Restaurant, cooking was what you did after you got out of the army before you went to jail. Because it was a task that anybody could do. Peeled potatoes would be a part of that world. In the subsequent 30 years, as we’ve watched, food has become more than just something you ate on your way to the theater. or after the game, or between something in the opera. Food became the centerpiece. Whether it’s because it’s entertaining to watch people cook, or entertaining to go to their restaurants, we’ve elevated the players. Whether it’s the wine maker, or the chef, or the maitre d’, or the bartender, mixologist or whatever. They’ve been elevated because it’s really fun and really relaxing to watch someone who really knows what they’re doing do it. Even if you never intend to ever do it just like that, like porn, you just happen to watch it. I might never do it like that, but I’ll probably watch it again. The same thing with food. The whole fascination with nutrition and satisfaction come together in one place. It’s a fascinating thing. So of course chefs are… but I think the next rock stars are going to be the farmers. Who allows the chefs to be the greatest? It’s the one who produces that particular gem lettuce, or that kind of oyster, or this delicious kind of beef, or this magnificent chicken that tastes so much better than all of the chicken you’ve ever tasted. Their ascendency I think is imminent, that’s because we need to understand that we need to get back into our agriculture a little bit. That heroism will be remunerated by paying them the proper amount to get the really good chicken.
Bradley Cooper: But do you think also the term rock star? When I was just doing research, White Heat, that cookbook (by Marco Pierre White) that the photographer had taken a bunch of photographs of this young chef. There’s that one photograph where he looks like Jim Morrison, with the cigarette dangling. You just think: oh there’s this sort of mythical figure. Really it was like a moment in time.
Mario Batali: When people saw that, they suddenly thought: Hey, maybe being a chef is kind of cool.
Bradley Cooper: Right. Exactly. That changed.
Mario Batali: Before that it was in the back of the house. It was ugly, dirty or… you know, the Italian guy in the t-shirt smoking a cigarette out by the dumpster.
Bradley Cooper: Right. To have a guy like that talk about food in such a passionate way, you’re like: Oh, that was a whole new thing.
Mario Batali: Well that was like my first new mentor, Marco Pierre White. I remember just thinking the world is now suddenly something far more interesting. He would take little tagliatelle, take oysters, put them in a little bit of the broth and a little bit of butter, then caviar and some raspberry vinaigrette and then put it back in the shell. You’re like mom never made spaghetti like that. It was so intoxicatingly interesting.
Bradley Cooper: This is a guy who got three stars and at that time had never cooked in France. [But] He was making French cuisine.
Mario Batali: English born, never been to France. Got three stars, and the youngest…
This question is for the movie cooks on the stage, being around food so much while you were making the movie, did any of you gain weight? If you did what did you do to lose the weight or to not gain the weight in the first place?
Sam Keeley: We all had to be pretty careful about the amount of butter that was on the set. All that stuff, but you’re constantly eating, they’re constantly eating, the chefs, constantly tasting. Myself and Sienna were by a particularly tasty station.
Sienna Miller: I was drinking that beef sauce. It’s basically butter, but I just had a spoon.
Sam Keeley: So we just had to be careful with it, yeah.
Sienna Miller: At the same time, you’re working so intensely and its physically really exhausting to be in that environment. It’s boiling hot. So the kind of anxiety and adrenaline and focus that that takes is probably burning off the beef sauce.
Bradley Cooper: I was in the process of losing weight to do a play. I was trying to lose like 40 pounds for The Elephant Man, so it was kind of a nightmare to do a cooking movie in between. If you do watch the film again, you’ll see scenes where my face is like two inches wider than other times. We shot out of sequence. But it was nice. It was lumbering. I’m glad that I had that weight actually. It worked, I thought.
Mario Batali: I gained two pounds watching the movie.
What scene or part of the movie did you think was the biggest challenge and what was the most fun?
Sienna Miller: The biggest challenge for me was the scene where Bradley and I had that confrontation where he called me an infection. (laughs) There was just something about the atmosphere on that day. I think having worked together so intensely on American Sniper, we’d got to a level of trust with each other as actors, where we could just get quite deep quite quickly. It felt very intense. Very real. I think it just really affected the environment. One of those things, it was cathartic and very interesting and very dark, but hard to go through that with someone that you know, with your friend. We had enough of a good relationship and of a good understanding of each other to be able to avoid each other for the rest of the day, without having to apologize, or explain why. But it was just a pretty real moment. Then at the end of your day, you’re like that was a great day. That’s the weird thing about being an actor, the horrible stuff is what makes you feel good. The best part of it for me was the training, learning these skills and being around this incredible cast. We all became really close. We laughed a lot. We worked in a kitchen. We were chefs. We really did it. There were no doubles, as Bradley said. To have that experience of really living another profession is one of the most exciting things of our job, I think.
Uma Thurman: I just had one scene. (laughs) But it was a pleasure. It was just fun. I enjoyed myself.
Bradley Cooper: Yeah that scene was pretty brutal, with Uma.
Uma Thurman: Yeah, we fight the whole time.
