Sorting Fact From Fiction in 'The Bear'

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Get ready to have "yes, chef!" stuck in your head again soon enough, because The Bear is set to start production on its third season in just a few short weeks. The second season followed Carmy Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) and his crew as they work to open a more upscale version of the sandwich shop they ran in Season 1. But is the show based on a true story? Is the restaurant in the series real? Here are the answers to some of your most pressing fact-versus-fiction questions about The Bear.

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Is The Bear based on a true story?

The Bear is not based on a true story, but there are parts of the show that are heavily inspired by pivotal moments in co-creator Christopher Storer’s life. Specifically, Storer grew up in suburban Chicago with Chris Zucchero, whose late father founded the city's beloved Mr. Beef, which is the restaurant that inspired the sandwich shop in Season 1 of The Bear (more on that below).

"He was my first friend I ever met," Storer said in an interview with Esquire. "...I wrote a lot of the show hanging out with Chris in what they call the elegant dining room of Mr. Beef, which is actually just an added-on patio." He went on to say that a lot of the employees he'd see hanging out smoking cigarettes on that patio are woven into the Richie character played by Ebon Moss-Bachrach on the show.

Not surprisingly, Storer also drew inspiration from conversations he had with real-life chefs. "I can’t tell you how many chefs told me, 'Oh, yeah, on opening night a toilet exploded.' Or the sink didn’t work. Or whatever it was. The cooking? That’s one skill of a hundred that it takes to operate a place," he told Esquire.

Overall, Storer has a fascination with the business-side of restaurants that has fueled much of his research and curiosity. "There’s something about restaurants that seems untenable from the jump," he's said. "Even when they’re busy, I can’t help but think, 'This seems impossible. This just seems like at any minute this is going to collapse. And you’re a genius, you’re the best at this, and this still seems rickety and crazy.'" That POV is woven throughout his show.

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Is the restaurant in The Bear real?

Yes and no. The Beef (the sandwich joint at the center of Season 1) isn't real, but it's a fictional reimagining of Mr. Beef, a popular Chicago eatery known for its Italian beef subs.

"[Storer] spent a lot of time in that beef place,” executive producer and showrunner, Joanna Calo told Forbes. “And I will say also while we were shooting, that some days we actually did shoot in the Mr. Beef on Orleans, and people would show up and bang on the windows trying to get their beef, and we ruined it for them because we were shooting, and it wasn’t operational that day.”

A fun related fact? Chris Zucchero, son of late co-founder Joseph Zucchero, made a cameo in Season 1.

“One day, after finalizing that Mr. Beef would be the setting or the backdrop of The Bear, I received a phone call from a casting company,” Zucchero recalled during a broadcast of Chicago Today. He said that he assumed it was a producer calling with questions about filming at the shop, but it turned out he was being poached for the show.

“I answered it and the lady said, ‘You have an audition at 3:55,” he revealed with a laugh.

Season 2 of The Bear focused on The Beef's transformation into a more upscale fictional restaurant.

Does Jeremy Allen White really cook in The Bear?

If you think Jeremy Allen White looked like a natural in the kitchen, it’s because he kind of is. The critically acclaimed actor completed a two-week intensive program at the Institute of Culinary Education in Pasadena, Calif., before joining chef Dave Beran’s team at Pasjoli in Santa Monica. The luxe French bistro features an open kitchen (yes, guests were able to see White preparing their food in the flesh!) and holds one Michelin star.

During a Late Night with Seth Meyers interview, White shared that he has a newfound “respect” for the back-of-house (a.k.a. the kitchen staff). “I had no idea just how much went into it. It’s incredible,” White said.”I spent a lot of time with chefs, cooks, and the sacrifice of time, the commitment, the loss of personal life. It’s astounding and it’s commendable.”

White added that his knife work has gotten “really good,” but he has no plans to become a full-time chef anytime soon.

Where does The Bear take place?

It appears that Jeremy Allen White has a thing for Chicago. After his 11-season run as Lip Gallagher on Shameless, which was famously set on the South Side of Chicago, he returned to the city for The Bear.

The 32-year-old actor admitted to Chicago Today that he was “nervous” about the prospect of returning to the city. "...not because I don’t love [it]," he said. But because he "didn’t know if [he] wanted to play another character in the same city."

But as any Gallagher will tell you, The Bear takes place on the North Side of Chicago, which is very different from its South Side counterpart. Fortunately, White went for it.

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Where is The Bear shot?

Cast and crew filmed exterior shots of the real-life Mr. Beef (as well as the surrounding Chicagoland area) for the show. The kitchen and back-of-house scenes, however, were filmed on a set that was specifically designed to look just like the inside of Mr. Beef.

Before his passing in March 2023, Mr. Beef co-founder Joseph Zucchero revealed that he and Storer go way back. “My son and a young man that he grew up with, Chris Storer, would come down here when they were kids. You know, they were kids, and I let them hang around the restaurant,” he recalled to WBEZ, per NPR.

The resemblance between Mr. Beef and The Beef was uncanny, Zucchero said. “They built this [set] inside a building. And they took me to it. They wanted me to see it. And my mouth dropped,” he continued. “I was like, 'Oh, my God'—I mean, from the floor to the ceiling to the countertops to the equipment.”

Fans can visit and try an authentic Italian beef sandwich at Mr. Beef today. The store is located at 666 N. Orleans St. in Chicago.

Why is it called The Bear?

In the Season 1 finale, Jeremy Allen White’s character announces that The Beef will be closing its doors and opening a new restaurant called The Bear in its place. In that case, it seems like the title of the show was just a foreshadowing of the restaurant we'd see in Season 2 and beyond. But that begs the question, Why is the new restaurant called "The Bear"? It's because that is Carmy's nickname. Carmy is The Bear!

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