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Everything The Bear Gets Wrong About The Food Industry

"The Bear," Hulu's original hit series, is set in a Chicagoland restaurant kitchen. It is being praised by critics — and by chefs who are having a hard time finishing the show due to its painfully accurate representation of the traumas of working in the food industry. 

After the death of his brother Mikey (Jon Bernthal), Carmen "Carmy" Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) returns from a life in the upper echelon of NYC fine dining to run Mikey's sandwich shop in their hometown of Chicago. He tries to bring a refined and organized work ethic to the restaurant, making big moves like hiring aspiring chef Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) to be his sous chef. However, between conflicts arising with his friend Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), paying off the restaurant's crushing debts, and processing his brother's death, Carmy begins to crack under the pressure.

Full of industry jargon, French techniques, and excellent plating, "The Bear" gets plenty of things right about restaurant work. Still, like any dramatization, the show is not a perfectly accurate representation of the industry. Some moments in "The Bear" will raise red flags for anyone who has ever worked in food service. Here's everything the Hulu series gets wrong about working in the restaurant industry.

Staging isn't usually paid

One of the bits of chef lingo used in "The Bear" is the word stage. Pronounced the way it is on the show, staj, it refers to a short period where a cook will work under a chef for free, often with the intention of being hired full time. We see this happen with Sydney in the first few episodes of the series, but there is one unusual stipulation that comes with her position.

Traditionally staging in a fine dining restaurant is an unpaid gig (via Michelin). This is pretty much industry standard across the board. In "The Bear," a conversation between Sydney and Carmy indicates this is not the case in this restaurant. When she asks to be paid to work, Carmy replies, "I am paying you." Sydney responds by saying, "You're paying me to stage," implying he is paying her a low rate that doesn't match up to the work she's putting in. 

While Sydney is absolutely correct about the fact that she should be compensated properly for her work, the fact that Carmy paid her to stage at all is uncommon in the restaurant industry.

They would have a front of house staff

"The Bear" has a unique point of view because it focuses on the back of house staff. In a restaurant, back of house is considered anyone who is working in a non-customer facing position. This means the kitchen staff, dishwashers, etc. Most places that serve food have a back of house staff and a front of house staff that is responsible for jobs like serving food and running the register. We've seen plenty of comedies about the front of house waitstaff — think of "Waiting" or "Party Down" — so "The Bear" benefits from doing something else. However, doesn't it seem strange that they don't have any front of house staff whatsoever?

It seems that Richie is the one who works the register — despite being technologically inept — but he is pretty much it. In an early episode, we see Carmy working the front computer in an effort to show what a pickle the restaurant is in, but realistically the head chef would not be working the register every shift. In fact, he probably wouldn't be working in the front of the house at all. Even if they don't need anyone to serve the tables, any good restaurant needs one or two dedicated employees to work the register and keep the place clean during busy service hours.

Macus's roommate would not be allowed in the kitchen

This is pretty obvious, even if you've never worked in the food service industry in your life. Roommates, aka nonemployees, are not allowed in the kitchen. When breadmaker Marcus (Lionel Boyce) had his roommate come hang out with him on the job, we lost it.

There are plenty of health code violations this infraction would break, as well as the general safety hazard having an extra person would cause. Businesses in most states, including Illinois (via The Hartford), are liable to give workman's comp to anyone who gets injured on the job. This means having an extra person on the premises is a potential legal nightmare if they cause or are hurt in an accident.

Of all the little ways "The Bear" stretches the truth, this recurring detail is probably the most flagrant red flag to anyone who has worked in a kitchen. Given all the dangers of having Marcus's roomie chilling in the kitchen, Carmy is pretty nonchalant about the whole thing. Maybe it speaks to how much Carmy has on his plate, but given his attitude about every other issue that comes up, you might expect the chef to yell at Marcus for being irresponsible and wasting time. Instead, he just kind of lets it happen — which a chef de cuisine would never do.

The chef de cuisine would not have been serving a catering event

This is intertwined with the restaurant's lack of front of house staff, but there's no way the chef de cuisine of a restaurant would be serving at a catering event. It simply wouldn't happen, even if working the event was a favor to uncle Jimmy (Oliver Platt) who Carmy now owes $300K.

In the show's 4th Episode, "Dogs," Carmy and Richie are forced to cater a kid's birthday party to work off their debt to Jimmy. It makes sense that one of them would have to go, and it makes sense that person would be Richie. However, Carmy should be at the restaurant. Even in a family-run business with a small crew catering is a job for front of house staff, not the chef and owner of the restaurant. So basically, it's unrealistic that Carmy would have been there, and "The Bear" just needed a reasonable excuse to put those three characters together in a wacky situation.

