Jeremy Allen White stars in "The Bear." Photo courtesy of FX
LOS ANGELES, June 23 (UPI) -- Jeremy Allen White said playing a chef on The Bear, premiering Thursday on FX, taught him how much people who cook food sacrifice for their patrons.
"What I really took away, spending time with these cooks [and] chefs in kitchens is the sacrifice and commitment of time," White said on a recent Television Critics Association Zoom panel.
"I was shocked at the amount of time, the amount of work that these back-of-house folks, cooks and chefs, are putting into it."
The Bear stars 31-year-old White as Carmy, a New York City chef who returns to Chicago to take over his family sandwich shop after his brother dies by suicide. Carmy's five-star restaurant protocols clash with the cooks of his brother's restaurant, The Original Beef of Chicago.
Carmy reorganizes the kitchen, calls everyone in the kitchen "chef"' and changes the menu.
"It is like being an athlete or something like that," White said. "I was just surprised and really impressed at that sacrifice."
To prepare for the role of Carmy, White studied at the Institute of Culinary Education in Pasadena, Calif., worked with chef Dave Beran and assisted in Beran's kitchen at the French bistro Pasjoli in Santa Monica, Calif. White said he can still only act like a chef.
"I can fake it well," White said. "I cook more than I did, but I am going to keep trying to get better."
White said he now cooks more at home for his wife, Addison Timlin, and children, 3-year-old Ezer and 1-year-old Dolores. He said The Bear taught him the value of a home-cooked meal, as well as one for paying customers.
"I have understood cooking to be another form of communication or taking care of people," White said. "I loved that about it."
He said The Bear creator Christopher Storer approached him during the last season of Shameless. White played Lip Gallagher for 11 seasons on the Showtime drama.
Storer had produced the 2020 movie The Rental, in which White co-starred. After meeting with Storer and executive producers Joanna Calo and Nate Matteson several times, White decided he wanted to play Carmy.
"My heart really broke for him," White said. "He seemed very lost and very lonely."
The Bear shows flashbacks to Carmy's work in the kitchen of The French Laundry. White empathized with how little changed for Carmy when he came home.
"His identity is so wrapped up in being a chef and being successful," White said. "Everything seems to be so life or death all the time."
White said he related to Carmy's intensity because he used to approach acting with a similar intensity. He has been acting on television since he was 15.
"At times, my identity was certainly very wrapped up in acting and what I do," White said. "I don't know how well I knew myself outside of that."
When White studied food preparation, the intensity he described also sparked thoughts of having little work-life balance.
"That was something that I could access in myself and apply to Carmy," White said. "It was exciting to think about sort of accessing a character through learning a skill."
The Bear airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. EDT on FX and streams on Hulu.