FX‘s The Bear is cooking up tantalizing drama and sprinkling in some truly comedic moments as the show follows Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) and his efforts to help salvage his brother’s small restaurant The Original Beef of Chicagoland.
A decorated young chef, Carmy’s skills far exceed the limited resources at hand and it only adds tension to a pressure-cooker dynamic in the kitchen. After his brother Michael’s death, Carmy takes over the place to keep it running, but meets resistance from a staff who are largely subscribed to the way things have always been done there.
The intensity of this half-hour show which will stream exclusively on Hulu is found in those kitchen interactions and stained loyalties, particularly between Carmy and his “cousin” Richard ‘Richie’ Jerimovich (Ebon Moss-Bachrach). When Carmy entertains the idea of hiring a young and hungry culinary expert, Sydney Adamu (Ayo Edebiri), that also brings another layer of drama.
Under the surface is not just the familial trauma that’s simmering on the back burner at all times in this show, but also the toxic environment created in a culinary space that requires perfection and synchronization. “I watched every chef movie available. I read Kitchen Confidential. I read Marco Pierre White’s book, which was also really informative about how hostile that work environment can be,” White shares of his preparation for the role.
Fresh off of a 10-year run on Showtime‘s Shameless, White shows off his emotional range in this role, a character “my heart broke for,” he says. “In a really big way his identity is so wrapped up in being a chef and what he does. And I don’t know if he feels like he is anybody outside of that, which is really sad to me.”
As viewers follow Carmy’s progress in trying to find his place in this kitchen, White notes a personal connection to his character’s mentality. “When I was younger, I was so wrapped up in my identity being an actor, being successful in this. And I think what Carmy is going through is that tenfold.”
Not making matters any easier is Richie who leads the charge on keeping things the same at the restaurant as he explains that the staff isn’t used to Carmy’s finer techniques. Even still, while it doesn’t feel like he has much of a choice, Richie’s loyalties to the restaurant and even to Carmy remain in place. “Richie’s a guy that grew up without many blood relatives, and they brought him into [the Berzatto] house like this defacto brotherhood,” Moss-Bachrach says.
To make matters more complicated, White says Carmy’s “such a poor communicator. And it’s so important in that workspace to be excellent at that. And so many chefs aren’t.” That poor communication bleeds into Carmy’s in and out of the kitchen as he still grapples from the loss of his big brother. “Those two themes felt really alive there,” co-showrunner Joanna Calo shares. “The theme of going back home, and the idea, this opportunity to talk about kitchens and restaurants.”
Among those bustling around the kitchen are Sydney, Marcus (Lionel Boyce), and non-culinary team member Neil Fak (real-life chef Matty Matheson), the latter of which also served as a consulting producer. “Neil is the handyman on the show,” Matheson says, “which is pretty funny. So I’m just there fixing the dishwasher or whatever the hell’s going wrong.”
The real-life culinary expert had only signed on to produce until co-showrunner Christopher Storer asked if Matheson could act. “I was just like, ‘Well, I don’t want to be a chef.’, And he’s like, ‘Yeah, I don’t want you to be a chef either.’” While Matheson may have been helpful offscreen, his presence only serves to enhance the issues going on in the kitchen as he becomes an occasional fixture in the hectic environment.
For Boyce, he was just as out of his usual element in his role as the restaurant’s baker, Marcus. “I had no experience in the kitchen at all,” Boyce says. “So, to see this whole separate world where these kinds of people live for this and they’re also really good at it, it’s intimidating, but it’s cool because it definitely helped me form the character.”
His costar Edebiri was only slightly more prepared as she says, “I like to cook. So I feel like I kind of started off in a place where I didn’t feel totally out of my depth.” Still, the preparation process was intense as she shares, “Jeremy and I went to a Culinary Institute and did a few weeks there. We were side by side, getting a little bit competitive with each other.” They both went on to work in separate restaurants, getting a feel for the environment.
As for her character, Edebiri says, “I think Sydney is somebody who always wants to prove herself like she has something to prove.” Familiar with Carmy’s successes in the culinary industry, she seeks a job at The First Beef of Chicagoland for a personal reason as well as for an opportunity to work with him. Whether it goes to plan or not, will remain for viewers to discover.
“It was really interesting with Ayo, finding the moments where [Carmy and Sydney are] really hearing one another,” White says. “It was like a really wonderful partner to have throughout. I feel like I got challenged in really nice ways,” the actor adds of his onscreen collaboration with Edebiri. See what they’re all cooking up in the kitchen when The Bear streams on Hulu.
The Bear, Series Premiere, Thursday, June 23, Hulu
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