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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Watch With Me: Burnt, the Movie with Chef Adam Jones. No, Dude. Just No.


What did I expect from Burnt, the movie? I was excited by the mere idea of seeing it, and looked forward to the event -- and it definitely affected my appetite, which is partly good I tell ya. But its not ALL good, unfortunately. Nope. Though there's always hunger when you go see a food film. Isn't that what it's about?

Burnt, the Movie was positioned as the entree on a proclaimed Foodie Day where the appetizers were lunching and perusing the new Standard Foods in Raleigh, then sliding down to Wine Authorities, to be finally followed by watching Burnt, and the day would be polished off with the dessert of dinner at Ruth Chris which was the first time I went there. But that's another story.

Burnt, the Movie's ambiance still sizzles and smokes well over a week later, as the mood it left is frenetic. But noisy without much to show for it. The film opened with a problem and a quest for Adam Jones, the chef to secure his third Michelin star. I might not quest after that myself, but I was down for the journey, with the hope that he's going to change my mind about why I should want a Michelin star of my very own. But then that desire skirted away like a plate smashed into the wall. I loved the eating and restaurant and chefy scenes in London as a warm-up, and giggled at how to get a chef out of prison, and the mention of their shared lurid life in Paris, (which are even more precious now) but I wanted to deeply feel exactly what Mr Bradley Cooper said he wanted. "I want my food to make people stop eating, I want my food to fill people with longing."

I was filled with longing, believe me. For much more. But not in the way they had intended.

My friend who had suggested seeing it, clearly longed for Bradley Cooper, just in case he jumped off the screen I guess and well, presented us that option. So okie dokes. Go girl. No problem. Moi on the other hand, I hadn't even known that Bradley Cooper was in the movie - in fact I remember thinking who? Bradley Cooper?

My anticipation was built around Tony. I mistakenly thought Burnt was my long awaited movie, with a name change from "Seared" that was a loosely crafted story around the book, Kitchen Confidential. I hungered to sit in the theater and absorb some Tony, even if someone else was playing him. Ok, so I need help. At one time "Seared" was to feature Brad as Tony. Don't judge, but who wouldn't be willing to go through Brad to get to Tony. I don't have to remind you that Tony is Anthony Bourdain, do I? OK, I didn't think so.

[Side Dish: After watching Burnt, I had to be sure I hadn't conjured up the whole "Seared" thing. So I googled "Seared" and found that there was a film called Seared -- and it was released in 2008, But that was the story of a butcher in a sleepy rural town who has his day turned upside down after a visit from a mysterious and beautiful Stranger. But was the butcher played by, Tony aka Brad, or was Tony aka Brad, the beautiful stranger? Neither it turns out. I dug further into the Google-verse, and found that the Kitchen Confidential story was filmed by Fox into a mini-series but scrapped after 13 episodes. The pilot was shot at Maison Giraud in Los Angeles, and a sound stage was built replicating the restaurant.]

In another subplot, Adam gets the girl, in this case Helene, a Chef de Partie who doesn't "know how good she is?" I think there's room for improvement in this love arena. Its also so demeaning to have the female restaurant critic, Uma Thurman, dumbed down to having slept with Adam - the one concession she made to being a lesbian - I mean, really, they both deserve better! It's sadly pretty typical and predictable that the sous chef, Helene, believes in him, and quietly takes care of him, at the cost of her career, and her daughter. Though their relationship does have a trajectory - they start off less than amiable. He lures her to the job with a promise of triple the pay, then ridicules her and abuses her in front of his staff. Dude. No. Just no. I am more impressed by a chef who can communicate without breaking plates or grabbing people and shouting. I mean ho hum, how much imagination and humanity does it take to break plates and beat your chest shouting "Are these knives sharp?" Uh, my appetite is seriously in jeopardy, Adam. And I'm getting increasingly uneasy about these immersion circulators - I'm not sure you really like to cook.

