top of page

3 Lessons Leaders Can Take Away From Carmy in "The Bear"

Lessons from a former line cook, turned CEO on the first season of The Bear looking forward to watching Season 2.

To those of you unfamiliar with the Chicagoan cultural phenomenon, “The Bear” is about a young chef from the fine dining world returning to Chicago to run his family's sandwich shop. Carmen Berzatto, a brilliant young chef from the fine-dining world is forced to return home to run his family sandwich shop - the Original Beef of Chicagoland - after a heartbreaking death in his family. At his family’s shop, he becomes familiar with the employees his brother hired and must navigate stepping into a leadership role that was thrust upon him.

The Bear comes with many themes and lessons around human relationships and loss, all wrapped up with some dark humor like an Italian Beef with Gravy. As someone who has cooked in establishments ranging from James Beard award-winning kitchens to to-go chicken wing joints, The Bear perfectly captures the distinct dichotomy between the ritz, cold, high-intensity world of fine dining clashing with the local, warm, uncouth greasy spoon comfort food joints we love. This grounded realism is so intense, a single episode will make you feel like you’re hitting the dinner rush while working a double.

Through all this, as a leader navigating this new environment, Carmy demonstrates some of the best on-screen leadership skills that any manager from any industry can learn from (of course until s**t hits the fan).

So here are 3 lessons any leader can take away from Carmy in season 1 of The Bear.

Yes, Chef.

One unique aspect of Carmy’s leadership style is that everyone in his brigade is addressed as “Chef.” From the dishwashers to the line cooks who have been there the longest. When watching this for the first time this caught me off guard. Having come up in the industry, anyone who was a Kitchen Manager, Sous Chef, or higher had the title. To me, referring to someone as “Chef” in the kitchen was something that was earned solely by your position. But as Carmy points out, he calls everyone Chef “because it is a sign of respect.”

I have heard some managers say “You should treat the janitor the same as the CEO” but those that actually follow through on that advice are few and far between. Following Carmy’s example, every position and every team member is equally important in a high-performing organization. In Carmy’s kitchen, the Janitor is the CEO of their station.


Aside from the ringing of the ticket machine or the sound of the El train rattling by, by far the most common sound in The Bear is someone shouting “Behind!” It is a common term, and if you have ever seen a busy kitchen you’ll know that unless you declare it to the world you will be bumped into.

Communication is key in any industry, multi-billion dollar tech platforms like Slack have reached unicorn status for the sole purpose of trying to increase communication in organizations. However, often these channels become flooded with useless gifs, pictures of pets, and mandatory happy hour invites. Mission-critical messages can get lost in the noise, or worse, not stated at all. In a kitchen that is not the case, everything is time sensitive and the cooks develop an unconscious 2nd language in kitchen slang to keep things running smoothly. These messages are declared directly and out loud, failure to do so can result in lost product or serious injury.

Leaders need to develop not only an ear for these messages but channels to directly receive them as well.

Back to your station.

As it goes, s**t will eventually hit the fan. It happens to the team in The Bear near the end of season one, when Sydney opens the online ordering system without any limits. This floods the kitchen with orders, sending Carmy into a tailspin that crashes the restaurant that night, multiple team members quit, someone gets stabbed, and months of work are undone in 10 minutes.

In the peak of chaos, it is easy to get overwhelmed, focus on the wrong things, and sink yourself further. It is even easier to take out your frustration on others in your organization. Too many times I have seen entire kitchen staffs walk out on an unappreciative or disrespectful manager in the middle of service (in the industry we call it a walkout). As I wrote in an earlier article, leaders navigating uncertainty need to know the big picture but take things one day and one ticket at a time. Eventually whatever your organization is going through will pass, and at the end of the day, it is how you treat others when under pressure that will matter.


Interested in putting these lessons into action? Schedule a consultation with Clock'd today!


Head shot of Marc Lapierre, founder and CEO of Clock'd

Marc LaPierre is a 10-year veteran of the food and hospitality industry, Certified Staffing Professional, and CEO/Founder of Clock’d + SEEN. From cooking in James Beard award-winning kitchens to opening and managing a nightclub in Mexico, he worked every job in the industry. Today he connects professionals looking to advance their careers with clients eager to find an all-star team.

bottom of page