Is The Bear based on a true story? Here's what we know about the Disney+ show

Now that season two has arrived, here's everything we know about the real sandwich shop that The Bear is based on...

Jeremy Allen White as Carmy in The Bear
(Image credit: Disney+)

The Bear is back for season two, and fans want to know if the show is based on a true story...

Though the show tells the story of a family coming together to save a struggling restaurant, this isn't one of the many kid's films on Disney+ - and is perhaps one you'll want to save until the little ones have gone to bed. With that said, the gripping comedy-drama has got everyone talking now the latest instalment has been released, and those that have binged through the new episodes want to have The Bear season 2 ending explained.

For those looking for a season one recap of The Bear, head chef Carmy has closed The Beef restaurant - where he and the rest of the team spent their days making some of the best Italian beef subs in Chicago - and is getting ready to reopen the venue as The Bear. Here's the real inspiration behind the show...

Is The Bear based on a true story?

No, The Bear isn't based on a true story. However, the show takes inspiration from real places and elements of producer Christopher Storer's life growing up in Chicago. He and the rest of the team worked hard to make the series feel as authentic as possible.

Chicago is known for its Italian beef sandwiches, which the restaurant in The Bear specialises in, and the series prides itself on getting the small details about working as a chef right. Co-showrunner Joanna Calo told Entertainment Weekly, "We were very lucky in that we had access to a lot of chefs and had them come in, and specifically Matty Matheson [who appears on the show] really gave a lot of himself. The stories are insane, not only about what people are willing to put themselves through, but just the work ethic and the ways in which that ethic can both soothe and sort of help you evade any emotional processing, which kind of was perfect for our show."

Meanwhile, Jeremy Allen White, who plays Carmy, the show's main character and head chef at The Beef, told Entertainment Weekly that he worked in the kitchen of a Michelin-star restaurant to train for the role. 

He said, "I went to two weeks of cooking school. I worked in several really wonderful restaurants in Los Angeles, Chicago, and in New York. It was really amazing - I'd never studied a skill that much for any other job, and it was really great to have months of training to learn about character and learn about Carmy through a skill that he'd also studied."

He added, "I have such a tremendous amount of respect for people in restaurants now. It's these 12, 14, 16-hour days that these people are putting in to really perfect their craft, and that was just really bolstering."

Is The Bear based on Mr. Beef?

Yes, The Bear was inspired by Chicago’s real Italian beef sandwich joint, Mr. Beef. The restaurant is a popular eatery in Chicago, known for its Italian beef subs.

"Chris knew the family, or knows the family, behind Mr. Beef. And so this was a very true story for him. He spent a lot of time in that beef place," Joanna Calo told Forbes. "And I will say also while we were shooting, that some days we actually did shoot in the Mr. Beef on Orleans, and people would show up and bang on the windows trying to get their beef, and we ruined it for them because we were shooting and it wasn’t operational that day."

In fact, Chris Zucchero, owner of Mr. Beef and son of late co-founder Joseph Zucchero, grew up with the show's creator, Christopher Storer, and made a cameo in season one of the show. 

Despite this, Chris Zucchero recently revealed to Variety that he has never watched The Bear. He said, "I just feel weird. Food people are not the same as actors or musicians. You know what I mean? That’s the same reason why I don’t really promote anything with The Bear. I don’t want to be the guy that’s like, 'Look at me. I’m the f***ing Bear guy."

Fans can visit the real Mr. Beef, which is located at 666 N. Orleans St. in Chicago.

Where is The Bear set?

The Bear is set in Chicago, in the state of Illinois, USA, where Christopher Storer grew up and where the real Mr. Beef restaurant is. Much of the show is filmed in and around Chicago, and exterior shots of Mr. Beef are used throughout - though a set was built for the inside of the restaurant.

Joanna Calo said, "I think we really wanted to focus on these original characters and the story about small business, but the small details, that came from Chris [Storer’s] upbringing, and obviously, that’s just one part of Chicago, right? 

"That’s just one Chicago experience, and I know there’s a lot of different parts, but yes, that jersey, those sports teams, those specifics about mustard versus ketchup, those were true to him. And yeah, just sewn into the fabric of the show."

Before his death in 2023, Mr. Beef founder Joseph Zucchero spoke to NPR about his experience of visiting the studio based on his restaurant. He said, "I mean, from the floor to the ceiling to the countertops to the equipment, you actually walked inside and walked into Mr. Beef."

If you want to know more about the TV shows that are popular right now, we've revealed if Apple TV's Hijack is a true story and explained the ending of Silo. You might also want to know if the BBC's The Woman in the Wall is based on a true story too.

Ellie Hutchings
Features Editor

Ellie is Goodto’s Feature Editor, having joined the team as a Junior Features Writer in 2022, and covers everything from wellbeing for parents to the latest TV and entertainment. Ellie has covered all the latest trends in the parenting world, including baby names, parenting hacks, and foodie tips for busy families. She has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University, and previously Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies.