Before There Was 'The Bear,' There Was the Israeli Show 'The Chef' – Kveller
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Before There Was ‘The Bear,’ There Was the Israeli Show ‘The Chef’

Just like the award-winning American show, "The Chef" is full of delicious kitchen drama.


“The Bear” is a TV sensation, and is sweeping every awards show this season, and for good reason. The show about Carmy, played by Jeremy Allen White, a chef who moves from the tony New York culinary world to manage his dead brother’s deli in Chicago, and the kitchen crew and staff he has to deal with, along with old family drama and trauma, is both funny and deeply human, masterfully written and acted.

If “The Bear” is a type of quirky-poignant-funny show, then “The Chef” is its dark and raunchy Israeli cousin. That show, which is now streaming on Izzy, premiered two whole years before the award-winning American series, in 2020. It gets at a lot of the same kitchen dynamics that “The Bear does,” including the kind of toxic tendencies, but with a very specific Israeli flair.

Just like the protagonist of “The Bear,” the hero of “The Chef,” Nimrod, played by veteran Israeli comedian Guri Alfi, is a man going through a big career change. But unlike Carmy, he doesn’t come from the culinary world at all. Instead, he’s a former high tech worker who ends up taking a last-minute gig in a celebrated Tel Aviv restaurant, Sophia, run by an ego-centric chef, and who winds up falling in love with the rhythm and action of working in the kitchen.

Just like “The Bear,” a show deeply rooted in the city that it takes place in, “The Chef,” which premiered its second season (filmed before October 7) in 2024, is deeply rooted in the social and culinary dynamics of Tel Aviv. While it was actually filmed outside Tel Aviv, in the kitchen of Hebert Samuel Restaurant in Hertzeliya, it is all about Tel Aviv, which is both a city of fine dining and tech bros, full of restaurants run by celebrity chefs, most often men, with big egos and big personalities (see, for example, Eyal Shani, a man famous for his loving monologues about produce). In the show, Nimrod winds up working for Dori, played by Israeli actor and rock star Gal Toren, who brings both a fiery passion for food and a shit-ton of toxicity and machisimo to his kitchen. Not only does he sleep with multiple women involved in the business, he also has a serious substance abuse problem that deeply affects his ability to manage his staff and his personal life — another issue that is at the forefront of “The Bear.”

As for Nimrod, there’s also the tension of not working in a lucrative field anymore while raising children in the expensive Tel Aviv metropolitan area, while still working long hours in the kitchen.

Most importantly, just like “The Bear,” “The Chef” is a show about loving food. The images from the kitchen and the tensions around perfecting a dish are an essential part of both these shows (as are tense moments in walk-in fridges), even if sometimes “The Chef” makes you wish there was a little bit more actual culinary inventiveness (no Sydney’s magical omelettes to be found here).

Where the shows diverge is in their raunchiness — “The Chef” is full of steamy sex scenes, tension and romance, whereas, in “The Bear,” interpersonal relationships that go beyond romance are even more vibrant and important. Both Nimrod and Dori flirt with Sarah (Yael Elkana), another ambitious cook in Chef Dori’s kitchen. There’s also tension between Nimrod and his wife, and the mother of his two daughters, Efrat, played by Keren Berger. The show also attempts to tackle sexual harassment and gender dynamics in the kitchen, but because of its raunchiness, it fails to show the full gravity of these issues.

So is “The Chef” as good as “The Bear?” While it is a fairly well-crafted show, the answer is not really, or at least no to this TV lover. There is no one quite like Ayo Edebiri’s Sydney, or Ebon Moss-Bachrach’s Richie (well, Dori is a bit Richie-esque, but Richie is so much more diverting). There’s no leopard print-donning Jamie Lee Curtis giving a masterful and devastating performance as a torturing and tortured mom. Yes, there are fun characters in the kitchen, but no Marcus (Lionel Boyce) or Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas). The writing, while good, is nowhere near as chef’s knife sharp as the dialogue in “The Bear.”

Still, the acting in “The Chef” is pretty phenomenal and its take on male toxicity in the kitchen is interesting and sometimes heartbreaking to watch. Some of its most tender and interesting moments are in the dynamics of the relationship between Nimrod and his daughters, the older one played by Alfi’s eldest, Sol.

For those of you with a hankering for more fictional kitchen intrigue, the show may indeed hit the spot.

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