Bradley Cooper: I think the scene with Matthew Rhys was probably the most shocking one. That’s at the end of the movie, when he shows up at his nemesis’ restaurant. It was late at night, we didn’t have much time and the bag thing just sort of happened in one of the takes. Then it just feels vulnerable when you’re doing something like that in front of 12 people that you don’t know at all, the chefs in Reece’s restaurant. But ultimately it was beautiful because Reece – Matthew Rhys, who plays Reece – was just incredible. We didn’t really know each other at all and then the next thing you know he’s caressing me and trying to calm me down. We’re bonded forever. Matter of fact, I haven’t really seen him since. I look forward to seeing him tonight because we just looked at each other after and were just like why we both love doing what we do? Is it to be able to really put yourself in imaginary circumstances and hope that accidents like putting a bag on your head and realizing you’re going to kill yourself happen.
I had no idea, until I saw the movie, this idea about food trends that can come back after a few years and everybody will say, the way you were preparing that is all wrong. Are there any food trends today that you dislike or think are stupid? And for Sienna and Uma, being fashionable people that you are, how do trends influence that?
Uma Thurman: I think it’s very important to avoid trends. That’s just because I’m me, because I’ve been doing it for so long. (laughs)
Sienna Miller: Yeah I don’t really follow like, oh that’s the cool thing to wear. I have an aesthetic that I like. I’m sure it’s the same as everyone sitting at this table. You wear what you think is nice and what makes you feel good. And food trends: No, I think I’d try anything. There’s nothing that I feel [weird about]. First of all I’m not particularly aware of them.
But they make a big point in the movie of saying…
Sienna Miller: Well the Sous Vide. Yeah I think that food Sous Vide stuff is delicious. But I also like barbecue stuff so….
Bradley I love how messy your character kept the suite in the Langham. Does that mimic at all how you are with your real hotel room? And what did you learn about cooking that you will take with you?
Bradley Cooper: No I’m the opposite. I would feel horrible if I had left the room like that. Spoon. We were talking about this yesterday. I always thought spoon was the sort of bastard child of the utensils, but it’s the optimal most worthwhile and an essential element to any cook if they’re going to cook. I did not know that before. Also the great thing, I loved how Marco and Gordon talked about plating food. Once you make a choice live with it, if you ever see a chef…
Sienna Miller: … Adjusting…
Bradley Cooper: … it’s over. They were so clear about that when I was plating food in the movie. I thought that was really interesting. You have your vision, improvise with it and then that’s it. (to Mario) Would you agree with that?
Mario Batali: Oh completely. Once you second guess yourself in any craft you’re done.
Sienna, of the tricks that you learned as a chef, is there one thing that you’ll take away from this set as far as a food hack or a kitchen tip that you’ll be using for the rest of your days? And maybe Daniel about getting a table?
Sienna Miller: I think just learning. They taught us how to cook fish, which is a simple delicious thing, but really easy to get wrong. I now have a pretty solid and well rehearsed technique as to how to cook fish pretty well. It’s impressive. I have a dinner party, so that’s nice.
One of the things that keep coming up in the movie is that there is a lot of emphasis placed on quiet, respect and validation for one’s work. Who or what gives you validation or pride in your work? Also, can you talk about John Wells’ directing style?
Bradley Cooper: Personally I’d say having a good day’s work. Feeling like I have given it my all. Being with people like the people up here. Feeling that we actually created something together. That gives me great fulfillment. Somebody like John Wells creates an environment where that can happen. For example, when I was just mentioning the scene with Matthew Rhys, I mean you have to have a director that knows exactly what he or she wants and is really inviting the collaborative experience. For me, all the years that I’ve worked, the best directors are the ones that are the most collaborative, always. He was like that. Always willing to hear from everybody. Treated every single person with the same value. The real cook who was in the back, if he had an idea [Wells] would listen to it just as much as when I said something. Those aspects of a director, you want to gravitate towards people like that.
Sienna Miller: Yeah. I think the validation question is complicated, because it depends. It really has to come from somewhere in you. I’ve certainly had experiences in the past where I felt like on that particular day maybe I didn’t show up to the degree that I wish I had. It’s hard to feel fulfilled, regardless of what the response is to that. I think you really have to know that you’ve done everything you can to put everything you can into what you’re working on. That in itself is validation, because ultimately it is a question of taste. These things do ebb and flow. People like stuff and don’t. I read reviews of films that I adore and they are terrible and vise versa. It’s just not personal. Everybody has their own opinions. You have to just turn down the noise on too much praise, or criticism. Just do your best.
Uma Thurman: I find that other actors and other creative people in films too, when another actor is nice to you, it’s very moving. You’re sort of surprised, like: Oh really? Thanks! People really understand what it’s like. Its most impactful sometimes.
Sam Keeley: Finding truth in moments is always a lovely thing. It could be anything, but if it’s a genuine thing, you guys will feel that as a result and resonate off of you. Then the audience will feel it. I think that in itself, even if it’s not fireworks, is validation enough to make you go and do your job right.
Mario, you spoke on the three-star Michelins. How does one become one?
