Interview by Daen Palma Huse
Photography by Ram Shergill
Fashion Direction by Margherita Gardella
Styling by Moritz Lindert
Grooming by Sara Sorrenti using MAC
Sam Keeley is starring opposite Bradley Cooper in the film Burnt that is out now. Having grown up in Tullamore in the heart of Ireland – a place that is famous for Tullamore Dew whiskey – he has been filming all over the world and has an impressive amount of films being released this year and next. Besides Burnt he is playing a part in the film Alleycats, which is an action thriller, and has shown his versatility by switching genre, showing his many different sides.
After many great films like the Hundred Foot Journey with Helen Mirren or the outstanding German production Bella Martha (Mostly Martha in English) with Martina Gedeck and it’s less outstanding Hollywood remake No Reservations, Burnt let us hope for a great film that is however different to what we have seen so far. The trailer and Sam Keeleys’ description of his character David leaves us hungry for more and we are excited about this release. We got the chance to talk with Sam Keeley about his role in Burnt - and what it means to cook at Michelin Star level.
Can you describe the character David that you play in the film in one sentence?
David is a young ambitious chef who wants to make a name for himself in the Michelin star world and has been cooking since he could walk.
How would you describe your characters' relation to Adam Jones played by Bradley Cooper? David says Adam is like the Rolling Stones in cooking - is he a role model for him?
Adam hires David and the character says in the scene where they meet that he has studied Adam’s recipes and always been a hero of his. The opportunity to be able to work with someone that he admires is a huge thing for him. There is the need to prove himself in the kitchen – to be good enough to be there.
I think the relationship starts out quite tentative- Adam comes to stay with David as he doesn’t have a place to live. As it progresses it gets more and more comfortable being around the ‘chaos’ of this character.
The trailer seems very emotional - is there a lot of layering in the characters?
The story brings you along in a lovely way with the characters that draw you in and I think in that sense it is emotional. I think the characters are layered and you can delve into that as much as you like. Particularly Bradley's, mine and Sienna’s character are also shown in their private life so people can get familiar with them.
Is David a confident person?
I think anyone who is a young chef is confident. They couldn’t be in that profession if they weren’t – it’s a very high stress environment and its hard people shouting in your face, you have to get it right. They are in that kitchen because they believe and know they deserve to be there. David is definitely one of those people, being good at what he does - and he knows that. At certain points of the films the pressure does get to him though, you can see that.
Do you like cooking?
My dad cooks a lot, I've always liked cooking. For me cooking was peaceful and it would be a time to chill out and do nothing else. I had no idea about the level of commitment it took to be a Michelin Star chef. John Wells, our director, got myself and a few others to watch a full service for two weeks. We’d go in and out and watch. David’s specialty is knives and meat so I was butchering pigeons, preparing the meats and watching the chefs and every move, trying to remember what they do. We were allowed to view the controlled chaos!
Which dish reminds you of home?
I’d have to say it’s a classic Sunday roast! Always brings about a home feeling: an Irish roast.
Would you say there is typical Irish food?
I guess it’s a variation. I don’t think as Ireland we have a national dish. We don’t have a huge foodie culture. Because it was poor for so long it evolved around stews and a big medley of things.
What do you enjoy most: a technical challenge or getting a simple dish perfect?
I’ll always go simple in a good way. But the thing about the Michelin Star cooking is that it is food art. Different ingredients and very different to cooking a hearty meal at home, which is always amazing. Michelin is a world itself – cooking fish in seconds and having to prepare the sauce at the right moment in order to plate it. Once you plate food you have three minutes to eat it, otherwise you might as well through the whole dish away. To me that is something amazing, and on screen it looks like I can do it!
What do you take from the film?
I can chop things really fast now – safely! I can baste fish in butter quickly. Making a lot of sauces and tasting to get the balance right. I don’t know how much I will take of that into my private cooking but I have definitely learned a lot.
How is Burnt different to other films that show the kitchen and chefs?
I don’t think there has been a film that pays this much attention to the details of a life of a chef. There are many big personalities, celebrity chefs. I think it is nice to see what these people put in to be a chef. The hours and hard life they put in and for their art, they suffer for their art and through that they attain some level of invincibility. You'll see that in Adam Jones’ character; they suffer, are covered in burns, have little social life etc. but the result to that is they absolutely love it. To me the film Burnt gives a view through the keyhole and you get a taste of what this life actually is.
Hierarchy in the kitchen is predominant and important – is this hierarchy broken by David’s and Adam’s private relationship?
They call the group of chefs in a kitchen a brigade. Some of the best chefs came from the military and that hierarchy is similar. Today some of these traditions are carried through and that social hierarchy exists. You have the commanding officer and then his sous-chef who is second in command and it works all the way down the line to people chopping etc. who would be kind of privates if you like. Still the uniform hast to be intact, spotless clean, all these things. That exists throughout all kitchens I have seen. It was important for us to get that right and I think you made an interesting point in saying that Adam comes to live with David, but it is interesting to see how that doesn’t affect his characters choices and it shows how strong he actually is. I think it was important for us to know our roles in the kitchen – we did 15 minute long takes where we were just cooking. We have to prepare and bring the food – in order for that to work you need to understand who calls the shots, and in this case it is Adam that does and you have to work based on that. That’s what makes the food great.
Burnt is showing in cinemas throughout the UK from 6th of November.
Shot at Leica Studio S in London using the new Leica SL.