The Bear season 1 recap: Everything that happened ahead of the season 2 premiere

A reminder of all the key storylines

The Bear season 1 recap as illustrated by Jeremy Allen White as Carmy in The Bear
(Image credit: Disney+/Future)

The Bear season 1 recap: If it was too long ago for you to remember, here's everything that happened in The Bear's first season, ahead of the season 2 premiere.

The wait for The Bear season 2 is finally over, now that the new episodes have landed on Disney+. Fans of the hit comedy-drama were overjoyed that the incredible show was renewed for a second outing, and after binging through the episodes many want to have The Bear season 2 ending explained. Carmy, Sydney and Richie, continued their journey to transform their struggling sandwich joint into a next-level spot, undertaking personal transformational journeys in the process. But as viewers prepare to witness permits, contractors and menu planning of new and improved spot The Bear, what exactly happened in the first season? Read on for all the key plot details. 

For more fast-paced drama, viewers are wondering if Apple+ TV's Hijack is based on a true story. Also on the streamer, the Silo ending ramped up the action, leaving fans with plenty of unanswered questions. Before We Die has also made a triumphant return to Channel 4, bringing even more thrills than season 1. 

The Bear season 1 recap

The Bear season 1 opens with fine dining chef Carmy Berzatto forced to return to Chicago to take over his brother's restaurant, after he unexpectedly takes his own life. Having to address both the complicated past relationship with his brother Michael, and grief at his death, Carmy honors his wishes and takes over The Beef. The restaurant is nothing like the high-end ones Carmy has worked in before, and he's shocked by the dirty and inefficient state he finds it in. 

Michael’s unreliable best friend Richie has attempted to take over running The Beef, but his haphazard approach causes friction with Carmy from the outset. The other staff also create problems for the grieving man when they don't want to be brought into line, and are reluctant to accept any change or updates to the menu. Carmy ends up hiring sous chef Sydney, a recent graduate of a top culinary school with very little practical experience, to try and improve the restaurant. 

Carmy's sister Natalie occasionally reluctantly shows up, although it's apparent that having anything to do with The Beef is painful for her in her own state of grief. She struggles to understand Carmy's need to rebuild Michael's restaurant, while ignoring the rest of their family when they need him. Fed up of receiving constant letters from the IRS about unpaid taxes, Natalie has a share in the restaurant but just wants Carmy to sell it.

Michael's old office is a complete mess, and when Carmy and Natalie search, the pair can't find any of the specific documents they need. Both are angered further by their brother's poor record keeping and the mess he's left behind for them to sort out. There's no improvement in their mood when a health inspector arrives and notes several violations - uncovering loan shark debt borrowed from their uncle amounting to $300,000 is the icing on the cake. Jimmy Cicero, that same uncle, offers to buy the restaurant but Carmy stands firm on his promise and steadfastly refuses.

Attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, Carmy attempts to tackle his own deteriorating mental health, and understand the addiction issues leading to Michael's suicide. Meanwhile, the gifted Sydney is ill-equipped to deal with the bullying she endures at the hands of the other staff. Persevering, she finds a way of supporting them in their new roles, slowly earning their respect no matter how reluctant they are to give it.

The reopening of The Beef suffers even further setbacks when the toilets flood, and the opening is delayed while Carmy and Michael's old friend Fak is enlisted to do some plumbing. While at the restaurant, Fak manages to get in a fight with Richie, and in frustration reveals that Richie and Micheal had been dealing cocaine behind The Beef. Richie attempts to explain to a livid Carmy that this was the only way they could keep the restaurant afloat during the pandemic. When the cake mixer goes down and outs power to the restaurant, Fak insists a new condenser is needed, at a cost of $5,000. A reluctant Carmy agrees for Richie to do a final deal to scrape the money together for it. 

Ayo Edebiri as Sydney in The Bear

(Image credit: Disney+)

Although still building positive relationships with the rest of the staff, Sydney remains struggling to impress Carmy. When he suggests they work together to create a new menu, her exhaustive efforts fail to dazzle him, defeating her confidence in the process. He continues to taste and then make negative comments about her food, eventually refusing to taste one dish altogether. She then takes out the untouched risotto dish, offering it to a customer for free. 

The following day, line cook Ebraheim notices a critic review of the restaurant in a local paper. The reviewer had been the man offered the risotto made by Sydney, and he'd noted it as one of the best dishes he tried while at The Beef. Struggling with how he feels about this, Carmy doesn't get much of a chance to do anything about it, because another disaster soon befalls the restaurant staff. 

