Bradley Cooper loves to cook and he considers himself a good one.
So it's easy to see why he took on his latest role in the film Burnt, where he plays enfant terrible chef Adam Jones, an unlikeable screamer with a dark past pursuing his third Michelin star, concerned only about himself and riding roughshod over everyone else.
In person, Cooper, 40, is likeable, with a sharp wit, so it's good casting to get a guy who can play a jerk and not lose the audience's sympathy.
We met at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills to talk about Burnt, which opens here tomorrow. The conversation became mostly about food and his enthusiasm for it.
He waxed eloquent about his Italian grandmother's cheesecake ("the best") and her "amazing" homemade ravioli and gavadeel (a kind of pasta), and his mother's roast beef.
We asked the US actor if he wanted to be a chef when he was growing up.
"I wanted to be a ninja, I wanted to be a cowboy, I wanted to be a soldier. But I grew up where everything happened in the kitchen. My mother is Italian so it was all about what are we going to eat, what have we just eaten and what will we put in the freezer to eat tomorrow.
"That was the centre of the conversation. So I love to cook and I've always loved to cook," he said.
Cooper also worked as a busboy in restaurants at 15 and as a prep cook in an Italian restaurant at 18. "I have been on the other side of being berated by an executive chef," he said.
The set simulated a high-end kitchen with working stoves. Trained chefs were in the non-speaking roles and a Michelin-starred chef consultant designed dozens of dishes that had to be duplicated over and over on-screen, as though it were a real kitchen.
Cooper said: "(Director) John Wells created a scenario where that kitchen was functioning and we would get the menu at the beginning of the day and all of the needs would be set.
"Then I would call out the order and he would roll the camera and put it in different positions, but we would then function as a kitchen.
People were getting burned and cut. There was a lot of pressure that we felt personally, trying to just not embarrass ourselves."
How hard was it to stay away from all the food on set?
"I ate a lot in the movie. We ate everything that was there in the kitchen. But I had to lose 40 pounds (18kg) since this was between American Sniper and (the play) The Elephant Man that I did last year.
"(In the movie), I look 10 pounds heavier in one scene than another scene because I was desperately trying to lose weight. Which made it complicated because I was around such amazing food all day long," he said.
So what is in his refrigerator right now?
"Calamari, shrimp and some orange juice and some green juice and celery."
What would he make for dinner? "I will probably saute the calamari with butter and shallots and with some shrimp, butterfly it, and then put it over some tomatoes and make it simple."
And is he a screamer like perfectionist Jones when things don't go his way?
"I don't really scream much, but disrespect drives me crazy. And wasting people's time. Time is a really valuable thing. Those are two little sore spots, I would say...
"I think as I have got older, I am much more willing to fail. It feels like a good thing and it feels healthy."
For the movie, he was reunited with American Sniper co-star Sienna Miller. The British actress, who played his wife, is now his protege-love interest in Burnt.
It seems natural to ask why he works with people more than once. After all, he's also in director David O. Russell's upcoming film Joy, with Jennifer Lawrence. The trio collaborated in Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and American Hustle (2013).
Cooper said: "I had done three with David and four with Jennifer and five with Robert De Niro at this point, and to be able to go back feels so comfortable.
"I love to work with people again and again and I begged Sienna to do this movie because we were doing Sniper. I am her biggest fan. She's so untapped as an actor.
"The fact that we did two movies where she got to stretch so much - I was happy to facilitate that in any way that I could," he said.
This article was first published on October 28, 2015.
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