'The Bear' Earns a Resounding "Yes Chef" Created by Christopher Storer
Starring Jeremy Allen White, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Ayo Edebiri, Abby Elliott, Lionel Boyce, Liza Colón-Zayas, Edwin Lee Gibson, Matty Matheson
Published Aug 03, 2022There must be word for the feeling The Bear inspires. It's not quite schadenfreude (there's no joy to be taken here) — it's having a deep fascination with the chaos of the Original Beef's kitchen, despite it being incredibly unsettling and uncomfortable. There's endless shouting, frenetic movements and lots of sweat, but The Bear isn't just about being an anxiety-inducing ride. It's a raw and unfiltered look at a restaurant's back of house, with multiple deep character studies to invest in. A show that seemingly came out of nowhere this summer, The Bear is the perfect blend of comedy and drama, heart and pandemonium.
Set in Chicago, Carmen "Carmy" Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) is one of the best chefs in the world — according to Eater, anyway. He's built a career for himself working in the top restaurants around the globe, but after his brother Mikey's untimely passing, Carmy packs up his tweezers and caviar and heads home to the Windy City.
Leaving behind the pristine kitchens of haute cuisine, Carmy takes over his brother's Italian beef sandwich shop, the Original Beef. Gone is the Escoffier-created brigade de cuisine system — Carmy's working within a tailor-made system that's disorganized, too relaxed and messy. And those overly ambitious Le Cordon Bleu culinary school graduates Carmy had under his supervision? They're replaced with a hardened crew of Chicago natives who are good at what they do and aren't keen on some snobby chef changing things up.
Series creator Christopher Storer does a great job of capturing the claustrophobia of a kitchen. "Corner!" and "Behind!" are yelled a lot throughout the show, as each member of the team tries to avoid collisions as they pass one another in the tight space. Lots of other random words are shouted as well, some that will be alien in context to many and familiar to those who have taken up arms in the kitchen trenches. But all the same, Storer and his writers don't take the time to explain any of it. Rather than take up time to explain every little thing, The Bear refreshingly pushes along at breakneck speed, just as a kitchen would.
Our guide into the kitchen is through Sydney (Ayo Edebiri), a young and talented chef whose attempt to run her own catering company failed. She joins the team in Episode 1, and, in a bid to prove herself to Carmy, proposes a bunch of new ideas to improve the Original Beef. Her counter is Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), best friend to Mikey and a de facto cousin to the family. Richie helped run the Original Beef with Mikey and is eager to keep the status quo. An obnoxious jerk, Richie is the cause of most of the tension in the kitchen. Edebiri and Moss-Bachrach have an incredible chemistry on screen; as combatants, their arguments are aggravating to watch, but there's also a softer side to their relationship that we start to explore in Episode 2.
While The Bear focuses most of its attention on Carmy, Sydney and Richie, it takes care in building out the rest of the characters in the show. Liza Colón-Zayas's Tina has layers that come unravelled, and the final shot of her in Episode 2 is haunting and full of promise for things to come. The kitchen's resident baker, Marcus (Lionel Boyce), is the first in the kitchen to get on board with Carmy, as he sees a new head chef who he can learn from and widen his culinary horizons. Marcus shows a lot of ambition and passion for what he does, and Carmy is the one to unlock all of that, for better and for worse.
Similar to Barry and Better Call Saul, it's hard to define The Bear as either comedy or drama. It jabs a carving knife into both genres and does so very effectively. Through the comedic moments, viewers can find some reprieve in an incredibly stressful environment, creating a very well-balanced show.
The authenticity of The Bear has a lot to do with Canada's own Matty Matheson. The former executive chef at Toronto's beloved Parts & Labour (RIP), Matheson is well known for his YouTube channel and segments with Vice. Not only did Matheson provide some checks and balances along with other restaurant worker consultants, he actually has a supporting role in the show — hilariously as the restaurant's handy man who is constantly reminded he's not a part of the kitchen.
Canadian critics were only given the first two episodes of the show to review, but judging from the response from our American counterparts, we're in for a hell of a ride. (Disney)