But sigh, Adam Jones is hungry for and going for his third Michelin Star. What does this even mean? He's seriously delusional as once awarded a chef doesn't "keep" a Michelin star for life. His motivation for this isn't really explored either. We surmise its to fill the hole left by his childhood, but I wanted to travel with him till he sat with understanding sandwiched with sanction by the world and chewed down that fleeting and bitter taste. Sanction by the world doesn't mean success. It means that the success owns you, instead of the hole you were escaping. OK, IS this thinking too deep for a food movie?

The journey culminates in a short transformation of His kitchen into his Team's kitchen. When the Michelin Team arrives for real to evaluate the restaurant, Adam simply says, "We do what we do." And so the once frenzy filled kitchen of mayhem and adrenaline and extreme ducking to avoid being smacked in the head by a plate becomes a place where they, at least temporarily, pull off a good enough presentation to warrant a Michelin star. The steps to this place could have been filled with pride and passion, but felt very empty for sure, to me.


And then there's the scene where Adam uses a fork in a non-stick pan while making an omelet, which is like nails on a chalkboard. Arrggghhh. Maybe this scene was supposed to be a take-off of the famous and long and silent end scene in Big Night - where Stanley Tucci makes a silent omelet for his brother, and then the dishwasher comes in and jumps up on the counter to eat it too. There's more feeling in that one scene of Big Night than in the whole of Burnt. One more reason I left hungry, and longing but not in the way Adam (or the director) intended!

Apparently Gordon Ramsey was an executive producer and I wonder if he believes all this hype?

I offer this tarragon-inspired dish as a peace offering, and apologize that there are no borage flowers for garnish.

Bacon-Crusted Foie Gras on Turnip Shallot Cakes, with Pruneau d’Agen Tarragon Glaze




The Finished Dish





The Pruneau d'Agen Tarragon Glaze





The Turnip Shallot Cakes


I developed this recipe for Charcutepalooza in 2012, with one of the different varieties of bacon I made. For this dish it was red date bacon, which we loved loved loved! The dish also melds our family's love for French and Asian food. Perhaps it could be renamed amuse sum or dim bouche to combine amuse bouche and dim sum. Can you imagine? Just don't use an immersion circulator or a blender.

for pruneau d’agen glaze

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup tarragon, or other herb vinegar

4 pruneau d’agen, pitted and chopped

1 tangerine, peeled and sliced

1 bay leaf

pinch salt

for cakes:

2 slices red date, or other, bacon, chopped

2 shallots, thinly sliced

1 turnip, shredded

1/2 tsp salt and szechuan pepper

2 tablespoons rice flour

vegetable oil for frying

for foie gras

2 slices of foie gras, 1 ½ inch thick

4 slices red date, or other bacon, minced to a paste

sea salt and black pepper

first make pruneau d’agen glaze

in a small sauce pot combine honey, vinegar, pruneau, tangerine, and bay leaf.

bring to a boil. reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the sauce is reduced to a thick syrup, 

about 20 minutes. remove from the heat, discard bay leaf. taste and adjust seasoning for more honey 

or vinegar. add salt. keep warm on stove.


next, make turnip cakes

in a large bowl, mix shredded turnip, shallots, and scallions. spoon in rice flour, salt, and pepper. 

mix until incorporated.

heat a cast iron frying pan over medium heat.

add the bacon and fry till crisp. if needed add another tablespoon of vegetable oil. 

divide turnip mixture into five cakes in the hot fat.

fry on medium heat, turning to brown evenly on both sides, probably five minutes per side. 

do not burn.

position on two serving plates. keep the pan on medium. wipe out if necessary.

lastly, sear the foie gras.

mince the bacon. pack the bacon together and press firmly to both sides of the foie gras. sprinkle 

with sea salt and pepper. (if you want to you can refrigerate at this point.)

in the still hot cast iron pan, add the slices of foie gras. being careful when turning, and sear both 

sides. (don’t worry if some of the bacon falls off, just scrape it back on the foie gras for serving.)

place seared foie on hot turnip cake and spoon glaze over the top.

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