Having put a new online ordering system in place, Sydney had accidentally forgotten to switch off the pre-order option. When hundreds of orders pour in, the staff simply cannot cope. Carmy loses it with Sydney who accidentally stabs Richie in the ensuing chaos. She then quits, followed by Marcus who also came under fire for not having his station adequately prepared. 

It's not really what Carmy wants, but he later ends up having to host a bachelor party at the restaurant, which of course ends up going south. Not unexpectedly, Richie gets into a fight, nearly killing his opponent. Carmy, trying to light a cigarette in the kitchen to calm himself down, accidentally starts a fire. As the flames take hold, he's left staring unseeing at the carnage unfolding. 

Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Richie in The Bear

(Image credit: Disney+)

In a move nobody sees coming, Richie hands Carmy a letter he’d found addressed to him at the restaurant. Cryptically, the letter from Michael, turns out to be nothing more than a recipe for spaghetti. With no other course of action presenting itself, Carmy starts making the recipe, quickly noticing a specific request to only use the small cans of tomatoes because they taste better. Baffled, he goes ahead and opens one, to find wads of money stashed inside.

Calling all the staff members, he requests they all start opening the small tomato cans - it turns out they all contain money. Carmy later messages Sydney to apologize, and offer some risotto tips. She comes back the restaurant and is immediately enlisted to help open cans, with the staff all pleased to see her. In the closing moments of the season, Carmy hangs a sign from the door telling customers The Beef is now closed, and The Bear will be opening soon. 

Why was the money inside the tomatoes in The Bear?

Major spoilers ahead, as the answer to this is revealed in season 2 of The Bear.

The money in the cans was the loan Michael had borrowed from loan shark Uncle Jimmy. Speaking to IndieWire, Carmy actor Jeremy Allen White said the money being in the cans symbolizes Michael wanting to build on The Beef and franchise - starting something fresh to move on from his addiction disease. It was also stashed as a way of cleaning the money before going on to use it. 

Allen said "There is a semi-automatic electric can-seamer at the restaurant, which is a quick process and very easy to use. Michael was most likely instructed to not put the money in the bank for myriad tax reasons. In his scattered state, the processing of the tomato cans really felt like he was starting to build something, felt more like a real plan of action to him. A safe felt too safe, too obvious."

He continued "I know it sounds completely absurd, but in researching various kitchens, I was really shocked how many stories and articles I had come across or heard about where money or drugs were found in sealed aluminum tomato cans. I guess the police dogs can’t smell anything over the acidic tomatoes and I definitely think Michael had heard some version of that somewhere."

The reasons will be explored in full and in more depth, throughout season 2.

Liza Colon-Zayas as Tina in The Bear

(Image credit: Disney+)

How much money did they find in The Bear?

It is said the final sum of money found in the cans was $300,000.

However, although jubilant with the amount of money they found in the cans, the staff reaction left some viewers with questions. In the beginning of the show, Carmy found out Uncle Jimmy Cicero wanted the money back, so how can they afford to use it to fund The Bear and simply forget they owe a loan shark money? 

Show creator has anticipated this question, and suggested that fans shouldn't automatically think the money was going straight towards the restaurant grand rebranding and opening. "That is the question we wanted to end with and hopefully get to explore in a second season" Chrsitohper Storer said of how The Bear would be funded. He continued "Carmy gets some closure with his brother, but then how does he handle this going forward? How can he build something new and start from a more positive place?" It probably won't be from the tinned tomato money.

The Bear season 1 finale: Audience reaction

One audience member wrote on Twitter of the season 1 ending: "Just finished The Bear Season 1 and I can’t put into words how much I love this dysfunctional family. That finale was everything.️ 'Let it rip.'" 

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Another added "I gotta say, when "Let Down" (only my favorite Radiohead song) played during the pivotal scene of The Bear's season 1 finale, I felt so much sentimental drivel welling up inside me. It was so beautiful, it left me crushed like a bug in the ground." 

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Another Tweeter said "The Bear is such a good show, I cannot believe I didn’t start it earlier.  The ending of season 1 was wonderful," with another quick to add "Finished first season of The Bear. It's really a fun show. I like the direction and the performance of all the crew. The ending of season 1 is really amazing and I almost cried of joy because the show knew how to convey everyone's feelings. Can't wait to watch season 2." 

For more handy summaries, the Firefly Lane season 2 part 1 recap is useful, along with the Ted Lasso season 2 recap if you've yet to watch season 3. The Abbott Elementary season 1 recap is great for anyone about to embark on season 2.

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and moms.com. In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.