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How Hulu's The Bear Mirrors the Real Experience of Restaurant Workers

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Everyone likes food, but few understand the unbelievably complex processes that underlay their favorite culinary creations. Of course, there is the production side of things and all the folks who tirelessly strive to harvest all the meat and produce that populate this nation’s bountiful grocery store shelves. Once that food has already been processed, a whole new batch of hard workers is made to craft the vittles with which Americans stuff their faces: restaurant workers. Overworked, underpaid, and oftentimes abused, restaurant employees are behind the scenes making life a little more delicious.

The Bear is a series created for FX on Hulu by Christopher Storer (Matthew Davis Gets Grounded, Ramy) that boasts a laundry list of talented actors. Jeremy Allen White (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Shameless) stars as Carmen “Carmy” Berzattzo, a chef trained in fine dining skills who returns to his hometown of Chicago to take over his late brother’s dilapidated restaurant, The Original Beef of Chicagoland. Also featured in the series are Ebon Moss-Bachrach (The Drop Out, NOS4A2) as Richard “Richie” Jerimovich, and Ayo Edebiri (Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between, Big Mouth) as Sydney Adamu, Carmy’s frustrated first mate and sous-chef. The show’s cast excellently emulates the trials and tribulations of a struggling restaurant’s kitchen staff.

Here is why The Bear is a surprisingly accurate representation of the food service industry.

In popular culture, the kitchen side of restaurants is almost always portrayed as hectic and stressful, in stark contrast to the quaint dining area that sits just beyond the kitchen’s double doors. The Bear is not an exception to this rule. Carmy Berzatto is verbally abusive toward his restaurant staff, a behavior he picked up from his time in the fine dining world at the hands of his mentors like the screaming executive chef portrayed by Joel McHale (Santa Clarita Diet, The Joel McHale Show With Joel McHale).

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This idea of kitchens as hotbeds for employee abuse is not simply the purview of popular culture. Many chefs throughout the years have shared horror stories about their time rising through the ranks of the culinary world. A kitchen is an inherently high-stress environment. It’s an already difficult space to work in, as kitchen employees are surrounded by countless heat sources while often working at a fast pace. The challenging work environment, coupled with the time stresses involved in feeding a crowded restaurant and the near constant multi-tasking necessary to maintain a varied menu, make the perfect storm of conditions to generate hostility.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, countless eateries were forced to close their doors. Financial struggles were not unique to the restaurant industry, but the inescapable germ-sharing that comes with having a kitchen staff prepare food made it near impossible for many restaurants to reopen. The profit margins of a restaurant are already small, and any economic disturbance, especially one as immense as the pandemic, can quickly ruin an eatery.

RELATED: Why The Bear’s Carmen Berzatto Might Be Jeremy Allen White’s Best Character Yet

Covid-19 is briefly discussed in The Bear, and the questionable means by which The Original Beef of Chicagoland financially survived the pandemic is the genesis of a lot of drama. Pandemic aside, the restaurant industry is incredibly fickle, and a staggering number of restaurants fail every year. This only adds to the stress of the food service industry, and Carmy’s constant anxiety around the finances of his business is relatable to any restaurant owner.

Drug addiction and solicitations are often used as plot points in various media formats. In The Bear, it is revealed that The Original Beef of Chicagoland only survived the Covid-19 pandemic because Ebon Moss-Bachrach’s Richie Jerimovich was selling cocaine behind the restaurant in order to cover the bills. Although Carmy is initially furious at this revelation, when an expensive piece of restaurant equipment later malfunctions, he allows Richie to make one last drug deal to cover the cost.

Unfortunately, the proximity of drugs to The Original Beef of Chicagoland accurately portrays how prevalent drug abuse is in the food service industry. Due to the work environment being inherently high-stress with long hours, many employees turn to drugs and alcohol as a cathartic escape from the stress of their careers. Though the restaurant industry is not for the faint of heart, it makes for incredibly compelling television.

The Bear season one is critically acclaimed and has left viewers wanting more. Although season two has not been officially announced, given the show’s success, it would be surprising for The Bear not to get renewed. The entire first season is now available to stream on Hulu.

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