It seems everyone is talking – or screaming -about the Bear. Lots of stuff has been written about this show, mostly about the 'toxic' work environment of restaurants. Having had a long and varied career in hospitality I disagree with a lot of what has been written. It isn't that chef life isn't stressful, because it is – oh, it is. It is just that I found it deeply rewarding most of the time.
What I found most frustrating about The Bear wasn't the yelling, the broken equipment (altho I admit that part brought up some PTSD) but the attitudes of the workers in the kitchen. My point of view about the show must belie my age because when I started in restaurants back in the early 80”s no one in the kitchen was addressed as Chef except for, you know, the chef. As young cooks we were expected to learn and perform. We respected the chef and wanted to be him or her one day after we paid our dues and achieved a high level of skill, experience and professionalism. We didn't expect to have the hard earned privileges of the chef, like creating dishes or reorganizing the business model. We were expected to earn our keep, not use the restaurant payroll to indulge our own experiments.
The discontent of the kitchen workers in The Bear largely stemmed from their own expectations. At one point Carmy does say to Sydney that she is too impatient, but that is the last we hear of that. Culinary schools are very expensive and to make the economics seem reasonable they raise the expectations of the students who graduate thinking they can be sous chefs right out of school instead of working their way up into these positions of experience and responsibility. In The Bear, early on in the show Sydney presents Carmy with a written plan to change his restaurant. The nerve. Marcus spends his time in the restaurant chasing his dream of a great donut instead of keeping up with his production. When the shit hit the fan in epidsode 7 – which by the way was Sydney's fault for not setting up the online ordering system correctly – these two abandoned their chef because he yelled at them. Then they snickered about him over a meal in her home, calling him a little bitch.
I saw this trend of younger cooks expecting the chef to change things for them years ago and it seems to have only grown stronger with this generation. From my point of view, the cooks should have seen what was happening and stepped up, not out. It was probably Carmy's worst moment and yes, he lost it, but they offered no support. The crushing responsibility of the restaurant was all on him – the bills, the repairs, the legacy, the payroll, the livelihoods of others. That they didn't see that and try to help was shitty. That Carmy had to apologize to them and not the other way around, was sad.