REVIEW: the greatest chicago tv show, “the bear”


Otto Hoffman

Jeremy Allen White, lead in Hulu’s “The Bear,” is seen beside some of Chicago’s cultural staples, where the show is set.

Otto Hofmann, Sports Editor

*This article contains spoilers for the TV series “The Bear”. 

Cristopher Storer’s Hulu Original “The Bear” premiered on June 23, 2022, depicting the life of a young chef coming home to run his family’s mom-and-pop restaurant. 

The main character Carmen Berzatto, commonly referred to as Carmy, returns to run his family’s Italian beef restaurant “The Beef” in the heart of Chicago after his brother commits suicide. While the show follows Carmy’s effort to bring the restaurant back to its former glory, it simultaneously provides a more serious social commentary, examining toxic masculinity, men’s mental health, fashion and relationship issues. 

Although the season consists of only eight episodes, it is enough to instantly hook any viewer. Carmy brings a coolness to the show reminiscent of wise guys, like Michael Corleone and Frank Sinatra. Accompanied by the fire soundtrack, including the works of Steely Dan, Counting Crows and Arctic Monkeys, “The Bear” has cemented itself as the best show I’ve watched in the past year and, in my not-so professional opinion, a show that should definitely be on everyone’s watchlist. 

The show nails the atmosphere of ‘The Beef’ and it creates a time machine to an earlier Chicago, a time when the Bulls dominated and the Bears and Blackhawks were still in their respective eternal rebuilds. The kitchen radio bumping early Kanye West and Chance the Rapper, the red and white cloth table covers adorning the dining room tables and the Glock-17 toting cousin of Carmy and Human Resources representative, Richie, fit the gritty Southside Chicago atmosphere perfectly.

The first episode “System” takes the viewer through Carmy’s difficulties trying to connect with the original staff of ‘The Beef’, showcasing the staff’s resentment towards Carmy when he tries to modernize the menu. Carmy hires Sydney Adamu, a Culinary Institute trained chef who takes a serious pay cut because the restaurant was her dad’s favorite.

The second episode opens with Carmy leading his professional staff in the fine dining establishment he worked in before his brother’s suicide. In a scene reminiscent of Damien Chazelle’s 2014 film Whiplash, Carmy is berated by his Chef de Cuisine. After the flashback, We are brought back into the present, where Carmy is juggling his relationship with his sister and her yuppie finance-bro boyfriend, a ‘C’ sanitation grade given by a health inspector and the $300,000 in debt harbored by ‘The Beef’.

In episode three, Carmy attends an AA meeting in order to understand what drove his brother to suicide. He introduces a Brigade de Cuisine sense of order to the kitchen, where every step is spoken out loud and everything is done perfectly, resulting in an argument between Carmy and Sydney over whether Sydney is really ready to run the kitchen.

The fourth episode, “Dogs,” was my favorite. Carmy and his cousin Richie help cater a children’s birthday party for a friend of Carmy’s late father, Cicero. Carmy brings homemade ‘Kool-Aid Ecto Cooler,’ which is accidentally spiked with Richie’s Xanax, subsequently leading to the entire children’s party left unconscious on the lawn. Cicero finds this hilarious, meanwhile Sydney creates a connection with the kitchen staff, gaining the trust of veteran line-cook Tina.

In episode five, “Sheridan,” Carmy and Sydney create a new dinner menu, then the toilet overflows and we are introduced to the maintenance man, Fak, played by professional chef and internet personality Matty Matheson. Fak asks for a job as an employee at ‘The Beef’ and accidentally reveals that Richie is selling cocaine in the alley behind the restaurant to prevent it from going under. I really enjoyed this episode, it balanced seriousness and light-heartedness. It’s in my top three favorite episodes because it involves one of those problems that happens at the worst possible time, and that’s what really makes it genuine.

In episode six, :Ceres”, Carmy focuses on getting the mess of taxes in order in hopes of recovering missing tax returns. Meanwhile the baker, Marcus, experiments with deserts after he’s inspired by Carmy’s accomplishments.

In the seventh episode, “Review,” The Beef is given a great review from a critic, officially putting it back on the map, and a regular day in the kitchen quickly turns to a hellscape after Sydney improperly installs an online pre order system which floods the kitchen with to-go orders that seem to never end. This entire two-minute scene is one shot and ends with Carmy smashing the preorder system and Richie being stabbed by Sydney, who quits on the spot due to the constant pressure of Carmy’s perfectionistic management.

The final episode, “Braciole” starts with Carmy being at his lowest point of the season after Carmy explores his brothers suicide, and that night, The Beef hosts a bachelor party. The bachelor party quickly turns violent and a drunken brawl ensues, leading to Richie being arrested for aggravated assault. 

The next day, Carmy continues to go through the tax reports, when a letter from his deceased brother is handed to him from Richie. The letter contains the famous spaghetti recipe the restaurant is known for and the fact that the large cans of tomatoes taste the best. Carmy opens one of the cans and finds a wad of hundred dollar bills in a Ziploc bag inside. 

The Beef closes for the day as every employee begins opening cans and pulling out each Ziploc bag from inside the mountain of crushed Italian tomatoes, securing The Beef’s financial future. Sydney is rehired after Carmy apologizes to her and Carmy decides to close The Beef for good and open his own restaurant, “The Bear” in its place.

Hands down, I think “The Bear” was the best show to come out in the past year. Jeremy Allen White gives an authentic performance true to the real character and the environment they are trying to emulate. It was the best thing I’ve watched all year, and frankly, I think it’s just fire, great for fall and winter binging.