The Bear's 'Chaos Menu' Is Fine Dining Through A Funhouse Mirror

The following contains SPOILERS for Season 2 of The Bear.

When putting together a menu at a fine-dining restaurant, chefs have to think of many factors, including the interplay between flavors not just in a dish, but from course to course, the flow of the back-of-house cooking and the front-of-house service, and the general theme. In Season 2 of FX's "The Bear," which is now streaming on Hulu, the overall menu theme for chef Carmy's planned restaurant is "chaos ... but thoughtful."

There's clearly a lot to unpack, but here's what we know. In Episode 2 of the new season, Carmy and his sous chef Sydney are planning the menu that they serve, trying to lash together various dishes into a cohesive kitchen "set list." From the looks of what they have, though, it seems more like dissonance is the order of the day: oceanic hamachi crudo, beef tenderloin in cherry vinegar, smoked bone marrow with frozen grapes, sardines swimming in spicy piri-piri sauce, and an ice cream sundae featuring veal stock. 

This might all seem like a big joke the writers and producers are pulling on the audience or even a commentary on the arrogance of modern chefs. But a "chaos menu" is in keeping with the central themes of "The Bear," a show focused on the journey of Carmy, a gifted young chef who leaves a promising career at the world's best restaurant to take over the Italian beef stand in Chicago owned by his late brother.

Embracing the chaos

The first season juxtaposes the disarray Carmy finds himself in with a hard-working, yet stubborn staff of The Original Beef of Chicagoland — The Beef — and flashbacks of the immense pressure he faced in past kitchens. He attempts to connect with his crew and his love of food and cooking. Season 1 ends with Carmy closing Original Beef of Chicagoland to focus on his passion project, a restaurant called The Bear.

The "chaos" menu reflects the varied influences, experiences, and inspirations of Carmy and Sydney, the only other employee at The Beef with haute cuisine experience. He sees a lot of himself in the young, talented chef who trained at the Culinary Institute of America before launching a catering business that ultimately failed despite some success. Sydney is still growing as a chef in the first season and respects Carmy's ability, but the toxic rancor that seems to follow him occasionally leads to conflict, most notably her quitting after he goes on a tirade during a rough service.  

She returns of course and helps Carmy plan for the next big move. For his part, Carmy is now embracing Sydney's skill — on-the-fly she once served a rich lamb ragu over Hawaiian rolls when her handmade pasta didn't turn out right — and vision. Though they don't always see eye-to-eye, and their recipes sometimes fail spectacularly, there is shared respect and a willingness to embrace the chaos that fuels their shared path forward.