When we think of TV cooking shows, the titles that come to mind are the reality competition series like “Top Chef” and “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Cupcake Wars”, as opposed to the overlooked dramatic and/or comedic endeavors, for example. example “Burn”?
No problems. I’m not sure Bradley remembers that TV show. Now we finally have a series with all the ingredients needed on the menu to make a long-running, satisfying, immensely entertaining, decidedly Chicago-centric, restaurant-based hit: FX/Hulu’s “The Bear,” a darkly funny and frantic sound. . and intense yolk that will make you very hungry and will likely ring the bell of authenticity for anyone who has worked or is currently employed in the restaurant business.
If Jeremy Allen White’s genius-smart but troubled Lip of “Shameless” had decided to disown the Gallagher family, change his name and become a chef, he wouldn’t have been much different from White’s Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, a Michelin star. A rising star who escaped his crazy working-class Chicago family, fled to Manhattan and worked at one of the best restaurants in the world – but has now returned home after his beloved older brother Michael committed suicide and left him in charge of the semi-legendary and charmingly decadent, The Original Beef of Chicagoland. (Think River North’s Mr. Beef with a more ambitious menu).
We know Carmy has a lot on her mind and is dealing with a plethora of demons because the first time we see him in the premiere episode, he’s on the Clark Street Bridge above the Chicago River, unlocking a cage containing a real bear. (Spoiler alert! It’s a dream sequence.) From that surprising moment, showrunners and directors Christopher Storer (who created the series) and Joanna Calo plunge us into the chaotic world of the restaurant, which has a lit-up Billy Goat-style menu. behind the counter (next to a Blackhawks shirt), a mix of crooked framed photos on the wall, some old-school arcade games, and a cramped kitchen with a small office nook. (Full disclosure: my sister owned the series property.)
“I’m still trying to figure this place out, see how Michael was doing, and I want to take his money,” Carmy tells an unseen creditor on the phone, as we see a medley of unpaid bills and due notices. , indicating that The Original Beef of Chicagoland is in danger of going bankrupt if Carmy doesn’t make some quick moves and some big changes like yesterday. We are quickly introduced to the main players who will fill the crowded kitchen and switch between working together as a cohesive unit and wanting to kill each other, often within the same turn:
- Sydney, by Ayo Edebiri, is a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef who finds herself back at Square One after her catering company went bankrupt. She is a huge admirer of Carmy’s work. Your brusque manner? Not a lot.
- Richie de Ebon Moss-Bachrach is the restaurant’s manager and a volatile hothead who was Michael’s best friend and thinks nothing should change. To say that Richie and Carmy are constantly at odds is like saying that Michael and Fredo Corleone had their differences.
- Lionel Boyce’s Marcus is a genius baker who is inspired by Carmy to strive for greatness, while Liza Colón-Zayas’ Tina is a veteran line cook who is highly skeptical of this young upstart Sydney.
The excellent supporting ensemble also includes the priceless Abby Elliott as Carmy’s sister Natalie, the classic middle daughter who has spent most of her adult life trying to keep her family down, and real-life chef Matty Matheson in a twist. hilarious as a perpetually optimist. guy to fix everything. Spoiler embargoes prevent me from naming some of the high-profile guest actors who are entwined in the story; suffice it to say that these actors make an indelible impact, even if they are only around for one or two crucial scenes.
With most episodes running around 30 minutes, save for the penultimate 20-minute episode and the 47-minute first-season finale, “The Bear” moves at an almost exhausting pace. Carmy insists that everyone call themselves “Chef” as a sign of respect, and the dialogue is seasoned with authentic restaurant terminology (“Back!” “Sing!”) and rituals, for example, the Brigade System (which dictates a right, clearly defined hierarchy in the kitchen) and the “Family Meal” tradition where the team gathers around the table during the off-peak period and shares dishes and stories. (These scenes alleviate the constant clashes between so many great personalities and create some of the most emotional moments in the series.)
Jeremy Allen White can hit hardcore dramatic beats with a ferocity similar to Sean Penn, but he’s also adept at handling self-deprecating comedy. At first, Ebon Moss-Bachrach’s Richie comes across as an annoying jerk, but in later episodes Moss-Bachrach gets a chance to show Richie’s heart and vulnerability, and he does an excellent job. Ayo Edebiri may not yet be a household name, but she is a star in the making and Sydney is without a doubt the most empathetic and sympathetic character in and out of the kitchen.
Each day at The Original Beef of Chicagoland brings a new development, a new setback, a new series of challenges for Carmy and her team. We’re rooting for them to keep the lights on and keep these sammiches coming. That’s the way of Chicago.