The Bear & food Grows up

In the second season of the show, Carmy, Richie, and Sydney set out to create a destination for fine dining while also working on themselves.

“The Bear,” a fast-paced series about a chef returning to Chicago to run his brother’s Italian steakhouse, was probably the most significant TV surprise of 2022. The show was praised by critics as well as restaurant industry veterans for its fresh and unflinching portrayal of this business. Season 2 finds Carmen “Carmy”, Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White), and the gang preparing for the most difficult challenge of all: transforming a failing restaurant into a fine dining destination.

Carmy was on the rise when we left him at the end of Season 1. Carmy, a fine-dining chef of prodigious level who has worked in some of the most prestigious kitchens in the world, is returning to Chicago after having spent time in these prestigious establishments. Carmy has returned to Chicago to run the Original Beef of Chicagoland. The restaurant was owned by Mikey, Carmy’s older brother, who committed suicide. The Original Beef thrives after Carmy changes the menu. As in a real restaurant, Original Beef requires a cash injection to remain open. It survives thanks to a stash of tomato cans filled with money that Mikey left behind.

In Season 2, Carmy will be able to build his dream restaurant thanks to the fortune of the tomato can. Carmy can finally live up to his full potential as a Chef by opening the Bear restaurant.

The new season is a time of transition, both for the restaurant and its employees. Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) reads self-help books to become a better leader and cook, all the while constantly dreaming of new dishes. Tina (Liza Colon Zayas) is a sarcastic line cook, while Ebraheim (Edwin Lee Gibson), a stoic chef, attends culinary school. Pastry chef Marcus (Lionel Boyce), a pastry chef who has a passion for modernist cooking (ridiculously HOT), takes a trip with Will Poulter to Copenhagen.

The Original Beef building is also getting a major makeover, giving it a new look that will better suit the restaurant Carmy and Sydney are planning to open. Carmy’s renovations and improvements have already cost him more than $100,000, and that is just in the first few minutes. Sugar (Abby Elliott), Carmy’s sister who is in charge of the project, makes it very clear that more money is needed. Carmy and Sydney visit Cicero, Carmy’s arguably shady Uncle who gave Mikey money from a tomato can. He agrees after a few proddings but with one caveat: if they don’t pay back the money in 18 months, then he will own the Original Beef Building and sell it to recover his losses.

What other show is it about the restaurant business that we hear about the struggle to get a fire suppression system to pass an inspection?

Carmy and Sydney have set a very aggressive deadline of 12 weeks for their new restaurant to be ready. The Bear is a great example of how the real world can be frustrating. While many restaurateurs would laugh at the notion that Carmy managed to obtain all his permits in a matter of weeks or that construction was not delayed, the Bear captures the tedium and frustration of dealing with taxes, permits, insurance, etc. What other show in the restaurant industry gives us an inside look at the ridiculousness of trying to get a fire suppression system to pass inspection or the struggle of getting mold remediation done? The Bear is able to make these subjects funny and relatable for real restaurant owners.

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The men in the series revamp themselves while the Original Beef undergoes a revamp. Carmy is attending group therapy to help him deal with imposter syndrome and perfectionism. He’s also starting to make sense of Mikey’s death. Claire (Molly Gordon), an old friend from his youth, makes a surprise return. He also allows himself to be vulnerable. It’s the first time we see him having a relationship outside of his restaurant. It’s not only Carmy. Marcus, while in Copenhagen, confronts the mortality of his dying mother as he teaches himself how to scoop a softly slurp shiso-sorbet. Even Richie, the dopey cousin (Ebon Moss Bachrach), is processing his emotions and trying to cope with the insecurities he feels about being left behind when the Original Beef turns into the Bear.

Sydney, meanwhile, is having trouble. In Season 2, Sydney is having difficulty with her recipes. Carmy’s budding relationship is keeping him from fully focusing on helping Sydney refine her flavors. Sydney’s struggles are not given the same attention as Carmy, which is a major flaw of this season. The writing does not match Edebiri’s amazing acting.

In Season 2, the most emotional depth comes from the complex Berzatto Family dynamic. Jamie Lee Curtis’ performance in “Fishes,” an episode from the past, is incredible. She plays Donna, Carmy, Mikey, and Sugar’s hard-drinking mother. Donna drinks wine by the glass as she prepares Christmas’s traditional Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes. Bob Odenkirk delivers a powerful performance as Uncle Lee, the most emotionally measured family member. This memory of a dysfunctional past Christmas, complete with emotional outbursts, fork-throwing, and a shocking conclusion, tells us everything we need about why Carmy left his family to start his career and was consumed by anxiety.

The most extended episode in the season is “Fishes,” and it’s also the most heartbreaking. It’s one of my favorite television shows of the year. The Bear is at the height of its gritty realism, making it difficult to watch even though you can’t look away. Sarah Paulson, John Mulaney, and their cousins make cameos in the film, adding to the tension. The Berzattos, when played to the extremes, look like many of us. It reminds us of our traumas and experiences’ impact on our lives and work.

Towards the end of Season 2, the Bear delves deeper into the nitty gritty of running a business, including fire suppression systems and ServSafe certificates. Carmy sends Richie to a Michelin-starred restaurant to learn more about hospitality. Richie has read Will Guidara’s book on service by the end of episode 7. He is well on his path to becoming a general manager. He’s even wearing suits! Carmy has become more focused by Episode 8. He is working on a dessert inspired by the fateful Christmas dinner. The space is coming together even though Neil Fak, played by Matty Matheson, is electrocuted multiple times while wiring the building.

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