Heard! Behind! Yes, chef! These are some phrases you’ll hear working in the kitchen of a restaurant. As a former service industry person myself, hearing that lingo feels like coming home. That's why I found myself drawn to the crass and lovable Chicago TV series The Bear.
The series follows Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White from Shameless), a James Beard Award-winning chef who moves back to Chicago to run his late brother’s Italian beef joint. The show perfectly depicts what running a restaurant looks like behind the scenes. If you crave more, check out these books!
If you haven’t read any of Anthony Bourdain’s books, you simply must. Kitchen Confidential is cited as his most popular and the book to launch him into fame, but I recommend The Nasty Bits. Though he is classically trained at the Culinarily Institute of America and has worked in a variety of high-end restaurants, Bourdain's respect and knowledge of fine dining in unexpected places sets him apart from the rest. Check out our Top Picks blog post for more Anthony Bourdain.
In the memoir Notes From A Young Black Chef, chef Kwame Onwuachi writes about his culinary endeavors, from working on a Deepwater Horizon cleanup ship, to being a contestant on TV’s Top Chef, to running a James Beard Award-winning restaurant. Onwuachi’s honest take on his journey into the restaurant industry, particularly the harm that the industry creates for people of color, may inspire you to check out his cookbook and try a few of his award-winning recipes.
It’s a familiar story heard around the United States: the steady decline of malls and restaurant chains. But when the mall shuts down, what happens to the employees? In Last Night at the Lobster, Manny DeLeon, the manager of a soon-to-be-closed Red Lobster, is already tired at the start of his shift. Not only is his restaurant closing and he's moving to a new location, a blizzard is on the way. Half of his staff don’t show up, but the demanding customers do. Author Stuart O’Nan paints a realistic portrait of working-class life, all taking place over the duration of a single work shift.
From the author of the Scott Pilgrim series, Seconds follows a restaurant manager named Katie who dreams of someday opening her own place. Until then, it seems like Katie’s life is a series of big mistakes... that is, until the house spirits at the restaurant give her the ability to turn back time. This graphic novel takes the beloved “be careful what you wish for” and makes a magical story out of the stressful restaurant industry.
Watching The Bear made me really hungry and really in love with Chicago. Luckily, the library has a ton of books about Chicago restaurants, including Iconic Chicago, which details the history behind iconic Chicago dishes like Green River soda, Crackerjack and the jibarito. This book celebrates Chicago as a culinary city and a destination for foodies everywhere.
Which books do you think pair best with The Bear?