Sidney and I are almost finished with the first (and so far only) season of “The Bear.” You can stream the series on Hulu and I highly recommend that you do. It has been heralded as the best streaming show of the year—and not just because it is highly engaging. “The Bear” is scoring rave review after rave review because of its supposed dead-on accurate depiction of the restaurant industry.
Okay, just a couple points of clarification from the above paragraph: Despite a name that might lead some to believe the show is a wild animal documentary, “The Bear” is actually a fictional drama about a restaurant and the people who work at it. Also, the reason why I use “supposed” when describing the authentic portrayal of the restaurant business is because aside from working the concession stand at minor league baseball games with my Knights of Columbus brothers, I have zero experience in food service.
But if I am hesitant to trust the critics who praise “The Bear” for its accuracy, I could turn to another trusted source—my wife. Sidney worked at restaurants prior to us meeting and as we have watched the episodes together, she has confirmed a lot of the struggles and triumphs that Carmy and his Original Beef staff face. Along the way, the series has also inspired Sid to share her own personal stories and experiences from working in food service. It has been a great way to get to know my wife just a little bit more.
What I have learned about restauranting from “The Bear” is that for many places the business is a complete grind. You almost have to be obsessive with all aspects of your operation and the slightest issue—whether food related or utility/billing/staffing related—can spell disaster for the bottom line. Many restaurants are working on razor thin margins and there is little room for error.
Aside from the negative realities of stress, I have also learned about the positives of working in a restaurant, namely the camaraderie that exists in the kitchen. The employees of a restaurant function as a team and bonds develop. As with any close-knit team, the culture resembles that of a family. It is true that family is sometimes messy, and that is depicted in this series, but at the end of the day everyone seems to have the other’s back.
As I mentioned, I have never worked in a restaurant before. Can “The Bear” have any type of impact on me beyond its entertainment value and the stories it pushed out of Sid? I think so. The series illustrated the extremely tough nature of the restaurant business and the nightly high stakes that come with it. Anything, including snarky online reviews, can tilt a family-owned eatery in a dangerously wrong direction.
I write Google Reviews a lot. If I try a new restaurant, I am going to post a review about it. Generally, my reviews are 85% positive. However, in the future, if I feel I was subjected to a rotten experience, I am going to choose my words carefully and keep the hardworking people in the kitchen in mind. I wouldn’t want my review to add any unnecessary hardship to a business that is on the brink.
I encourage you to watch “The Bear” and see if you can glean anything from it. If not, you will still enjoy it. Aside from the restaurant themes, you will be treated to an incredible production of kitchen sounds, beautiful food, and superb acting. Don’t Blink.