Celebrity

‘The Bear’: Out to Lunch With Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri

Maybe it was a mistake to bring Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri to a restaurant. Sure, it sounds good on paper: They’re the stars of The Bear, FX on Hulu’s razor-sharp, darkly funny new show about burnt-out chefs living the gritty kitchen life. The place, Via Carota in Manhattan’s West Village, is close to where White and Edebiri are wrapping up a photo shoot, but high-profile enough to birth its own subgenre on culinary TikTokand delicious enough to be deemed New York’s most perfect restaurant. then again, The Bear has become so popular that it feels like taking Steph Curry to a basketball game, or Nicole Kidman to an AMC. Someone’s going to notice!

Someone does, stopping White and Edebiri before they even walk through the door. To be fair, White looks a lot like his character. He’s wearing a crisp white shirt and a tattered Mets cap over his wavy hair, a few tattoos dotting his arms; all he’s missing is a blue apron. Edebiri wears a billowy white dress, her hair styled in a voluminous blowout. They chat for a moment with the fan, then come to the table, preparing themselves for the serious business of ordering lunch. Then someone else recognizes White, locking eyes with him and placing their hand over their heart. “Sorry,” they half whisper. “Huge fan.” White graciously thanks them.

Then he gets back to perusing the menu, gamely suggesting some crowd-pleasers. “The tagliatelle looks nice,” he says. “I love cacio. Are you guys into artichokes?” He points to the glass of crisp verdicchio I ordered before they arrived. “What do you have there?” he asks. “Is it nice?” (It’s nice.) Edebiri suggests broccolini for the table; White bounces back with grilled artichokes. Edebiri wonders if the menu has any skin contact wine. “I have a hard time with red wine, because it gives me headaches,” she tells me. “I’m sensitive!” She samples two different rosés suggested by the server, picking the more crimson of the two. I ask why. “No idea,” she quips. Then she leans in, channeling her faux inner sommelier. “I can taste the barrel it was aged in…”

The server returns. Edebiri orders the tagliatelle. White orders the verdicchio, the broccolini, the grilled artichokes, and a plate of cacio. “We did it,” he says victoriously. Yes, chef.

“Did you read that thing in Bon Appetit?” White asks Edebiri. He’s referring to a piece recently dropped into the show’s group chat by Matty Mathisona producer and actor in The Bear who’s also a professional chef. In the piece, several chefs confess that they can’t finish The Bear, but only because it’s such an accurate cartoonal of toxic restaurant culture. “Which is…nice? It’s nice,” White says, uncertainly. Edebiri’s heard the exact same thing from one of the chefs she trained with in preparation for the show. “She was like, ‘Just so you know, I’m taking a break from watching the episodes,'” Edebiri recalls. “’It’s really painful to watch. But it’s really good!”

The Bear is high blood pressure TV, even for those who have never stepped foot in a professional kitchen. Created by Christopher Storer (who also writes, directs, and produces), it follows Carmen Berzatto, a culinary wunderkind who once worked for some of the best restaurants in the world. (Noma references abound.) But after the death of his brother, Michael (walking charisma factory Jon Bernthal), Carmy hoofs it back to Chicago to take over the family restaurant, an Italian joint called the Original Beef of Chicagoland.

By Lelanie Foster.

His attempt to train the unruly kitchen staff while working through his severe family trauma can be brutal. Handheld cameras zag through a fast-paced kitchen where things are thrown, spilled, smashed, burned. People backstab each other, figuratively and literally. Carmy screams (and screams and screams), much to the chagrin of Sydney (Edebiri), a talented sous chef who leaves fine dining behind so she can work for him. They have a mentor-mentee thing going on that charms at first, then curdles in the toxic halls of the kitchen. Watching the show is like frying your own nerves for fun. No wonder some real-life chefs can’t unwind with it after a long day of work.

Edebiri can relate, having worked at restaurants like ABC Kitchen while trying to make it as a stand-up comedian and TV writer. “I remember being deeply afraid of the chefs,” she says. While working on The Bear she had a nightmare about a rush with the kitchen printer going off, throttling the staff with an unbelievable amount of orders—as happens in an episode of The Bear.

White never worked in restaurants, but he did train rigorously with chefs to play Carmy. He was floored to learn how the pressure of the job manifested in people. One chef he was stationed next to asked White to move farther down the line because he had recently lost his peripheral vision. What happened? “He said, ‘I’ve just been under so much stress,’” White recalls. The next day, that chef quit. “He was just completely burned out.

Still, White and Edebiri can see the beauty in the hum and flow of a great restaurant, in the mastery of a chef who knows exactly what they’re doing. They set out to capture that confidence somehow, training at the Institute of Culinary Education in Los Angeles. Sometimes White would drive Edebiri home, because she didn’t have her license yet.

Their camaraderie carried over onto the set and into this very lunch, where the duo catch up and rib each other over production memories—like when White noticed how much time Edebiri spends on her phone. “He was like, ‘You’re a little phone girl, aren’t ya!”‘ Edebiri recalls.

“I feel badly!” White says. “[But] Ayo does seem to have more time in the day than anybody else. Like, we would show up the next morning after filming all day, and she’s already watched half of a series, a movie, read like 12 chapters of a book. She’s gotten through the crossword puzzle. She’s on the Wordle. And she’s memorized and worked on all the scenes for the day.”

“What you don’t see is me going to my trailer at lunch and immediately dissociating for 45 minutes,” Edebiri jokes. “Just staring at a wall, listening to Radiohead.”

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