This is an excerpt from Kevin Fallon, senior entertainment correspondent for The Daily Beast, and his newsletter, Obsessed. Sign up here to get the complete newsletter sent to your email inbox each week. I worked in a restaurant once, when I was only a baby in college (how many years ago I won’t say), and it was an experience from which I have never really recovered.
Restaurant kitchens are among of the most terrifying and distressing places on earth. To me, it’s always a red flag when a movie or TV show opens in a dining room and then quickly opens the swinging doors to the kitchen.
What a delightful and endearing tale of how food and the arts can bring people together and spark creativity, you would say after watching Ratatouille. I am witness to the most disturbing film ever made. I will not be stopped in my quest of justice even though writer-director-actor Jon Favreau has not yet been convicted for crimes against humanity in connection with his 2014 dramedy (horror film) Chef.
Our society places a high value on eating out. One of the most cherished privileges of human existence is the shared experience of preparing and enjoying a meal with other people. As the world once again opens up, restaurants become places of refuge and intimacy. Please forgive me for stepping on those rose-colored glasses in a fit of fear and shattering them into the shards of lies that they symbolize.
There is a dense cloud of pressure in the back of houses of most restaurants, making it impossible for ideas like grace or decency to survive. They choke to death in the confusion; an unavoidable byproduct of the task at hand: getting the food to the people.
Even though it’s probably rather perplexing, I’d like to wholeheartedly suggest the new FX series The Bear, all eight episodes of which debuted on Hulu this week. In The Bear, Jeremy Allen White of Shameless portrays Carmen, a gifted and successful fine-dining chef who returns to his Chicago neighborhood to run his late brother’s divey beef-sandwich store.
Without a question, it ranks among the most nerve-wracking shows I’ve ever watched on television. To have something as delicate and constructed as a plate of food emerge from all that mayhem and din of flaring short tempers is nothing short of a constant miracle, and yet it is exactly what happens in restaurants.
What it also captures, though, is the hidden beauty: the motivation that motivates people to subject themselves to such a hostile environment in order to hone the skill and the art they’ve chosen to pursue.
Night after night of duty is like trying to dance the tango while wearing cement shoes and being surrounded by sharp knives. It seems improbable. So, when the lights go down and it’s time to take a bow at the conclusion of the show, the sense of accomplishment is so intoxicating that you can’t help but seek more. Even seeing The Bear reflects this idea. Although the intensity of the kitchen work may increase your heart rate to the point where you need to look away, you can’t help but keep watching since it’s so gritty and fascinating.
Despite the constant crises that are hammered home in each and every scene, The Bear manages to be emotionally sophisticated. In spite of being his own greatest enemy, Carmen’s dedication to his profession is undeniable. Also, despite spending eight hours a day swearing at and blaming each other for mishaps, the kitchen staff shares a special camaraderie.
The Bear is a very noisy television program. The volume is really high from the get-go and stays that way. Given the nature of the material and the setting, however, the only place it finds any nuance at all is at the other end of the spectrum. As someone who occasionally wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat muttering, “We need a runner… Behind… Corner…,” it’s oddly satisfying to see this depicted so well in a piece of pop culture, especially since I still have stress dreams about having to tell an already-cranky chef that a table is sending an order back.
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Additionally, The Bear is an awesome show overall
That it’s taking a cinematic approach to this universe is exciting in itself. The doors opening and the lunch crowd streaming in are chronicled in a single, nearly 20-minute-long “one-take” tracking shot in the seventh episode of the season, “Review.” The prep work for the line cooks has begun. In other words, everyone always brings something wrong with them. Arguments flare up, calm down, and then flare up again, and again, and again. There are simply too many problems at the moment.
This film is a rare and successful attempt to capture this environment on film, and it is a captivating piece of work. Though the head chef of the seafood restaurant in Southern Maryland where I spent my undergraduate summers was my personal Babadook, there was something so refreshing and human in a kind of revelatory manner about The Bear. In such a case, I recommend popping a couple of Valium and settling into