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So long, Mr. Beef: Founder of sandwich shop that inspired hit TV series 'The Bear' dies

Jeremy Allen White as Carmen 'Carmy' Berzatto in The Bear
Jeremy Allen White as Carmen 'Carmy' Berzatto in The Bear Copyright FX - AP
Copyright FX - AP
By Jonny Walfisz with AP
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Chicago restaurant Mr. Beef was the inspiration and setting for the hit FX show The Bear last year. The founder and co-owner passed away this week.

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The founder of the Chicago sandwich shop that inspired last year’s hit show The Bear has died, aged 69.

Joseph Zucchero founded and ran Mr. Beef, the no-frills sandwich joint that was a local staple in its Chicago’s River North neighbourhood before the restaurant became a star in its own right as the setting and inspiration behind frenetic kitchen drama The Bear, which dazzled audiences last year.

Zucchero died unexpectedly on at Rush Medical Center while undergoing treatment for cancer, said his son, Christopher Zucchero, who is a co-owner of the restaurant. “He was supposed to come home,” he said.

The exact cause of death is not yet known.

AP Photo
The exterior of Mr. Beef is shown, Monday, March 6, 2023AP Photo

“He was a magnificent human being. He was charismatic. He loved his restaurant. .. He loved his family, his children,” Zucchero said.

“There's going to be a huge void here,” he said. “I'm in shock... We act as if he's still here. That’s kind of how we’re going to maintain and persevere, to act as if he’s going to come around the corner.”

Zucchero has said that the restaurant has stayed open despite his father’s passing. 

“We didn’t take any time off" - which is what his dad would have wanted. For 44 years, “Mr. Beef was always open the hours it said it was open," Zucchero said. The only exceptions to that rule are for the filming of The Bear and for his father’s burial service this coming Saturday, he added.

Creator of The Bear, Christopher Storer is a childhood friend of Zucchero. The focus the show brought to the shop was a point of pride for his father, Zucchero said.

“There was something that felt really lost in time about this specific place. There’s even a sign that says, ‘Even though it’s 2022 out there, it’s still 1988 in here’,” Storer said of the restaurant in an Esquire interview last year.

The Bear was one of Euronews Culture’sBest of Culture picks for 2022. “The Bear is a show about love, grief, family, community, AND the love of food,” we wrote.

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