I love television. I am more than guilty of the occasional binge watch. However, not one show in recent memory— not one episode— has had as much impact on me as episode seven of The Bear on Hulu. Simply put, it is a masterpiece.
In just 20 minutes, the cast and crew manage to put forward a story that both flies by and feels like it’s taking hours to complete. The sheer amount of rage, comedy, anxiety and agony that is fit into just 20 minutes of TV is something that should be studied by aspiring writers and actors for years to come. Even more preposterous? A majority of the episode is shot in one single take.
The Bear shows those who have never worked in a kitchen, the reality of the practice. It demonstrates the pure demise one can face when obsessing over their work— the feeling of hatred towards something that you cannot seem to run away from. For those of us who have worked in kitchens before, it is a steady reminder of what it’s really like behind the scenes.
I’m a few years removed from that life (and thankful to be) and yet, episode seven made me miss it. Through all of the apprehension and fear that was displayed on screen, I still found myself attracted to the chaos. Whether it is pure passion or Stockholm Syndrome I’m not really sure, but what I am sure of is that this single episode, titled “Review,” nailed it in every single way.
If you haven’t seen The Bear yet, I recommend bookmarking this and coming back to it when you’ve finished. Past this point, spoilers are in abundance.
The episode begins with the voice of Chicago’s most well-known alternative rock station, WXRT— Lin Brehmer. His words narrate the opening credits: “I’m your best friend in the world,” he says. “It’s so great to be alive… While you’ve heard that all roads lead to Rome, some roads lead from Chicago,” Brehmer continues before “Chicago” by Sufjan Stevens begins playing.
The strike of the first chord brings a shot of the city skyline into frame, and the opening credits continue with vintage shots of the city to accompany them. It’s funny, the shortest episode of The Bear is also the only one with a full opening credits scene. But, this is important. This treasure deserves it. The lyrics begin:
I fell in love again
All things go, all things go
Drove to Chicago
All things know, all things know
A perfect example of where the story is at now. After loads of stress and discomfort at The Original Beef of Chicagoland, Carmen Berzatto’s (played by Jeremy Allen White) finally found his footing. He left Michelin starred restaurants to be back in Chicago running a hole-in-the-wall joint that his brother, Michael, left to him after committing suicide. And while at first it seemed like it might be more than he could handle, by the beginning of episode seven, he is in love with his craft once again.
Sous Chef Sydney Adamu (played by Ayo Edebiri) shares similar feelings. She turned away from fine dining just for the opportunity to work under Carmy. With her help, the restaurant is turning into a respectable establishment. The lyrics continue:
I was in love with the place
In my mind, in my mind
I made a lot of mistakes
In my mind, in my mind
Review: One Take
The credits dissipate, and suddenly we are placed into the kitchen of The Beef on a rather big day for the restaurant. Ebraheim, a cook, is reading a glowing review that The Beef received from The Telegraph all while Sydney is setting up a tablet for online ordering— something Carmy and Richie, the degenerate employee and longtime friend of Carmy’s late brother, are weary of. The chaos ensues immediately. The elated write-up is great for business, but it raves of a short rib with risotto that Sydney unknowingly gave to a food critic in the previous episode. However, these short ribs appear nowhere on the menu. As it is human nature to want what we cannot have, this is an obvious problem. Even worse, Sydney went behind Carmy’s back to give this dish out to who she thought was a normal customer— betraying the head of the command chain in doing so.
Marcus, the charismatic baker, is working on perfecting a donut that he’s had in the works for a while. Tina, the decade-long veteran of the kitchen, is running late, and she is late with a surprise: her teenage son who she wants to learn discipline in the restaurant. “Today?” Carmy and Sydney ask in unison.
Sydney confronts Carmy to apologize, but he is moving a mile a minute trying to get the kitchen together for what is no doubt going to be their busiest day since he took over. “It’s all good. Good for business,” Carmy reluctantly tells her, as he frantically writes notes down with a sharpie.
Richie enters the kitchen and begins asking questions about the review— an obvious attempt to stir up the emotions of his work rival, Sydney. “Blowing somebody down at the Telegraph?” he asks, but Sydney brushes it off and continues setting up to-go boxes for the newly installed online ordering system.
Richie continues to heckle Sydney before being told to “shut the fuck up” by none other than Carmy.
So far, this is a pretty normal string of scenarios for a hectic day in a kitchen. Unwelcome surprises, like a teenager who will shadow your every move, complement the hostility and tension between employees and is topped off with something nerve inducing, like a new system that allows hundreds of people to summon food through a couple clicks on their phone or computer. The snowball effect is all too common in professional restaurants, and the odds are that if one thing goes wrong, more will come. It is the ultimate test of composure and chefs take that test virtually every single day.
