First-time director Sandra Nettlebeck introduces Martha (Martina Gedeck) as an obsessive-compulsive chef at a chic restaurant in Hamburg, Germany, with no friends, no love interest, and no life other than an unparalleled knowledge of cuisine and the ability to cook any gourmet meal to perfection. As expected from an against-all-odds love story, Martha embodies the typically cinematic diamond-in-the-rough protagonist combining talent and beauty yet faced with a fatal flaw that plunges her into misery. Touted by her boss as "the second best chef in the city," she appears haughty and overly obsessed with "cooking by the book." In fact, in all her culinary glory she forgets that despite her impressive skills, the customer is always right. It becomes clear that Martha's manic tendencies must be overcome in order for her to gain personal fulfillment.
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Swinton herself is an ex-boarding school pupil.