Marcus would not have enough free time to experiment with recipes

Frequently, "The Bear" portrays working in a restaurant as a grueling and exacting job. You work long hours with few benefits beyond your paycheck and the company of your coworkers. The show has been praised (via Eater) for its accuracy in this regard — people working at mom and pop style restaurants pull long, hard hours for unappreciative bosses. So, all that taken into consideration, why does Marcus seem to have so much free time on the job?

Not only does he have time for his roommate to come and hang out with him while he works from time to time, but he presumably spends dozens and dozens of hours perfecting his chocolate cake and donut recipes. Marcus is the sole pastry chef at a sandwich shop, meaning he is in charge of all the bread. You need a lot of bread for sandwiches, and that takes time. The free time he seems to have to experiment with perfecting desserts simply wouldn't exist in real life. Think about it. After the first couple of episodes, when do we actually see Marcus making any bread?

Carmy was way too chill about the health inspector

In the second episode of "The Bear" the restaurant faces even more setbacks after a Health Inspector makes a surprise stop. The inspector comes and gives them a C rating, which causes Richie to immediately scramble to fix up the place. However, before they are obviously awarded a sub-par health rating, there isn't any sense of panic. In reality, Carmy would have been freaking out.

Perhaps he's putting on a good face in front of the inspector, but there would be a sense of panic. According to Eater, it is common in NYC for restaurants to change how their operation works at the drop of a hat to appease the health inspector. In fact, one NYC service industry veteran told Eater that "when you tell [the chef] a DOH inspector is in the restaurant, the color will drain from their face, and they are terrified." 

Detailed health codes can make it impossible for places to operate as efficiently as they need to. As soon as that inspector arrived, it would have been all hands on deck at Carmy's restaurant to try and make the kitchen appear as compliant as possible. There's no way all those chefs are wearing gloves.

Why would a sandwich place not do to-go orders?

One of the late season points is that the restaurant finally opens for to-go orders, but its rollout is a disaster that leads to Sydney and Marcus quitting. This is what happens in the stunning, single shot Episode 7, when Sydney accidentally leaves the pre-orders open, overwhelming the system. What's the beef here? Puns aside, the real issue we see with this is that it's pretty unbelievable this type of shop wouldn't have been doing to-go food already, especially after the show acknowledges the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Episode 6 of "The Bear," Richie admits that he and Mikey would sell cocaine during the pandemic to help keep the restaurant afloat. That's pretty on brand for what we know about how The Beef used to operate, but are we really supposed to believe they didn't first try doing sandwiches to-go to recoup these costs first? It's unrealistic that a joint known for its Italian beef sandwiches would not have opened for to-go orders, especially during the trying times of 2020, when restaurants made headlines by pivoting to take-out orders (via the Los Angeles Times). 

Mikey isn't made out to be a business mogul, but the money in the sauce jars revealed at the end proves he was thinking ahead more than anyone gave him credit for. So yeah, we think he could have figured out takeout.

The kitchen lingo is laid on a bit too thick

The use of kitchen jargon is a big stylistic identifier of the writing throughout the show. Kitchen lingo used in "The Bear," like corner, behind, and addressing one another as chef, all are words used in real kitchens across the country. The show's first couple of episodes focus on a traditional French hierarchy of systematic restaurant organization that Carmy tries to implement. This is all part of what adds to the sense of realism and accuracy in "The Bear." However, the show's writers go a bit overboard from time to time.

One of the critiques Food and Wine had of the show's first season was its excessive use of kitchen jargon. There is very much a sense that Carmy is trying to bring fine dining concepts to the sandwich shop — the ending of Season 1 solidifies this — but some of the terms they use are unnecessarily pretentious for the type of food being cooked. Plus, they really do constantly call each other "chef" to the point where it can become irritating if you're on a binge.

You wouldn't do first aid in front of a window

This one isn't food industry nitpicking so much as it is understanding basic principles of health and sanitation. Simply put, behind the cash register in a guest-facing environment is the last place you want to do first aid — especially with your pants pulled down. What happens when Richie gets stabbed is beyond silly, it's unbelievable.

In Episode 7 of "The Bear," Richie gets accidentally stabbed in the butt by Sydney amid the most chaotic day the kitchen has seen yet. He immediately runs out from the kitchen to behind the register counter to get Manny (Richard Esteras) to patch him up. They do this, cleaning up Richie's bare behind, in full view of the front window. This kind of first-aid isn't just done willy-nilly in restaurants. Plus, this definitely is not the kinda thing in an area that faces the public. Maybe a bathroom would have been a bit more appropriate?