How ‘The Bear’ FX got life in restaurant kitchens just right

The world of “The Bear” is built from the kitchen upwards.

Premiering on Thursday, the FX series immerses in the frenetic pace of life in a professional kitchen as the prodigal son and chef, Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (Shameless star Jeremy Allen White), returns returned from one of New York’s most acclaimed upscale restaurants to take over his family’s Italian beef patisserie in Chicago. It’s a reflection of the whirlpool of grief and growth inside the flour bin of a cramped kitchen, brought to life with insights from professional chefs, show creators, and more. months of staging – or training – in restaurants.

After her brother’s death, Carmy leads a team of old-school sandwich staff in crafting a new, more technical Beef, and to capture the dishes of a chef who has dedicated his life. For the gospel of Noma, French Laundry, and Eleven Madison Park, White needed all the help he could get.

“We have to get Jeremy in the kitchen,” said writer and director Joanna Calo of the series Top Priority. make a movie where people are dancing or people are skating – you won’t want to have to cut it out. “

Authenticity is at the heart of series creator Chris Storer (“Ramy,” “Grade 8”), who is not only an avid cook but has long been fascinated to portray the art of food. ; Previous projects include a short-form documentary with Thomas Keller, as well as a documentary about Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson’s community spirit restaurant, Locol. His sister, Courtney Storer – former chef of Jon & Vinny’s – served as a food producer.

“He wanted to do a show that was true to his family, true to the culinary world, and he knew that to do that people needed training,” White said. “It is extremely important to chefs, kitchen assistants, people who work in kitchens and restaurants that all is right. I think we’ll both be able to give ourselves a little pat on the back if we could just walk into the restaurant and get a few nods from the side chef. “

While Lionel Boyce, who plays Marcus, Beef’s baker turns his pastry head, staged at Copenhagen’s Hart Bageri, White enrolls in a two-week crash course at the Pasadena Institute of Culinary Education with Ayo Edebiri, who plays the lineage and promoter of Beef Sydney Adamu’s newcomer. They worked privately with the chef instructor, and on Fridays they take a real cooking class. On the last day, the employee asked White what he felt he needed, and he replied: omelettes, one of the simplest dishes, require ingenuity and technique. With three pans in front of him, he cooked for hours until he ran out of 10 dozen eggs. He said he made about 120 omelettes that day, and they became a favorite with his wife and two daughters at home.

White’s first visit after graduation was to an all-day French-inspired bakery, cafe and restaurant Republique, and it didn’t go as planned: He was immediately overwhelmed by its size and scope. He lasted a day.

Two men in a cold storage cabinet of a restaurant, with a third man looking in through the door

Jeremy Allen White, from left, Lionel Boyce and Ebon Moss-Bachrach in “The Bear.”


“I didn’t realize how much they were making every day,” he said. “That restaurant and kitchen was really just empty maybe two hours a day, and so I had a lot of stuff thrown at me right away. They are all lovely and supportive, but it just seemed too big for me to even have to find a place to study.”

White has found her place and rhythm at Pasjoli, a Michelin-starred French bistro in Santa Monica run by a chef-owner with her own experience in Chicago’s rare culinary scene. . Chef Dave Beran has been to some of that city’s most esteemed kitchens, cooking his way through MK the Restaurant, Tru, Alinea and its sister restaurant, Next, before moving to Los Angeles in 2017 It was Storer, dining and chatting with Beran at his previous LA location, Dialogue, who talked about White’s ability on stage to prepare for the role.

“We basically treated him as if he were any chef coming here, and in their first two weeks of training [they] learn how to run a station,” says Beran. “Our goal is to make him proficient enough that we will consider hiring him.”

This is Beran’s first time training an actor. He starts White with one simple thing: prepare mirepoix for stockings and sauces, where jagged knife marks can be a little more hidden, such as in an accompaniment or salad. He worked for almost two weeks over the course of several months, shooting the pilot, then returning before the rest of the season was filmed. While the team is welcoming, he admits, modestly.

“One day I was slicing carrots, scallions or something like that, and I was cutting in front of this restaurant chef and she was watching me out of the corner of her eye,” White said. “I could tell she was judging me, and I said, ‘Oh, no. I am not a chef. I’m an actor.’ And she said, ‘I know. I can tell.’ Obviously I was once a tourist. “

But on his final two nights at Pasjoli, White showed up for the partisans, stationed between Beran and one of his sous chefs – “You just have to put him where you can let him be. keep an eye on him” – and cook for a few friends. come to dinner and cheer him on. Beran swears that White must have lost more than a few tiger stripes, or scars, from burning his arms on grills and ovens during his time with them.

