The Bear, FX’s acclaimed series that chronicles the lives of members of Chicago’s restaurant industry, will return for a 10-episode second season starting on Thursday, June 22 and streamable via Hulu.
The show, which debuted in 2022, presented its stories using the Original Beef of Chicagoland (a fictitious Italian beef stand inspired by a real restaurant) as the backdrop. Crews continue to film in front of Mr. Beef, which serves sandwiches in River North inside a space much smaller. No matter the renovations that will come in season two, it’s hard to imagine a fine dining restaurant inside a tiny kitchen smaller than the version depicted on TV.
Show co-creator Chris Storer grew up in suburban Park Ridge with Chris Zucchero whose father took over Mr. Beef in 1979, pushing the stand to the popularity it enjoys today. Joe Zucchero died in March. Mr. Beef had been in the national spotlight before, thanks to celebrities like former Tonight Show host Jay Leno. The Bear once again put Italian beef sandwiches on the national stage, showcasing a Chicago street food classic that sometimes gets ignored nationally. Oh, and there was lots of chocolate cake.
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Jeremy Allen White won a Golden Globe in January for his role as Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, the talented but troubled Chicago chef who worked at fine dining restaurants around the world before returning home to his brother’s stand. The end of season 1 closes with Berzatto closing the beef stand to make room for a new restaurant called the Bear, which should showcase the chef’s fine dining skills. Perhaps Carmy could serve an elevated take on an Italian beef and charge a surprisingly high price for it, thus causing locals to revolt. It has been done. Further underscoring the show’s success, co-star Ayo Edebiri, who plays sous chef Sydney Adamu, has been cast in a Marvel Studios film.
But not all’s rosy for those who worked with the show. One of the show’s writers, a member of the Writers Guild of America — the union of TV and movie workers that are on strike (thus disrupting late-night shows and other productions) — revealed that he attended the WGA Awards in March with a negative balance in his bank account; he had to buy a bowtie on credit. Alex O’Keefe says that he understands he’s part of a collaborative effort, but says writers don’t receive a fair share of what hit shows, like The Bear, earn. Another change is the addition of Bob Odenkirk to the cast. The actor is a suburban native; Better Call Saul starts off in Berwyn.
The show has been filming since February at places like Bucktown’s old school-ice cream shop Margie’s Candies; Kasama, the only Michelin-starred Filipino restaurant in the world; and even outside the Lincoln Park site where legendary chef Charlie Trotter’s restaurant stood. Scenes were also filmed in suburban Evanston and Wilmette. Season 1 was Storer’s love letter to the Chicago he left behind. Present-day Chicago looks different, and some residents were frustrated that the first season didn’t depict what the city currently looked like. Another change is the addition of Bob Odenkirk to the cast.
Chicago’s restaurant world has taken notice of the show’s success. The James Beard Awards will take place in June at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and The Bear will likely have some role during the gala. Also, on Tuesday, the organizers of the Welcome Conference Chicago, a one-day event aimed at supporting front-of-house restaurant workers, revealed that Storer will headline its lineup of speakers. Tickets go on sale on Monday, May 15.