San Francisco chefs say depiction of abusive kitchens in ‘Bear’ is accurate

If you’ve ever prepared onions and vegetables in the wee hours of the morning for today’s lunch rush, if you’ve ever yelled in the dishwasher to not peel the labels off the cambro before hitting the sinks, if you’ve ever dropped a tray full of cookies The fresh engagement in front of clients and your employer on your first day, then a raucous new FX/Hulu show, “The Bear,” will take you back to the throes of those pent-up memories.

“The Bear” depicts a young chef with an extensive fine-eating background, who suddenly returns to his Chicago home to run his family’s sandwich shop after the tragic death of someone close to him. It is a show filled with all the thorny and most expressive moments of the employees’ out-of-home experience and is a refreshingly honest depiction of what goes on behind the scenes to bring customers their favorite sandwich or signature blue plate.

I speak from my experience as someone who worked as a cook and dishwasher in independently run small restaurants – with questionable ethics and thin budgets – in Sacramento. Needless to say, not all of my experiences as a woman of color working in the restaurant industry were ones I was ready to reconsider. However, I did the entire show in two days.

For Bay Area chefs, The Bear provoked such unease that many admitted to discontinuing the show and turning away. (Variety calls it “one of the most stressful shows,” while The Atlantic said it’s the “antithesis of comfort TV.” Played by Jeremy Allen White (“Shameless”), he really can upend Chicago’s beloved sandwich shop with its tough kitchen crew.

Outside Kristin Houk’s restaurant, Tato, in the Bayview neighborhood.

so. U./Yelp

After watching the first episode, Kristen Hawke, owner of All Good Pizza, Cafe Alma and Tato, said the paternalistic elements of the show’s kitchen were all too familiar.

“I think they definitely took over the kitchen clutter,” Hook said. “Just really intense and intense pressure, and for me, as a woman, I’ve always felt like there was a lot of sexism in the kitchen too, a lot of really dirty behavior, quite frankly.”

As a third-generation chef, Jared Gallagher, who has worked in Michelin-starred kitchens like Chez TJ and owns a barbecue joint in San Juan Bautista called Smoke Point, found the bold presentation portrayal of this small Chicago restaurant refreshing.

“It was really a sober, realistic look at how these aren’t all luxury facilities,” Gallagher said. “It was fun seeing that Karmi became what he is because of a bunch of his experiences. And they’re not all good. He deals with all the hardships that any business owner has, and then he has to be a chef.”

Chef Grad Gallagher is Executive Chef of Bromma in Mountain View and owner of Smoke Point in San Juan Bautista.

Chef Grad Gallagher is Executive Chef of Bromma in Mountain View and owner of Smoke Point in San Juan Bautista.

Courtesy of Alexandre Velardi

For Gallagher, now the executive chef at an Iberian-Spanish restaurant, Broma, in Mountain View, the stresses that appear in each episode of “The Bear” remind him of all the tense moments he experienced throughout his culinary career across six continents. And all over the country, including Chicago.

It also already revealed some negatives. So when the chef was standing next to him [Carmy] At the French laundromat, where he was basically telling him he’s worthless—and it happens,” Gallagher said. “It happened to me in Europe. It has happened to me in New York and Chicago and here. It was a little exaggerated. But this is happening.”

As for the accuracy of how Chicago’s gallery kitchen known for its steaks and beef sandwiches is portrayed, Nightbird chef Kim Alter said she was pleasantly surprised by her efforts to correct it.

“I felt like they had to have a really good consultant, or that the person who wrote was in the field because I say, 98% of the shows I watch are ridiculous,” Alter said. She pointed to the details gleaned from “The Bear” – including the cut of tape used to make food-prep labels, and the dishwasher as an indication of how the show captures “all the things this industry stands for”.

Nightbird's owner chef, Kim Alter, is in the kitchen.

Nightbird’s owner chef, Kim Alter, is in the kitchen.

Courtesy of Adahlia Cole

“It felt a bit overrated in some parts, based on what I’m like in my kitchen and how I’ve been in other kitchens,” she continued, “but mostly, she’s dead.”

Alter said she’s worked with every kind of person portrayed in “The Bear,” whether it was during her early days as a generalist or when she rose to the title of executive chef. Characters from aspiring pioneer chef, Sydney, to the impetuous Ritchie, who has deep ties to the family’s restaurant – Alter cooked for them all.

Actor Jeremy Allen White plays Carmen "karmic" Berzatto's hit FX series "The bear."

Actor Jeremy Allen White plays Carmen “Carme” Berzato in the popular FX series “Bear”.


