Is Being a Chef Really as Wild as It Looks on ‘The Bear’? A Real-Life Carmy Weighs In

carmy in the bear season 4
Is Being a Chef as Wild as It Looks on ‘The Bear'?HULU / FX

There's something steamy about sizzling sauces, hands that smell of spices, and an apron with just a dirtied white tee underneath. And that's why we love The Bear. As stress-watching TV has become a viral highbrow pastime (The Bear is basically the Succession and Industry of the kitchen), the pressure cooker of a series takes food porn to a whole new nail-biting level. And the show has become a viral hit not just because of that mouth-watering food that Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) and crew create on the line, but also because...yeah, Carmy. So while the show might give viewers heart palpitations, just how real is it?

The Emmy-winning Hulu series, now back for season 3, has blurred the lines between fact and fiction since the beginning. The series has spurred Institute of Culinary Education custom courses like, "A Day at The Beef of Chicagoland," an influencer "Yes, Chef" food festival, and restaurant walking tours throughout the Windy City. So why not turn to a real-life Carmy stand-in to fact check the lore of the series?

Meet Jack Feinberg, a private chef who has fed some of the wealthiest families in America—and that includes some NBA players, NFL stars, and actors you definitely would recognize—who is basically Carmy IRL. Chef Feinberg began in professional kitchens during his last semester of high school in Ashland, Oregon before taking his culinary expertise to Park City, Utah where he became a staple on the Sundance Film Festival circuit. But it was the pandemic that brought him to New York City, as one particular high-profile client just couldn’t live without his food. So yeah, let's just say he knows a thing or two about pleasing tough critics, especially when it comes to the highest of palettes. Here’s what he makes of the series.

The egos in the kitchen are very, very real.

The show gives viewers multiple flashbacks to Carmy’s life working in some of the most high-profile kitchens in the world. And one of his former bosses, played by Joel McHale, often shows up in these terrifying moments. Chef Feinberg can confirm that some of those flashbacks are a little too real.

"The stereotypes for chefs are that they have a short temper and a really big ego and think that they're really important and that everything revolves around them," Chef Feinberg told Cosmo while chopping onions at a test kitchen counter. "I think those are stereotypes because a lot of it is true."

He continued, "Restaurants take a lot from the French brigade kitchen system, which has created a pretty toxic and abusive environment in a lot of kitchens. Paired with drug abuse and alcoholism, it creates a really scary work environment for a lot of people. That is part of why I wanted to be a private chef: I wanted to avoid the very toxic environment of some kitchens. Having said that, I do miss the community and camaraderie that also exists in many others.”

a man in a white coat
FX on Hulu/The Bear

But thankfully, there are Sydneys and Tinas in real life, too, trying to make it better.

According to Chef Feinberg, happier people make better food, basically. And while women have always been in kitchens, this new generation of female chefs is changing the entire dynamic. The way Syd and Tina are basically the soul of the kitchen on The Bear is very much drawn from real life.

“It’s changing,” Chef Feinberg said of the culinary culture. “There are more women in the kitchens now and that's been a positive influence. I think if you do act in that way and you treat people with respect, you will have better food because you're not spending all your energy screaming at people and degrading people. If you build people up, they will want to work for you and that comes through in the food. I just don't think screaming is helpful."

He added, “I do understand that there is so much stress and pressure to put out the best product and you always want to put out the best food, but if that's what it takes to put out Michelin star food, then I think we should reevaluate. It's not worth it."

“Yes, Chef” is not made up for the show.

Early in season 1, Carmy asks everyone in his kitchen to call each other “Chef” as a sign of respect. And since the show premiered, the “yes, Chef” phrase has become popular enough to inspire sweatshirts, hats, memes, etc. Chef Feinberg says it’s started to haunt him a bit. He confirms that his dating app DMs are full of "yes, Chef" inquiries.

"Personally, I don't really like to be called Chef," Chef Feinberg said when asked about both the kitchen and, um, other rooms in the house. "I just think it’s part of the whole macho chef mentality. It puts one person above the rest. If the chef comes up with the idea, they deserve the credit, but it's never just the chef that makes something happen. There's usually many different people involved. I just think the idea wanting to be called chef thing is part of that 'I'm better than you and my opinion is more important than yours' mentality.”

Inter-kitchen romances are definitely a thing.

a couple of men in a room
FX on Hulu/The Bear

The biggest question fans had going into season 3 was whether it would finally be the Carmy and Sydney season. And while that would probably create an absolutely disastrous HR situation at The Bear, this does sometimes happen in real life. Chef Feinberg has had to bear (lol, sorry) witness to kitchen-born relationships, but he hasn’t had one himself. Turns out, he doesn’t really ship Carmy and Syd on the series either. “I don’t really see Carmy and Sydney together,” he said.

As for the spicier details of his personal life, this cook knows when to keep some things close to the apron.

The show is entertaining, but…

Carmy’s experiences in his own sandwich shop and in fancier restaurants, are a "little exaggerated," according to Chef Feinberg. "I do like the show but it's a little overdone. It’s not as much crazy attention to detail or shit-talking and all that stuff.”

That doesn’t mean he isn’t for all the "yes, Chef" love for The Bear, though. Chef Feinberg even created his own twist on Carmy's famous Italian Beef Sandwich with the Bubbie Bahn Mi sandwich, inspired by his "life-changing" travels to Thailand and Vietnam coupled with his Jewish heritage.

a photo of a pastrami sandwich
Jack Feinberg/FeinFoods

The Bubbie Bahn Mi is an homage to Chef Feinberg's father (just like Carmy's version is an homage to his family), featuring his favorite chicken chopped liver pate paired with Thai aromatics, lemongrass, Thai chili, galangal, lime leaves, pickled daikon and carrots, horseradish Maggi mayo, cilantro, and Thai basil. The sandwich also has a layer of Katz's pastrami, the only ingredient Chef Feinberg did not make himself, as a statement callback to his "major food memory" at the famed deli when he first visited New York with his dad at age 13.

Chef Feinberg also teased he may open a sandwich shop of his own soon. So your dreams of getting his twist on an authentic Chicago Beef experience might actually come true. In the meantime, he's is firing up The Bear Season 3 and awaiting its upcoming season 4, rumored to be the show’s last. Will Carmy return to the world of sandwiches? For Chef Feinberg, the smaller scale and more personal a dish is, the better.

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