Michelin Stars Hang Ominously Over The Bear Season 2

This article contains spoilers for "The Bear" Season 2, Episode 2 — "Pasta"

Hulu's "The Bear" has never been euphemistic about life in a restaurant kitchen. The show's complicated protagonist, Carmy, worked as a chef at some of the best kitchens in the world before finding himself in the midst of opening his own restaurant out of a former Italian sandwich shop in Chicago, and he depicts the world of fine dining as equally demeaning and degrading as working a bottom of the barrel line cook gig.

At the end of Season 2, Episode 1, Carmy and his partner Syd sit down with Cicero (aka Uncle Jimmy) and tell him that they want a Michelin star within the first 18 months of opening their new restaurant. This is a big ask, a gamble on Carmy's three-star past and Sydney's ambitious future. The Michelin name is never explicitly mentioned in the series, but there's no mistaking the implication. While it's an award that could seriously boost their profile, it's one that comes with a lot of strings attached.

Carmy vs. Sydney

The difference in mindset between Carmy and Sydney is evident, with Sydney hellbent on getting a star, her eyes glittering with desire whenever she mentions it. She is, quite literally, starstruck by the prospect. Carmy, having lived Sydney's fantasy and come out the other side, is more jaded by the idea. It's mentioned in Season 1 that Carmy worked at Eleven Madison Park, The French Laundry, and Noma, all three of which have three Michelin stars.

In Season 2, Episode 2, Sydney asks him how he felt the day he got the "three-star call" (it's uncertain which restaurant she's referring to — but given his New York breakdown, probably Eleven Madison Park). He responds by explaining the panicked ten seconds in which he realized that he would have to maintain that status, so overcome with anxiety that he couldn't even appreciate the honor. "You really want more of these bull***t stars?" he asks Syd. "You're gonna have to care about everything, more than anything."

The Michelin curse

There are elements of Carmy's career that draw parallels to that of Marco Pierre White, the British chef who is almost as famous for his lack of Michelin stars as he is for his incredible work in the restaurant industry. In 1994, White's eponymous restaurant was awarded three Michelin stars, making him the youngest chef, and the first British chef, to achieve this pinnacle of fine dining. But in 1999, after five years spent meticulously working to maintain his three stars, White decided to give them back. It was an unprecedented move and might come as a shock to those unfamiliar with the grind of haute cuisine, but for White, it seemed like the only option. The incredible pressure to perform took the joy out of cooking for White, as it has for a slew of starred chefs since.

Losing a star (or, heaven forbid, multiple) can be devastating for a restaurant. Gordon Ramsay has admitted that he cried when his New York restaurant, Gordon Ramsay at the London, lost two stars in one year back in 2013. French chef Bernard Loiseau's suicide in 2003 is rumored to have been connected to the possibility of losing a Michelin star. And French chef Guy Savoy of Monnaie de Paris held onto his three Michelin stars for twenty years before losing one in 2023, proving that even the most esteemed legacy chefs are not safe from demotion. Only time will tell if Sydney is going to learn this the hard way.