As a girl growing up on a farm in Northern Ireland, I always knew that I wanted to work at the very top level. I was incredibly passionate about food and inspired by some of the greatest chefs in the world, I wanted to work for them and find out what made them the way they were. I loved the creativity, the artistry and the delicate balance of flavors in food that takes you as a chef to another level.
From gaining experience in kitchens all over the world from -- London, France, Australia, both coasts of the United States -- this work has shown me that in the face of great talents, you have the opportunity to absorb something different from everyone you cross paths with. There's no single recipe for being the best at what you do, forgive the pun, but the goal is to combine all those ideologies into your own philosophy about great food. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity at the age of 28 to head up a three Michelin-starred restaurant, a rare honor for a chef and an even rarer one for a woman. I'm not really one to dwell on accolades like that, but I do know that I wouldn't have been able to reach those heights without having had the experience of training under the other great chefs.
Being a top chef we often get opportunities to work outside the kitchen and in the world of TV, radio, books, but I'd never had the opportunity to work with an actor before. One day Gordon announced to me that Bradley Cooper had reached out about a new film he was working on about our industry, and that he wanted our help. Bradley is hugely passionate about food and frequent visitor of top restaurants so it was a privilege to have him in the kitchen with me.
Working with Bradley Cooper on Burnt was an unprecedented experience. Bradley put on his chefs whites and I thought he'd just hang out for a bit in the background, but what really surprised me after spending the time together was just how inquisitive he was. He saw and picked up everything, which made me realize that he was getting inside my head. I was so impressed with the detail and the methods he used to understand the psychology of the chef. He stayed there right to the end of service, soaking up everything he saw, the way we spoke, how I held a spoon or tweezers. He said he wanted any professional chefs who watched the film to feel like he'd done the job justice and that really resonated with me. His schedule became like ours which shows you have to work that hard, to be that good and the top of your game.
For a long while now, I've regarded him as one of the greatest actors in the world, both on screen and in the theatre. This opinion was based strictly on my place as an audience member - taking him in from a distance and not really understanding what it takes to get that polished final product.
I've always drawn a parallel between being a top chef and a professional athlete; both require an immeasurable amount of discipline and focus, and you have to remain committed even when your confidence waivers or your dream will slip away very quickly. After working with the filmmaking team on Burnt, however, I suddenly realize that you can just as easily draw a comparison between my job and that of an actor. There's painstaking attention to the little things involved with both, an eagerness to learn and an unusual amount of drive required in order to achieve the desired result. Both require a willingness to recognize greatness in others and the energy to try and replicate what you've taken from those people. And both have that element of mystery that I'd never fully contemplated before, but quite appreciate. After all, the consumers of your creation -- whether it's a gorgeous plate of food or a moving theatrical performance -- never see what it took to get there. They only taste the flavors and are entertained by what they see on screen. That end result is what we work for though, and why we all love what we do.