Carm begins to ask each chef in the kitchen the counts on various items. When he gets to Marcus, though, he doesn’t have an answer. Marcus is in charge of chocolate cake, but today he is more concerned with his donuts— something he has been working on for quite some time now. “Marcus if you’re still fucking with those donuts right now, I’m gonna fuck your day up. Understand?” Carm screams across the kitchen. But there’s no time to dwell, it’s a busy day with no time for distractions.
Meanwhile, Sydney is attempting to explain the to-go system to a very stubborn Richie. Since she arrived, Richie has felt the restaurant changing, and he is not fond of that fact. For him, The Beef— in all its inefficiency and juveniety— is reminiscent of Michael. Richie tells Sydney that her new-school approach is going to bring the wrong kind of crowd in and “box out the OGs.”
With each passing second, the tension rises in the quaint kitchen of The Beef, but the entirety of the staff is in for a rude awakening. Suddenly, a never-ending stream of online orders starts coming through the ticket printer on the line. Sydney forgot to turn off pre-ordering.
I laughed the first time I watched this. Not because it’s actually funny, but because it is all too familiar. The sound of a ticket machine plays in the nightmares of everyone who has ever worked even a day in a restaurant and today, at The Original Beef of Chicagoland, that ghoulish sound begins before they’ve even opened for service.
The whole kitchen is thrown into a collective panic. Sydney is scrambling to explain herself but is cut off by Carmy reading out the orders: “We have 78 slices of chocolate cake, 99 french fries, 54 chickens, 38 salads and 255 beef sandwiches due up in 8 minutes.” The good news is that the review is bringing in great business, the bad news is that now the crew has 524 items to prepare. Oh, and the orders are still coming in.
Carm’s experience in the field comes into play here, but at a specific cost. He begins screaming efficient steps for everyone to follow. Cuss words follow each instruction, but the ideas are clear and concise. The team is ready to battle through this war, except for Marcus. Oblivious to seemingly everything, Marcus is still working on his donuts and not on the 78 slices of chocolate cake that he needs to put in the window in mere minutes.
Sydney begins to organize the tickets before Carm interjects:
“Step out. Step out,” Carmy says.
“Okay, I’m gonna talk to Marcu—” she’s cut off.
“Get the fuck off my expo, Chef, now!” Carm screams with spit flying in Syd’s face.
He loses his cool. High off adrenaline, Carm doesn’t even realize what he just did. He screamed in the face of one of his employees and even worse, it was his own sous chef.
Sydney is now grabbing cakes to slice. While rounding the corner, she runs into Richie, prompting her to drop the cakes on the floor. Everything is falling apart. The tension between these two was already high, but now it is catastrophic. The doors haven’t even opened and the vibe is more than dead; it’s locked away and the key is burned.
Several other scenarios are unfolding simultaneously. Tina wants to check in on Sydney, but is brushed off. Every set of hands in The Beef is occupied by something. While writing something down, Carm’s sharpie runs out of ink. This is obviously no big deal, but when the entire universe is against you and it’s not even noon, it feels like the end of the world. He chucks it across the room, screaming for someone to find him a new one.
Instructions are being thrown out left and right, and the anger is rising in Carmen. And the more enraged he gets, the more confusing he becomes. As a viewer, we get to see his staff becoming less efficient with each scream and cuss. He still needs a sharpie, too.
“Get me a fucking sharpie. Get me a fucking sharpie,” Carmy yells. Of course, no one listens.
Richie is sent to the back to prep vegetables. Who else is back there prepping? None other than Sydney. Their argument immediately resumes. Yells, screams and genuine insults are thrown at one another. Sydney, who is so blinded by her rage, calls him a loser and even goes as far as to say that his daughter probably feels the same. He turns to her and gets in her face. Sydney pulls a knife out. “Are you gonna stab me?” he asks her.
“Maybe I fucking will,” she replies.
Carmy comes back there not to break up the fight, or even to grab the knife, but to tell them to continue cutting vegetables. He is so in the zone that the potential assault is nonexistent to him. If it doesn’t have to do with the food, then it isn’t real. Besides, Sydney isn’t actually going to stab Richie and everyone knows this.
An elated Marcus comes into the frame holding none other than his perfected donut. Carm is not amused. Obsession is like a drug and oftentimes it removes you from reality— Marcus exemplifies this perfectly. Carmy asks Marcus multiple times “why are you fucking with me?” and Marcus’ proud smile slowly flattens out. The donut is snatched out of his hand and thrown onto the floor. His hard work has vanished. “Get the fuck back to work. Move!” he shrieks.
Richie attempts to calm down Carm, but in doing so he backs up right into Sydney’s knife. It punctures his leg and the whole kitchen goes quiet. Richie runs to the front and drops his pants to the floor— Ebraheim begins to bandage him up. To take Rich’s mind off the pain, he tells him a story of a civil war in his home land of Somalia.
Ebraheim tells of multiple factions fighting for power and the increased tensions leading the government to collapse. With it, Somalia became a failed state. A fitting story for this particular day at The Beef.