Throughout the show, main character Carme endures vivid flashbacks that led him primarily into high-pressure situations in his Michelin-starred kitchen days. For Alter, those scenes, in particular, were very relevant to someone who worked at some of the Bay Area’s most successful restaurants, including Manrese, Ubuntu, Aqua, and Acquerello.

“All I grew up in were very strict, disciplined kitchens and I personally love that,” Alter said. “I think it gives you consistency and builds a better chef. I don’t agree with the way I’ve been treated throughout my career. I don’t treat people the way I’ve been treated. But, a Michelin-starred kitchen system where you cut your own tape and ‘chef’ everyone as you work.” Just hard, it leads to a better product, so this part [of the show] It didn’t give me anxiety.”

Kim Alter of Nightbird makes sure all tickets are counted during dinner service.

Kim Alter of Nightbird makes sure all tickets are counted during dinner service.

Courtesy of Adahlia Cole

What happened to Alter in the show were stressful moments, like when the restaurant toilet broke and there was no choice but to open, or when the power went out adding to the daily challenges.

“As a chef, the cooking is the easy part. It’s dealing with the characters, it’s dealing with your toilet crashing, your strength going out at 7 a.m., like all of those things are never portrayed because it’s a little bit more romantic in movies or TV,” Alter said. This is the truth of the matter. Constantly, every day, it’s a thing and that’s very relevant to me. Literally every week my power goes out, a customer goes out, or I get blackmailed by Google. So it is related in that sense.”

For owner chef Adam Rosenblum of Red Window, Causwells and Little Red Window, the anxiety he felt in silence during his Michelin-starred Carme memories reminded him why this path as a chef wasn’t right for him.

“Every episode I saw, there was a little piece that got home,” Rosenblum said. “All my friends went the fine dining route. They were the ones who got scolded and yelled at and said they were just a piece of trash. This has no attraction to me. I wanted to make really good food. But I knew from early on that I wouldn’t thrive in this kind of The environment “.

However, there was one example in “The Bear” that Rosenblum said was completely inaccurate.

“When it’s full 22 [quart] Of the veal stock that was on the top shelf, I was like, no one in their right mind would do that. “A, no one will make an effort to lift something heavy to the top shelf when there is plenty of room elsewhere. B, you know how that will turn out.”

Chef Adam Rosenblum is the owner of Red Window, Coswell's and Little Red Window in San Francisco.

Chef Adam Rosenblum is the owner of Red Window, Coswell’s and Little Red Window in San Francisco.

Courtesy of Stephanie Amberg

Rosenblum said that being a good leader for his restaurant family, who are sometimes the people he sees more than his wife and children, is high on his priority list. For example, the show’s in-depth look at drug and alcohol abuse served as a reminder of how some chefs and their kitchen staff deal with the stress of work.

“It’s very noticeable when people abuse. Obviously, at work, we have a drug-free policy. But then, it’s more than that,” he said. “When we see someone struggling, it’s about talking to them and figuring out how we can support them.”

In all of his San Francisco restaurants, Rosenblum says the challenges seem never-ending, but that doesn’t stop orders from flowing in. At the end of the day, there are a lot of things that keep him at this pace- fast paced, high stress environment and food is just one aspect.

Ayo Edebiri plays Chef Sidney Edebiri in the FX series "The bear."

Actor Ayo Edeberry plays under the leadership of Chef Sidney Edeberry in the FX series “Bear”.


“There are a lot of things that keep me in this ridiculous industry. It’s so ridiculous, especially now with all the work issues we have, it’s even more ridiculous.” “We’re all stressed out, costs go up and margins go down. It’s the wrong time to work in the restaurant business – but it’s also a great time. I think it will always be like this. There will always be something that puts us down and then there will be all these positive things that remind us why we do what we do.” We do.”

With high-profile cases accused of sexual harassment from East Coast restaurateur Mario Batali, whose trial began in May, to the alleged hostile and abusive work environment created by celebrity chef, Michael Chirillo, of a tapas bar in San Francisco, Coquita, the industry is It is already working to address the problematic behavior issues seen in The Bear.

To combat toxic behavior in its restaurants, Hook told SFGATE that it employs women first and foremost. All Good Pizza, for example, is its all-women’s-led restaurant in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood. Hook is also the chef-owner of the Tatto restaurant, and a woman also runs her third restaurant, Alma.

They also conduct extensive training with every member of the staff when they join, which includes courses on equity and kitchen safety to make sure everyone knows they have a voice.

“Nothing about sexism, racism or any kind of nonsense will be tolerated.” Hook said. “To be honest with you, if I saw that in my kitchen, I would immediately get rid of people. But I feel like a very good measure of that when I hire people, so I don’t fill my kitchens with that kind of manly attitude.”

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