Much of White’s training at Pasjoli wasn’t just about cooking; Beran makes it clear that a chef’s advice isn’t just limited to what’s on the plate. Performances can be made more realistic by recreating quirky stories like Thomas Keller knocking his wooden clogs together, or Grant Achatz standing in the corner, arms crossed and chin propped, staring down line while thinking. (Beran turns his spoon.)

Even the spoon method, says Beran, is a piece of advice: Gourmet chefs will often hold the spoon as if it were a pencil or pen – rather than in the hand – which gives more control while dot. These traits are learned through years of experience, while White only has a few months. Understanding that weeks of training in kitchens around the country can never instill the years of practice of a professional chef, White, who has also worked with David Waltuck of Chanterelle in New York and spent a weekend at Kumiko in Chicago – kept in mind what he could cheat and when: “If it was the kind of camera hovering in the kitchen, spying on other people, I would be gentle with myself. a little bit and fake it when possible,” he said. However, when it comes to a close-up of his hand being chopped off, he has to move on.

Chef Dave Beran shaves fresh truffles on foie gras toast at Pasjoli.

Chef Dave Beran grated fresh truffles over his foie de poulet at Pasjoli in 2019. The senior chef helped train Jeremy Allen White for his role before “The Bear” wrapped its first season. .

(Allison Zaucha / Los Angeles Times)

The balance between TV magic and culinary realism extends to the set as well: The production team recreated the slightly cramped kitchen of the Mr. Beef on Orleans is famous in Chicago, where the pilot was filmed, on a stage. Changing the minutes allows for more space for camera gear, but it’s still a continuous room and areas are close together – a necessity to build tension between characters.

To capture the life of a chef beyond the experience of the Storers, professional chefs stopped by the writers’ room for a virtual Q&A, where they answered questions like, What are the chef’s business hours? ? What about motivation in the kitchen? What do they look like after a long shift?

Calories likens the collaborative process to the program’s arc, in which Beef’s chefs, in all their own idiosyncrasies and varying stages of training, begin working in tandem to great results. than the sum of the parts of a sandwich shop.

The result is a level of detail perhaps only those who have been involved in the hospitality industry can discern: Pepto Bismol and a bottle of Fernet sit on top of unpaid bills on a desk; a family meal served from half-open plastic containers for storage and takeout;; The margins are so slim that revenue from coin-operated game cabinets can mean the difference between paying for your meat supply or not paying.

Hardly any chef has contributed to the show’s portrayal more than cookbook author, restaurateur and flamboyant host Matty Matheson, who served as a co-producer in addition to appearing on screen. image. Bringing excitable, positive, non-erratic energy to the border for “The Bear” helped introduce his own cooking demonstrations to the international community, social media superstars and a host of co-brands, Matheson, who plays handyman Neil Fak, helps demonstrate the cooking process and methods, supporting and outdoing White – sometimes a bit overboard.

A man in a white chef's coat dips orange sauce over his dish.

Actor Jeremy Allen White coats a dish as Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto inside a high-end kitchen on “The Bear”.

(Matt Dinerstein / FX)

“The camera rolls and I start doing my own thing, he’s looking at the camera, he’ll say, ‘Stop.’ He’ll come in, he’ll cook a little bit more,” White said. “But then a few times, he’ll say, ‘No, you want to do it like this,’ and he’ll cook something from start to finish – because that’s his nature – and then Then I’ll have to say to him, ‘Hey, man, like, we don’t have a lot of this. I need to do this for the camera. Just give me some pointers but please don’t cook the whole thing.’ “

White says he relies heavily on both Matheson and Courtney Storer to correct him, asking them to see the screen and cut the call if one of his gestures feels forced, out of place, or inauthentic. – and they called him over and over again.

Next time, there may be less reason to call it “cutting.” If “The Bear” gets the green light for a second season, White plans to improve his skill set by returning to Pasjoli during a month-long staging. Beran says he’s welcome at any time – and he’ll work even harder.

“He has an open door,” Beran said. “He worked hard. He is not a man in the way, watching. Honestly, if he wanted to spend a month here doing it, we would put him on the schedule and we would. really let him work in the kitchen. “


Where: Hulu

When: Anytime, starting Thursday How ‘The Bear’ FX got life in restaurant kitchens just right

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