Interest in food shows and chef’s stories has grown exponentially, but they primarily focus on haute cuisine. Not The Bear. The first season of this intense FX series on Hulu revolves around the noisy kitchen in a renowned neighborhood restaurant in downtown Chicago.
Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) is a James Beard Award-winning young chef, earning Michelin stars for some of the finest restaurants, including Noma and the French Laundry; he was named a Food and Wine ‘Best New Chef’ before he turned 21.
But when his older brother Michael commits suicide, he returns home to run his family’s sandwich shop, known as the Original Beef of Chicagoland, serving juicy, thin-sliced roast beef with peppers and tangy giardiniera on a freshly-baked submarine roll.
Immediately, Carmey must cope with crippling debt, unbridled chaos and a recalcitrant staff. So when eager, highly-organized, Culinary Institute of America-trained Sydney Adamu (Ayo Edebiri) apples for a job, he hires her as his skilled, if impatient sous-chef, much to the consternation of surly, skeptical Tina (Liza Colon-Zayas), who deeply resents changing the traditional recipes.
Plus there’s genial Marcus (Lionel Boyce), the curious pastry chef, determined to craft the perfect doughnut. As troubled Carmy struggles to confront his own PTSD demons, complicating matters is loud-mouthed, obnoxious Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), baffled by his best-friend/boss Michael’s suicide and deeply resentful that ‘cousin Carmy’ is taking over the ramshackle establishment.
Reportedly based on Chicago’s legendary Italian beef sandwich shop, Mr. Beef, the stress-filled , character-driven series was created by Christopher Storer, who wrote/co-wrote four of the eight episodes and directed five, alternating with director Joanna Calo.
Jeremy Allen White (“Shameless”) attended cooking school and worked in several restaurant kitchens, among them the Michelin star-rated Pasjoli in Santa Monica, California. And real-life Toronto chef Matty Matheson offers gritty authenticity, peppered with comedy relief.
If you were intrigued by Antony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential or Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, you’ll be hooked and eager for the second season.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Bear” is an exciting, exhausting 8 – streaming on Hulu. “Thank you, chef.”