It's not really a story about cooking so much as it is about second chances. Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) was a top Parisien chef who just destroyed his life with drugs. Along the way he apparently participated in many destructive relationships, some of which he doesn't even remember.
But now he's clean and sober, and he still has his talent, so he's applying himself with vigor to his dramatic comeback, this time in London.
The problem is that the world of culinary sophistication is pretty small. The top chefs at the top restaurants know each other, and likely at some poiut worked together under the same mentor. This makes keen rivalries, but also intense jealousies. You don't just walk into the best restaurant in London and demand the chef's position. But people like Adam Jones are way past being able to “start from the bottom” at a fast-food restaurant as a short-order cook. It would be like asking Napoleon, back from his exile, to start over as a lieutenant and work his way back up to general.
But as in warfare, times change, and skill sets get outdated. Adam Jones won his two Michelin stars five years before, skillfully utilizing a frying pan, which is now out of vogue. And kitchens now utilize plastic bags to marinate certain dishes, which at first Adam just would not tolerate. Nor was he very good at delegating, or trusting the cooks around him. Somehow he manages to land a good spot, and attract a few of his old cooks who happen to be around and available. But in his heart he's a loner. He likes to haunt the fish markets and farmer's markets and buy things himself, which is awfully time-consuming. He has a tendency to lose his temper easily, especially in the midst of a very busy kitchen laboriously preparing dinner dishes that are all supposed to be first-rate, creative, and blow-you-away delicious (also very pricey).
Though Adam has sworn off wine, women, and song (well, he wasn't really addicted to the latter), one of his old cooks, Helene (Sienna Miller) does manage to penetrate the emotional walls he's put around himself, and now Adam finds himself fighting yet another set of demons: how to not get consumed by obsessing over a new relationship? Yes, he's all too aware of his addictive, O.C.D.-type restless personality, and is afraid of making himself vulnerable...again.
There's not as much romance as you would think. It's perhaps a bigger milestone when Adam Jones sits down to eat with the rest of the kitchen crew: he's finally ready to trust others, and re-join the land of the living. We root for Bradley Cooper because we want to see him succeed. A good redemption story is good for the soul.
Just don't go to this movie hungry.

Questions For Discussion:
  1. When have you needed a second chance? Who was willing to give you one, and who wasn't?
  2. Is really, really fine cuisine worth the extra expense?
  3. Is it ever a good idea to indulge in a relationship with a co-worker?

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Supply Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Kaufman, Texas