The camera pans to Marcus throwing a tray of his donuts on a table, taking his apron off and walking out the door. Then, it pans to Carm scrambling around the kitchen. He is moving faster than ever, but seems to be accomplishing nothing. Sydney is sitting by her things in silence.
“Yo, are we good?” Carm asks.
“We are not good, Chef,” Sydney replies, “I quit.”
“You quit? You quit right now?” he snaps back.
“You are an excellent chef,” she looks into his eyes, “You are also a piece of shit,” she walks out the door.
The restaurant is still not open. A line of impatient people spreads out the door.
The distorted metal music playing in the background gets increasingly louder as the shot zooms in on a confused and angry Carmen. He paces back and forth before squatting down to the floor which is covered with food. Carmy grabs Marcus’ donut— the one he threw in a rage— and eats it.
“Fuck” he mutters to himself, smiling. It’s good.
The Bear in its entirety is an incredible watch. For restaurant alumni, it is a must-see for capturing the business in an accurate manner, but the story is great enough on its own to appeal to anyone.
Episode 7, “Review,” captures everything that makes this show so great and consolidates it into one, elongated shot. After the opening credits, the camera doesn’t cut once— a true testament to the talent of the actors and crew of The Bear.
Like a play, the actors are performing a well rehearsed chain of lines and interactions. This is something so mind-blowing to me that after the first time I watched it, I immediately started it over and watched it again. It’s that superb.
Instead of cuts in the shot, the cuts are in the form of new issues. When Sydney notices Marcus still making donuts instead of slicing cake, she is cut off by Carm noticing another mistake in the kitchen. This continuously happens throughout the episode and it creates an overwhelming feeling of anxiety that is bound to resonate with anyone. Everyone knows what stress feels like; it is a dreadful feeling, but as humans we are sometimes drawn to the things that hurt us— we are masochistic in a sense. Episode 7 is relatable in that way.
Many of my restaurant industry friends have told me that they had trouble finishing Review because of how triggering it was. Why is something that is supposed to be enjoyable causing these feelings? But, to me, it means that the entire cast did their homework. Jeremy Allen White, who plays Carmen, even noted trailing in a fine dining restaurant for four months to prepare for the role. As a product of the restaurant industry— and all of its ups and downs— I appreciate this dedication.
Had I not known Jeremy Allen White from Shameless, I would’ve thought Hulu walked into a random Michelin starred restaurant and offered an acting job to the first person they saw on the line. Carmy is perfectly played by White and there isn’t a better example of this talent than in Review.
When I was in Culinary School, the chef instructors constantly talked about Murphy’s Law, which states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. I remember the first time this happened to me in the real world. Working as a line cook in Manhattan, I ran out of calamari in the middle of a busy dinner service. I had to cut, clean and cook more all while fulfilling other orders that were coming through. Everything was going wrong and the 15 minutes it took me to get back on my feet felt like hours. Of course, it was no one’s fault but my own, but still, in that moment, it felt like everything was against me. This is exactly what happens in The Bear.
The episode starts with, well, the review. It is good news, but it’s also bad because it talks of a dish that doesn’t exist. Already, Sydney is the villain of the day. Then, the online ordering goes wrong. Then, the donut. Problems keep stacking up on top of one another and the chefs at The Beef are desperately trying to keep their head above water. Murphy’s Law— never forget it.
I mentioned obsession before. That’s because obsession is one of the most relevant emotions to anyone who takes pride in what they do. Chefs understand this and in The Bear, it’s everything. White plays a chef who hates his restaurant, but cannot seem to escape it. He is infested with the idea of how to make it perfect and he will stop for nothing to make it so. That is why he is oblivious to whose feelings he may hurt along the way. When Sydney tells him he’s a piece of shit, for the first time in the entire series, he hears it. His facial expression shows that he understands. Sydney breaks through the wall of deluded passion and gets to the true core of who he is: A scared, grieving chef who is just trying to honor his dead brother.
When Carm bends down, smiles and eats the donut off of the garbage laden floor, his insanity is on full display. He smiles because it’s tasty, but also because he is proud of Marcus, who before five minutes ago, looked up to him immensely. There is a glimpse of himself in Marcus— a young, naive, obsessed cook. With everything else going on, Carmy can’t do anything but laugh.
While “Review” may seem like an insane exaggeration, it is important to remember that the toxicity displayed is all but abnormal in professional kitchens. When dining at restaurants, we enjoy a product of the chef’s craftsmanship in its most perfected form. However, we rarely get to see what goes on before it arrives at the table. The Bear peels back the curtain and offers viewers a peek inside the brutality of restaurant kitchens. There is no better example of this inside look than in what I believe to be the climax of the series: Episode seven. In Review, anything that can go wrong, does.
About the Author/s
Peter Candia is the Food + Drink Editor at New Jersey Digest. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Peter found a passion for writing midway through school and never looked back. He is a former line cook, server and bartender at top-rated restaurants in the tri-state area. In addition to food, Peter enjoys politics, music, sports and anything New Jersey.