By Aoife Barry
The critically acclaimed show centres on talented and tattooed young chef Carmy Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White), who returns from a Michelin-star restaurant to take over his late brother’s business.
But he also inherits his brother’s terrible business decisions and a team who are very wary of his intentions.
Season one is crammed with lightning-fast scenes that show just how intense working in a professional kitchen can be, from dealing with last-minute disasters to the stress of too many orders coming through.
By the second season, the business is undergoing a complete overhaul and all of the newly confident staff are having to reskill and tool up.
So what can this award-winning show teach us about all-consuming careers in the real-life workplace?
Focus is important, but so is balance
Carmy is more than just a chef: he lives and breathes food and is completely absorbed in his role. Nothing matters to him as much as cooking well and making incredible meals in the kitchen.
His standards are high and he’s willing to bring the skills he honed at top restaurants to a more down-to-earth establishment and help his staff hone their talents.
But focusing on your career to the detriment of everything else doesn’t make for a balanced life.
Carmy uses work as a deflection from his emotional struggles following his brother’s death, and this takes its toll on his sense of self and his relationships.
It’s only when he begins to take space away from work to deal with those difficult emotions that he’s able to find some relief.
The team in The Bear were coasting along until Carmy came to shake things up. In season one, they had much to teach the main character about how to work in a smaller kitchen.
By season two, he has their respect and he can change things up, by gutting the restaurant, giving it a new name and a new menu.
As a result, Tina Marrero (Liza Colón-Zayas) and Ebraheim (Edwin Lee Gibson) are sent to culinary school, where they can finesse their skills.
It’s not easy, however, and Ebraheim struggles with fitting in, and understanding that he can learn in a new environment.
Meanwhile, Carmy and Sydney Adamu (Ayo Edebiri) continuously test new dishes and aren’t happy until they hit the sweet spot. They are both willing to fail and don’t want to settle.
Even though they’re both clearly talented, they show that you should keep on trying to improve.
The importance of teamwork
Nothing happens without teamwork. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, however, and there’s a lot we can learn from how it goes wrong in The Bear’s workplace.
For starters, they might all say they respect each other, but some members of their team - looking at you, Cousin Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) - feel they have to take out their frustration by shouting over other people, and trying to have their own way.
As the team learns over and over again, it’s not until everyone calmly and rationally deals with issues that things get fixed.
It’s not enough to shout about a problem, you have to listen too. The Bear shows us that teamwork hinges on actually listening to each member of the team.
Bad workplace behaviour
The restaurant industry doesn't always offer job security and conditions are often precarious.
This is not an ideal situation for any worker and as the series moves forward we see how Carmy and co try to ensure that their restaurant doesn’t fall into these traps.
There’s much we can learn here about how a lack of job security can affect people’s confidence, and keep them stuck in roles where they can’t grow.
There’s a lot of paying homage to the traditions that make fine dining special in the series.
But we also see how toxic behaviour driven by perfectionism damages people; like Carmy’s experience working under an abusive chef at a Michelin-star restaurant in NYC. We see how the lingering effects of one bad boss can last for years.
This is contrasted with Marcus Brooks’ (Lionel Boyce) trip to Copenhagen, where he learns about attention to detail from the patient, talented chef Luca (Will Poulton). He isn’t subjected to aggressive behaviour and leaves feeling a more competent, invigorated pastry chef.
While The Bear is a fictional TV series, we can’t help but see ourselves in the characters and how they are impacted by their workplace.
We witness how it’s possible to push yourself to be excellent without behaving badly towards your colleagues, and how by working together for a common goal, you can find satisfaction in a job done well. Yes, chef!
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