Mario Batali: Well the Michelin guide is very anonymous. We never know who they are. They present it a little bit in the movie like they could’ve figured it out. Maybe in Europe it’s a little bit different, but the Michelin guide in America is a little harder to figure out. Because like Del Posto has one star, and The Spotted Pig had one star. So if you come from another town and you’re using the book, you’re thinking, well I just went to the Del Posto, let me go to The Spotted Pig. You might be surprised, or even discomfited by it, because it’s an entirely different experience. So the judging is something we’re always trying to figure out. We don’t really get to question them, but it’s certainly a prize. One of the things that we do in the restaurant business is if we’re not treated well in a guide book we tell all our friends “No one reads that fucking book! Who cares?” But if you’re in the book: “Oh, yeah, this is probably one of the most influential books.” We’re always trying to crack it, but at the end of the day – and that goes back to the validation question – we’re really cooking for ourselves in our kitchen. We’re really just trying to figure out how to share that experience in the best way. We find it exciting knowing and paying attention to every cook in the world. Finding out what they’re doing and what’s going on in the ingredients. A lot of customers come in and they don’t really care about any information at all. They want something to eat. They really want to talk with their friends. They really don’t want to talk to a waiter, or hear about the chef’s passions, because they’re just there for something. Finding a way to bridge all of those options is having great front of the house staff who can read the customer and say these people are really interested, maybe you want to go talk to them. Or maybe these people don’t really want to hear about anything. Don’t go near their table. They’re busy. That’s what the guide book rewards, our ability to make that experience seamless for any level of different kinds of groups of people that come in. Fundamentally, we’re cooking for ourselves. We’re building a restaurant so that we are most impressed with what we do. That’s the validation, when we look and other chefs come in and say, “Wow that was a good thing. That was a great thing.”
What kind of tippers are you? And Mario what do you think of Danny Meyers’ no tipping policy in restaurants?
Mario Batali: Let’s hear about the tippers first. I’ll bet you these are all very good tippers.
Sienna Miller: England is really bad with tipping. It’s just not in any way a part of the culture that it is here. Often it’s included, but it would be 10%. If it’s not, you can be as generous as you want, but like, in a taxi you don’t have to tip. It’s just different. I guess that wages are maybe higher and it doesn’t balance out the same, but here, yeah that’s where people make their money, on tips. So you better be conscious of that.
Daniel Brühl: Same in Germany. It’s 10%, so it always takes me a day in to understand. I always get these strange looks the first day I’m here.
Mario Batali: As soon as the American waiter hears your European accent, they’re like: Oh, here’s one for the house. To that answer, that’s why Danny Meyers is taking this on, because what they’re doing is they’re changing the minimum wage. It used to be that you could pay a waiter $4 or $5 an hour and they would still make 70 or 80 or 100,000 dollars a year, because they would be remunerated by great tips. The idea of the good side of that is that you’ll work hard, because good tips are clearly a part of good service. The other side is that the whole team is working just as hard. A team player guy like Danny Meyer, it would seem that everyone should share in the upside. They should all be a part of it. Danny’s trying to get his hands and his heads around keeping the restaurant business sustainable. Meaning that the business can profit and continue to do what it does in any way against the different things that are changing in the world. While we try to figure out how to equitably distribute any money for the people that are deserving of it. It’s a double sided knife, a three sided coin, and a five sided conundrum. He came out first, and that takes a lot of balls. I look forward to seeing how he figures it out. Of course, my team has been working on this for five months, but we were not prepared to come out as the leader of the pack in this. We’ve got to really think this out and really do town hall meetings, not only with our staff, but with our customers, to figure out exactly what they think is good.
So Del Posto might follow suit?
Mario Batali: I would say if there’s a first one, that would be the easiest one to do because it’s a pris fixe menu there. Del Posto will probably be the first one that follows some kind of a line, what we’re going to call servito incluso.
Just to follow up on your question, Bradley you’ve come out in support of Jennifer Lawrence’s comments about wage equality for women, which actually kind of parallels your character’s growth in his relationship to women, treating them as equals. Would you like to comment on stepping forth?
Bradley Cooper: Thank you, but there’s nothing to really congratulate. I mean if anyone is to be congratulated its Sienna, who took a stand, a very huge stand. (to Sienna) Not to put you on the spot… anyway. All I was saying was that it’s a tricky thing to talk about money. I’m never aware of what anyone else gets, unless you’re approached to give some of your money. Because to make a movie is getting harder and harder. People are paying less and less. People are always taking pay cuts. That’s my experience. So the only time you ever find out about somebody else is if you have to divvy up the pie differently so someone will come on and do it. But you’re not aware of what other people are getting also, so why not just be transparent and say “Okay, here’s the pie. Let’s divvy it up talk about it.”
Mario Batali: Wage equality is unassailable, just like marriage equality is unassailable. These are things that in 40 years we’ll look back and be like: wow, that’s just like not letting people on the bus. It’s inevitable that its going to happen. It’s just a question of who’s going to take the heat on the first day, or the first prize. Then it’ll all settle out. It has to. It’s natural. It will be equilibrium.
Copyright ©2015 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 25, 2015.
Photos ©2015 Jay S. Jacobs and Brad Balfour. All rights reserved.