The FX Orginal series The Bear on Hulu takes place in the bustling, hot kitchen of the Original Beef of Chicagoland. It’s a family-owned diner inherited by fine dining international award-winning chef Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) on the death of his brother. He gives up his glossy career to come home, make sandwiches and face the wrath of his cousin (Ebon Moss Bachrach) who expected to get the place. The fast-paced dramedy follows the characters that inhabit his new space and asks why he did what he did. White and co-stars Ebon Moss Bachrach, Ayo Edebiri, Lionel Boyce, Liza ColónZayas, and New Brunswick chef, and food stylist, Matty Matheson who is also a co-producer, spoke with What She Said’ Anne Brodie about food.
Was there a food stylist on the show?
Matty Matheson: We didn’t have an actual food stylist. Acting is one thing but, the real magic happens when I step on stage. You know, without me it would just be hooha. (Laughs) The actors cooked everything. We set the stage, and then the actors would cook and butcher and make mise en place. If they had to cut a pile of onions, they’d be cutting a pile of onions. If they had to cut a mirepoix for the beef, they would be doing that. If they had to butcher top sirloin to make beef, they would be butchering. It takes a village. Much like any restaurant, much like any production, there are so many people that make something happen. To get one chicken in a pan, it is like 15 people have to plan their day around getting one chicken in a pan.
That must bring a strong sense of stress to the set. Was it hard on the actors day after day, especially given the cramped space?
MM: I was frazzled.
Ebon Moss Bachrach: I would say that there’s so much make-believe on a set so that anytime you’re given something that dovetails with the experience of your character, that’s, a gift, and it helps. The restaurant that they created had real working ovens and really sharp knives. It just helps and it makes one less thing that you have to, quote/unquote, act. I embrace all that stuff.
Ayo Edebiri: I second that. I think it was helpful in a strange way, as it does take off a certain type of stress. There were lots of tensions but once the cameras cut, we were all very considerate to each other and very soft with each other, and once a week would have a big dinner and then sleep for two days.
EMB: Also, we were shooting this at the sort of I mean, you know, I don’t know how we are still in a pandemic, but we were shooting this when you still had to wear masks. And it was just so nice to be around people and to be around all these great folks. And being mashed up together was just I don’t know. It had been a long time since I had been in a show with people that I really liked. It was a pleasure.
What’s your relationship to food? Were there foods that changed your point of view?
MM: My relationship with food is extensive. I have been in the restaurant business for 15 years, and 20 years in the restaurant industry. I love food. I like eating it. I like making it. I like making it for other people. So it makes me happy.
Lionel Boyce: I don’t really cook. I will say I always hated fennel. My character makes a fennel salad and I had to try it again, and I realized I still hate it more than I ever did.
AE: I come from a big family, so we eat a lot together. I feel like that’s a way of expressing love, is by cooking. Child of immigrants, my mother will never say “I’m sorry,” but she’ll make me a cake. So that works for me. Learning about cooking and getting to eat as we studied was really fun. We went to really nice restaurants, and we were like, “This is research. This is totally research”(laughing). I don’t like cinnamon. I’ll never like cinnamon. But also we ate a lot of beef in Chicago. I think I’m good on beef for the year, the rest of my life, maybe.
LB: We had a lot of seafood towers.
AE: I love seafood towers. My opinion on seafood towers changed. Having a big old seafood tower with shrimp cocktail at the top, yeah, that’s luxury. I like those now. Couple crabs.
EMB: I cook a lot. Today I cooked two independent breakfasts and two different lunches for my daughters. I love being in the kitchen. I love baking.
Jeremy Allen White: I was useless in the kitchen, still pretty useless, but okay. I love cooking for my wife and my kids. Cooking is a form of communication or care, taking care of people, and I love that about it.
EMB: I don’t really like my mom’s cooking. We don’t need to go there. Let’s try to keep everything nice and positive. Maybe it’s one of the reasons I’m an actor. It’s complicated, yeah.
MM: We grew up eating rappie pie with molasses because I’m from New Brunswick. Crosby’s molasses is a big thing, Acadian ketchup. It is every Christmas. It is something I look forward to. We have a Rappie pie in a pan that my grandfather made out of steel, and I pass that down.
JAW: My parents are lovely but not great, not great in the kitchen. The ultimate comfort was a grilled cheese and tomato soup from the can. If I was sick or even just feeling shitty as a kid, that was a super comfort meal.
FX Orginal series The Bear debuts on Hulu on June 23rd