A lot of people asked me if I’d watched The Bear yet, and some warned me it might be a bit intense. It is an intense show, for anyone, the style reminds me a little of Baz Lurhman’s frenetic director energy in Moulin Rouge. The first series is about grief, family, loss, addiction. Chefs are often addicted to the adrenaline of the job, without it work can feel boring. Mundane. Too slow. There is a pace, an efficiency that is the language of chefs, and it doesn’t require talking. All is taken in, in a single glance, a pass over the scene. An implement handed silently, gratefully received.
The show touches on the various states of life as a chef, the highs and the lows, and is set in a particular low point, of grief, of burnout. A void of life outside of work.
One of my favourite jobs was to work on the Show Masterchef, behind the scenes on the food team, the days were incredibly long and there wasn’t time for much else. We were setting up the food pantry at 6am, being on set for the cooking, but off camera, helping point out any interesting food things that were happening. Testing all the pressure-test recipes, making sure they worked, and would have enough equipment for all the contestants, and getting to be assistant chef to all our guest chefs, getting their mise en place ready, and making sure they felt at home in our little back of house kitchen.
And there was a big crew and a lot of money riding on each episode, so the pressure was on, for things to work, for food being tasted to not kill anyone, for information to be current and correct. It was amazing. But yes watching series one of the Bear did give me a racing heart at times.
Series 2 has a totally different feel, the pace is slower, and there is hope. The hope in series 1 was more desperate and full of grief. Series 2 tries to bring some lightness, some balance, some mental wellness.
If you have a family member who struggles with their mental health, or indeed if you do yourself or had a tumultous family life, you may find the episode The Seven Fishes somewhat triggering. I loved it for its realness and was grateful for the heads-up, it allowed me to enjoy it with a bit more space. Jamie Lee Curtis plays the mother so very well, it was quite shocking just how well.
The Forks episode just got me all worked up about the beauty of caring about something really deeply, so deeply that it really hurts when it doesn’t work out. The beauty of serving people, at a really high standard, of meeting people where they are at and trying to create an unforgettable experience of welcome and unsurpassed service. I have tried to create this in several jobs, and people respond to it. Everyone wants to feel welcome and accepted, it’s not every day you get to create that. I hope to be able to do that again someday.