If you are not a foodie, the comedy-drama The Bear might just make you one.
It follows a hotshot young chef, Carmy Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White), as he leaves behind a career in some of the world’s top fine-dining establishments in order to run a greasy old Chicago sandwich shop he inherits.
Here are three reasons to watch this deliciously tense and funny series:
1. The little sandwich shop that could
Carmy cut his teeth at fancy restaurants such as Noma and The French Laundry, but when his brother dies, he takes over The Original Beef of Chicagoland, an old-school spot serving Italian beef sandwiches and a handful of other dishes.
But the place is a mess – literally, financially and functionally.
When Carmy decides to overhaul the menu and kitchen – hiring new staff and retraining the blue-collar cooks in the system used at fancy restaurants – he ruffles everyone’s feathers and constantly flirts with disaster. But he eventually earns his staff’s respect and, like them, the audience starts to cheer him on.
2. Salty-sweet kitchen politics
The tiny kitchen in The Bear holds several outsized egos: the volatile manager Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach); soft-spoken but fiercely capable sous chef Sydney (Ayo Edebiri); and stubborn veteran line cook Tina (Liza Colon-Zayas).
Working in such proximity, they chafe at one another but also develop a family-like bond and camaraderie that is infectious.
And in the background, there is the slow-moving car crash of Carmy’s mental health unspooling.
3. High or low cuisine, it is art
There are the requisite shots of hands conjuring up exquisite food, but the show goes beyond mere food porn to try and capture the hypnotic sensory pleasures of preparing a meal.
One could think this is overly dramatic when talking about sandwiches and diner fare.
But the show makes the point that whether it is a 48-hour plum wine reduction or a simple side of mash, there is art – and pride – in a dish done well.