let it rip

The Bear: Out to Lunch With Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri

Over an Italian feast, the duo talks about the show’s runaway success, what they really thought of the finale, and all those saucy, Carmy-obsessed tweets.
‘The Bear Out to Lunch With Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri
By Lelanie Foster. 

Maybe it was a mistake to bring Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri to a restaurant. Sure, it sounds good on paper: They’re the stars of The Bear, FX on Hulu’s razor-sharp, darkly funny new show about burnt-out chefs living the gritty kitchen life. The place, Via Carota in Manhattan’s West Village, is close to where White and Edebiri are wrapping up a photo shoot, but high-profile enough to birth its own subgenre on culinary TikTok, and delicious enough to be deemed New York’s most perfect restaurant. Then again, The Bear has become so popular that it feels like taking Steph Curry to a basketball game, or Nicole Kidman to an AMC. Someone’s going to notice!

Someone does, stopping White and Edebiri before they even walk through the door. To be fair, White looks a lot like his character. He’s wearing a crisp white shirt and a tattered Mets cap over his wavy hair, a few tattoos dotting his arms; all he’s missing is a blue apron. Edebiri wears a billowy white dress, her hair styled in a voluminous blowout. They chat for a moment with the fan, then come to the table, preparing themselves for the serious business of ordering lunch. Then someone else recognizes White, locking eyes with him and placing their hand over their heart. “Sorry,” they half whisper. “Huge fan.” White graciously thanks them.

Then he gets back to perusing the menu, gamely suggesting some crowd-pleasers. “The tagliatelle looks nice,” he says. “I love cacio. Are you guys into artichokes?” He points to the glass of crisp verdicchio I ordered before they arrived. “What do you have there?” he asks. “Is it nice?” (It’s nice.) Edebiri suggests broccolini for the table; White bounces back with grilled artichokes. Edebiri wonders if the menu has any skin contact wine. “I have a hard time with red wine, because it gives me headaches,” she tells me. “I’m sensitive!” She samples two different rosés suggested by the server, picking the more crimson of the two. I ask why. “No idea,” she quips. Then she leans in, channeling her faux inner sommelier. “I can taste the barrel it was aged in…”

The server returns. Edebiri orders the tagliatelle. White orders the verdicchio, the broccolini, the grilled artichokes, and a plate of cacio. “We did it,” he says victoriously. Yes, chef.

“Did you read that thing in Bon Appétit?” White asks Edebiri. He’s referring to a piece recently dropped into the show’s group chat by Matty Matheson, a producer and actor in The Bear who’s also a professional chef. In the piece, several chefs confess that they can’t finish The Bear, but only because it’s such an accurate portrayal of toxic restaurant culture. “Which is…nice? It’s nice,” White says, uncertainly. Edebiri’s heard the exact same thing from one of the chefs she trained with in preparation for the show. “She was like, ‘Just so you know, I’m taking a break from watching the episodes,’” Edebiri recalls. “‘It’s really painful to watch. But it’s really good!’”

The Bear is high blood pressure TV, even for those who have never stepped foot in a professional kitchen. Created by Christopher Storer (who also writes, directs, and produces), it follows Carmen Berzatto, a culinary wunderkind who once worked for some of the best restaurants in the world. (Noma references abound.) But after the death of his brother, Michael (walking charisma factory Jon Bernthal), Carmy hoofs it back to Chicago to take over the family restaurant, an Italian joint called the Original Beef of Chicagoland. 

By Lelanie Foster. 

His attempt to train the unruly kitchen staff while working through his severe family trauma can be brutal. Handheld cameras zag through a fast-paced kitchen where things are thrown, spilled, smashed, burned. People backstab each other, figuratively and literally. Carmy screams (and screams and screams), much to the chagrin of Sydney (Edebiri), a talented sous chef who leaves fine dining behind so she can work for him. They have a mentor-mentee thing going on that charms at first, then curdles in the toxic halls of the kitchen. Watching the show is like frying your own nerves for fun. No wonder some real-life chefs can’t unwind with it after a long day of work.

Edebiri can relate, having worked at restaurants like ABC Kitchen while trying to make it as a stand-up comedian and TV writer. “I remember being deeply afraid of the chefs,” she says. While working on The Bear she had a nightmare about a rush with the kitchen printer going off, throttling the staff with an unbelievable amount of orders—as happens in an episode of The Bear.

White never worked in restaurants, but he did train rigorously with chefs to play Carmy. He was floored to learn how the pressure of the job manifested in people. One chef he was stationed next to asked White to move farther down the line because he had recently lost his peripheral vision. What happened? “He said, ‘I’ve just been under so much stress,’” White recalls. The next day, that chef quit. “He was just completely burned out.

Still, White and Edebiri can see the beauty in the hum and flow of a great restaurant, in the mastery of a chef who knows exactly what they’re doing. They set out to capture that confidence somehow, training at the Institute of Culinary Education in Los Angeles. Sometimes White would drive Edebiri home, because she didn’t have her license yet. 

Their camaraderie carried over onto the set and into this very lunch, where the duo catch up and rib each other over production memories—like when White noticed how much time Edebiri spends on her phone. “He was like, ‘You’re a little phone girl, aren’t ya!’” Edebiri recalls. 

“I feel badly!” White says. “[But] Ayo does seem to have more time in the day than anybody else. Like, we would show up the next morning after filming all day, and she’s already watched half of a series, a movie, read like 12 chapters of a book. She’s gotten through the crossword puzzle. She’s on the Wordle. And she’s memorized and worked on all the scenes for the day.”

