Michelin-star chef Marcus Wareing is making his way around the kitchen yelling at a quivering, sweating brigade of prep and line cooks. As he stops at each station to dissect performances and throw dishes of food, the staff bows their heads in shame. If they were to look up over his shoulder, though, they would see four-time Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper dressed in his own head chef's outfit making note of the mad scene — which is completely staged. Last summer the two were in production on Burnt, a new drama about an acclaimed chef who leaves Paris to start his own landmark restaurant in London.
"Bradley asked me if I would should him how I would give the kitchen a proper bollocking," laughs Wareing, recounting the story while en route to dinner service at Marcus in London, his own landmark restaurant. In a past life Wareing was a partner of iconic hothead Gordon Ramsay, and worked under Marco Pierre White — the chef who made Ramsay cry — so he's sharpened his teeth with the best. Wareing describes his tips to breaking down a lagging crew: "You're looking for the mistake. You're propping them in the chest. You're snarling at them. You're sweating in their face. And you're giving them the ‘hair-drying treatment', which is basically blowing at them at such a high volume that they feel it on their face."
That method is recreated in an explosive scene where Cooper's character Adam Jones decimates the fresh young staff of his newly opened eponymous restaurant, set in London's Langham Hotel. The tantrum hits a pinnacle when Cooper makes his sous chef Helene, played by Sienna Miller, apologize to a turbot for wasting its life with her failed preparation. Wareing says he loved watching the scenes in which Cooper takes the room to task. "I felt like he really embodied the passion that a true chef would have under those circumstances."
But yelling wasn't all that Wareing taught Cooper during their two months together at Marcus. Cooper had just wrapped on the now record-breaking army drama American Sniper and Wareing decided to become more of a mentor than a drill sergeant. "I figured he had just come from actual boot camp, so I wasn't going to make the kitchen one as well." Instead the actor observed the making of each plate and the staff's own behaviors. "He always had one eye on the dish you were making and one eye on you." It didn't hurt that Cooper had some small pedigree to start with; he had worked as a prep cook in New Jersey and he had previous portrayed an Anthony Bourdain-inspired character in the TV series Kitchen Confidential.
The most important lesson that Cooper believes he learned from Wareing was the importance of constantly tasting his projects. "I had always thought that the spoon was the bastard child of the utensils, but I found out it was the most important tool to a chef," Cooper says. He laments that at the time he was in process of losing 40 pounds to play The Elephant Man and wasn't able to enjoy as much as he would have liked, despite every dish on set worthy of eating and cooked to perfection.
In the end it was Cooper who pushed himself the hardest, shucking dozens of oysters and beheading grouse. He poured blood and sweat for the role, literally. Wareing says during their time together he saw true abilities in the thespian, even if it was just a part time gig. "He showed some very impressive skill."
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