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The Bear Season 2 – TV series review

TV Series: The Bear Season 2
Released: June 2023 


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

We absolutely loved Season 1 and  approached Season 2 with much anticipation and enthusiasm when it finally dropped. Having devoured all 10 delectable courses over three sittings, I can say that this was another exquisitely presented degustation meal that did not disappointed.

With a formidable cast led by chef Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White), the family of characters whom we first became acquainted with in Season 1 took us through another totally engrossing and fulfilling tasting meal. It was another delicious experience served by creator/director Christopher Storer with much style, spice, intensity, drama and lots of heart! 

Creating the new BEAR restaurant

Season 1 was all about accomplished chef Carmy returning to run the family business “The Beef” in Chicago following the unexpected and tragic death of his brother Michael. It ended with a bombshell discovery of loads of cash left behind and stashed away in the restaurant. 

Season 2 opens with the dysfunctional team deciding to go ahead with a makeover of the restaurant, with the help of added investor funds pumped in by Uncle Jimmy (Oliver Platt). 

The 10 episodes are devoted to the insights and challenges of this makeover project; the setting up of what they aim to be a new Michelin-starred establishment called “The Bear”, grippingly and refreshingly told through a deep dive into both the human relationships and food that everything revolves around.

More character insights

The focus in Season 2 widens so that it is not just about Carmy but the whole close-knit team. Whole episodes are devoted to exploring the psyche, backstory and fleshing out of each of the key characters that make up the Bear family. 

In one episode, when Carmy stands her up for a meal, we see Sous Chef Sydney (Ayo Adebirri) take time off from the project to visit restaurants to find inspiration for creating the new menu. She indulges in pizza and a sundae but also tries out dishes and ingredients that would inform new dishes. 

It was fun seeing her visit some restaurants we actually recognised and had visited on our last trip to Chicago – including the distinct timber-lined Avec at Randolph Street, where we enjoyed some fine cuisine. Through the other episodes we also learn about her close, only-child relationship with her father and the absence of a mother figure in her life, the latter having died of Lupus when she was four. Sydney’s close rapport and constant friction with Carmy and other staff are also well explored.

Purpose and service

Cousin Richard “Richie” Jerimovich (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) is another prominent character we see fleshed out further in this season. An impetuous personality, noted to be a ‘fixer’ and supposedly good with people, we see his insecurity about having a legitimate place at the table of the new dream team and not having a real skill. We are constantly irritated and annoyed by his arrogance and eagerness to cut corners and wonder how he will fit in. 

But Carmy pulls in a favour and sends him off to do a stint at his last chef gig (filmed at the real two-star-rated restaurant Ever) where he is immersed into the art of the highest levels of customer service quality.
An intimate conversation with front-of-house General Manager reminds him what it is all about to serve someone. And he learns that the terms ‘hospitality’ and ‘hospital’ both come from the Latin ‘hospes’ which refers to a visitor or stranger needing to be looked after. 
An understated but delightful guest appearance from none other than Olivia Colman as fictitious restaurant owner Chef Terry rounds off the Richie episode.

Danish desserts

One of the episodes is devoted to dessert chef Marcus (Lionel Boyce) who is sent off to Denmark for a week to learn the art of exquisite dessert-making. Carmy has pulled in another personal favour which allows Marcus to improve his craft by working with one of his old chef mates at top restaurant Noma. So Marcus gets to live on a houseboat in Copenhagen (feeding the imaginary cat Coco) and to learn from Chef Luca (Will Poulter) — not just about dessert-making but also helping him to re-examine his own motivations for wanting to ground himself in rigour and to create the best desserts. 

Back to cooking school

Tina (Liza Colon-Zayas) the older and jaded cook from The Beef who had lots of tension with Chef Sydney in Season 1 comes into her own when she is offered a promotion to uplift herself and is sent off to culinary school to sharpen her skills. She steps up to the challenge and embraces the opportunity with relish to better herself. Her colleague Ebraheim (Edwin Lee Gibson) on the other hand chickens out and admits the step change is way too much for him to handle, although he manages to find a middle ground to flourish in the rejuvenated team. 

We can’t help but share a big smile and that warm and fuzzy feeling when we see Tina acknowledge her anointment as a serious chef when she realises Chef Carmy has not only let her use his personal knife for her training but will allow her to keep it for good.

Do great chefs have a personal life?

If the anxieties of trying to get a new restaurant up and running against intense time and cost pressures isn’t enough, the show’s creators have added the expected spice of a romantic interest into Carmy’s already frenzied existence. We are introduced to Claire ‘Bear’ (Molly Gordon) a high school crush with whom he rekindles sparks he regrettably failed to act on while growing up. She’s now a medical doctor working in Emergency and seems compatible. Carmy is hesitant about formalising the emerging relationship but everyone else is encouraging and thinks she’s a great match.

His sister Nathalie ‘Sugar’ Berzatto (Abby Elliott) is also undecided about taking on the full time job as project manager and operations manager at the restaurant while she copes with a pregnancy.

Family Christmas gathering

Carmy’s wider family context is fleshed out in a particular long and explosive bumper episode. This is one big flashback, set four years prior, when Carmy took time off as a high-powered chef to return to his mother’s home for a family Christmas dinner. 
A number of stellar guest appearances send this episode into the stratosphere, what with the neurotic and unhinged matriarch Donna Berzatto (Jamie Lee Curtis) acting up, brother Michael Berzatto (John Bernthal) snapping when provoked by Uncle Lee (Bob Odenkirk) for being a failure, cousin Michelle (Sarah Poulson) quietly offering Carmy a sane refuge from his crazy family and her boyfriend Stevie (John Mulaney) trying to calm everyone down and hold things together saying grace as the whole scenario keeps escalating to an explosive climax.
This one episode alone was a highlight, delivering a masterclass in ensemble acting. Jamie Lee Curtis gives what could potentially be another award-winning performance as matriarchal martyr who complains endlessly that no one helps or appreciates her and yet refuses the help whenever anyone offers it. 

Fak, the real life chef

Completing the core team are Neil Fak (Matty Matheson) who serves as the resident handyman in the restaurant while he’s actually a chef in real life and his brother Theodore Fak (Ricky Staffieri).

Food and the love of food are the glue that holds everything together and it is plain to see how much hard work the industry is. But it’s nevertheless a very rewarding one when customers you serve actually have a special and memorable experience.

Highy recommended viewing

So if you’re into good food, human drama presented well and enjoyed the first season, this follow-up season is one we would recommend. Almost in the same vein as Ted Lasso, this is such a well-written piece of television with one helluva ensemble.

The show manages to portray an unlikely bunch of personalities who have come together and are determined to stick together and support each other to succeed doing what they all love… while serving up an exquisite dining experience. 

Benchmark of excellence

It has been fascinating and also illuminating to see, through this show, what a truly special gastronomic experience can be with exceptional personalised service; where front-of-house and wait staff anticipate, eavesdrop, do background research and then fulfill, if not surpass your perfectly reasonable dining needs and expectations.

Having savoured some very good meals and (expensive) dining experiences, both in Sydney and elsewhere around the world, we have yet to encounter one to the level of service quality suggested as the ultimate benchmark in the show. Perhaps this is something to ruminate over, especially for restauranteurs in Sydney who may somehow struggle to balance their aspirations for personal acclaim versus truly satisfying a customer.