“What you don’t see is me going to my trailer at lunch and immediately dissociating for 45 minutes,” Edebiri jokes. “Just staring at a wall, listening to Radiohead.”

At the start, Edebiri was more proficient in the kitchen, but White quickly caught up. He worked on his knife skills, determined to get to a place where he could cleanly chop something while holding a conversation, as real chefs do. “It’s just second nature and there’s no fear behind it,” he says. He later trained at restaurants like Pasjoli, working so rigorously that Edebiri was blown away by the time they started shooting the series. “I was like, Wow! I’ve never cooked in my life.”

But Edebiri is also now able to chop and talk, approaching the kitchen with a similar fearlessness. “Chefs will put their hand in the fucking oven,” she says. “They’re not afraid of oil splashes.” Though White endured minor scrapes while training, Edebiri accidentally cut the tip of her finger while filming a scene in the pilot. She kept going until the takes were done. “I felt pretty cool about that,” she says with a smile.

The duo have watched their own show. But they’ve struggled a bit with it, just like the chefs who find The Bear all too real. Edebiri could barely look at the screen while watching the seventh episode, where Sydney hits her breaking point at the Beef and walks out on a jammed service. “It makes me so sad,” she says.

White similarly got nervous, avoiding the final two episodes until the series premiered. “I really took my time,” he says. “I have a hard time watching myself, but I really wanted to watch for Ayo and the rest of the cast, and for Chris and Joanna [Calo, the coshowrunner and director]. I was surprised that, despite me not liking the look of my face—”

“I’ll kill you,“ Edeberi interrupts. White laughs, then continues his thought. “There was something about the show that you did want to keep watching. I don’t know exactly what that is.”

For much of the viewership (anecdotally speaking!), that something is Carmy. With his tattoos and wild hair and arms and intensity, he’s provoked an almost animalistic obsession in viewers. It has resulted in a slew of impassioned tweets, some (lots) of horny rhapsodizing about his aura. White wasn’t aware of it until friends, mostly in The Bear group chat, brought the thirst to his attention. Ebon Moss-Bachrach, who plays the wisecracking Richie in the series, has particularly been getting a kick out of it.

“Ebon’s going after me,” White says, between bites of his cacio e pepe. “He’s in Greece with his whole family and I’m like, Get off your phone. Go swim!”

“Ebon’s also the one who’ll be like, ‘My buddy sent this to me' and I’m like, What buddy, Ebon?” Edebiri replies. “What buddy?!”

Other costars—like Lionel Boyce, who plays Marcus the baker—try to change the subject for him. “There was something the other day and Lionel was like, Did you listen to the new Brent Faiyaz?” White recalls, mimicking Boyce’s meek attempt at salvation. 

The actor genuinely did not see any of this coming, not least because there is zero sex in The Bear. “There isn’t a moment of any character being attracted to a person or a thing,” he says. “I mean, Lionel and the doughnuts is truly the most sexually charged [part of the show].”

Prior to The Bear, White played Lip Gallagher on Shameless, a character that’s inspired a similar hunger. (And who is, like Carmy, a tortured bad boy from Chicago.) “Shameless, from the beginning, was very sexual,” he says. “They wanted to see these characters and how they were, sexually, so I knew that going into it.” But The Bear seemed like a change of pace.“I was like, this show is not about that,” he says. “It will not attract any attention for that. And I am surprised.”

By Lelanie Foster. 

White is, for the record, married to his longtime sweetheart, the actor Addison Timlin. The couple have two kids together, a three-year-old and a one-year-old. Their respective Instagram accounts are filled with precious throwback photos and beautiful captions, so earnest and loving you just might explode. (And fun revelations, such as Dakota Johnson being the godmother to both kids. Actor life!)

Perhaps the second season of The Bear will capitalize on all the thirst over Carmy, introducing new glimpses of love and sex. But White and Edebiri aren’t so sure. “As soon as it happened, everybody would be so upset,” Edebiri says. White agrees: “They’d turn on us immediately!”

“But I don’t know, man,” Edebiri says. “Marcus and his doughnuts, season two.”

“That shit’s real,” White says.

The Bear has already been renewed for a second season, for good reason. It’s delicious stuff, from the funny, sharply written dialogue to the high-intensity camera work to the well-rounded cast. And White is the heart of the thing, able to channel Carmy’s volatility and vulnerability from scene to scene. In the show’s finale, he delivers a whopping seven-minute monologue that is done in one long, riveting take, shedding tragic light on Carmy’s backstory.

White says that next season, Storer hopes to dive deeper into the lives of characters like the indomitable Tina, played by standout Liza Colón-Zayas, or Ebraheim, played by Edwin Lee Gibson. The first season ends with the gang all together, finding money that Michael stashed before his death. But instead of using it to pay off Uncle Jimmy and get a fresh start, Carmy decides to use it to close the Beef and reopen it as the Bear. At the time of shooting the finale, both White and Edebiri had qualms with that conclusion. “I was like, the show has been going so great! What are we doing right now?” White says.

“It’s ridiculous that these people who can bail themselves out of this thing also are like, Hey! Let’s do another business venture!” Edebiri concurs. “But in a way, that’s so real! That’s so real to these sickos.” Now that they’ve seen the show, they’re on board with the ending.

“I think the moral of the story is we trust Chris and Jo to take us wherever,” White says.

Soon, the check comes. Edebiri gets up, dashing off to the next commitment as part of this whirlwind press tour. “I think this might be a fake day,” she says cheerily. She and White make plans to go to Rolo’s, a hip spot in Ridgewood that White frequented before The Bear fame. “They know me a little bit,” he says. Two days after the show premiered, he went there again. But this time, they didn’t call him Jeremy. They called him chef.