Yes, chef?

Kitchen survivors tackle The Bear

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Courtesy: FX/Hulu

The terror comes in the form of a faceless, coked-up chef who screams in my face. Failure is imminent. I’m hopelessly behind in my chopping in the hyper-bright, loud kitchen chaos. The cold sweat breaks only when I shake awake and realize I’m not bleeding, blistered or broken, and nobody is threatening my manhood. This Pearl Street horror still haunts me decades after my Boulder restaurant cooking career. Maybe that’s why I avoided watching The Bear until stumbling across the first season of the celebrated FX series. 

My first encounter with The Bear was a nightmare experienced by award-winning chef Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, played by Jeremy Allen White. The Chicago-set series follows his tumultuous kitchen, family and personal life. I’d never seen restaurant kitchen life so perfectly portrayed on screen with such an exceptional eye for detail. 

I flinched. I had flashbacks. I switched to ESPN. It made me want to escape to the walk-in fridge and inhale the nitrous from a can of whipped cream. I kept watching because it reminded me of some truly ecstatic kitchen moments in the pressure cooker.  

All 10 episodes of The Bear Season 3 will start streaming June 27 on Hulu and Disney+. I won’t binge, but I will cringe through more episodes. 

I asked friends who are chefs or worked in restaurants whether their buttons had been pushed, too. Here are their responses:

Cameron Mengel
Former Steuben’s sous chef

“It triggered me, and I had to step away and remind myself I don’t cook anymore. I was yelling at the TV in front of my astonished wife.” 

Sal DeVincenzo
Owner, Boulder Tech Support

“Loved the scene when the wall falls down. My dad owned restaurants in N.J. My uncles, cousins and brothers ran the kitchen. I worked the floor as a waiter. End of the night, you were lucky to get out alive.” 

 Jessica Emich
Co-owner of now-shuttered Shine Restaurant + Potion Bar

“I keep thinking I’m ready to watch The Bear,and then I start it and I’m not ready. Three times I’ve started and stopped. I will try again. Soon.”

Paolo Neville
Ex-chef at Brasserie Ten Ten

“It doesn’t trigger me at all. It just seems normal. Perhaps I’ve just learned to glide through stressful situations. I do still cuss a lot; it makes me feel better.”

Sandy Ingber
Former chef and part-owner of Grand Central Oyster Bar in NYC

“I love The Bear. I found it very realistic in ways maybe only a chef would understand. My favorite episode was the Christmas feast. Laughed so hard.” 

Richard Schneider
Owner, Raquelitas Tortillas

“When I first started watching it, it was not relaxing. As I watched it more, many parts made me laugh, and I have to admit they made me cry, too. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

Bob Scherner
James Beard Award nominee, Escoffier School Chef Educator, former chef of Flagstaff House

“Having worked for (Chicago restaurateur) Charlie Trotter, the episode where Richie was training was probably the most accurate I’ve seen. It conjures up some significant PTSD, but I couldn’t look away.”

Kay Cornelius
Sales director, Niman Ranch

The Bear is one of my all-time favorites for portraying the real emotion and how it gets processed in restaurants. It’s the opposite of watching Yellowstone and thinking ranch life is like that.”

Daniel Sorrells
Chef and co-owner, The Organic Dish (now closed)

“I was a chef at a CU sorority. Apathy and indifference described my customers, and that first episode with the gamers brought that feeling back.” 

Doug Caskey
Former director, Colorado Wine Industry Development Board

“I could not stop watching, much like having to slow down to gawk at a traffic accident or needing one more shot beyond a comfortable buzz.” 

Andy Schneidkraut
Owner, Dunraven Inn near Estes Park (now closed)

“The first season captured the claustrophobic intimacy and the potential for impending disaster, the incendiary danger, the perilous song and dance in the tight quarters of a barely functioning overheated kitchen with the caustic friction of abrasive personalities rubbing against each other, rising in a disharmonic uneasy crescendo.” 

The Bear summer reading list

Details matter and eagle-eyed viewers of The Bear have noted the volumes on chef Carmy’s bookshelf. You can find the whole list online, but many favorite classics are included. Dive into these page-turners this summer, and by September your food savvy will be seriously upgraded. 

Details matter and eagle-eyed viewers of The Bear have noted the volumes on chef Carmy’s bookshelf. . You can find the whole list online, but many favorite classics are included.

The Tummy Trilogy: American Fried; Alice, Let’s Eat; Third Helping by Calvin Trillin

On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue by Adrian Miller, a Denver author

Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish

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