A woman, a couple of eggs and a bag of crisps: how an omelette became The Bear’s breakout star

<span>Photograph: Hulu</span>
Photograph: Hulu

The second season of The Bear is proudly maximalist television. There are episodes set in different countries, episodes that drop the narrative altogether to show the spiritual awakening of specific characters. One episode seems to have been exclusively designed to let Jamie Lee Curtis break the world record for rampant scenery chewing. Then there’s the sound. When The Bear starts playing a song, more often than not it plays the song all the way through, adding to the cacophony of the scene.

So it comes as a bit of a surprise to find that the scene that has captured public attention like nothing else is perhaps its smallest. There are no fights. No raised voices. No breathless montages. No music. Just a woman, a couple of eggs and a bag of crisps. Which is to say that, when people come to think of The Bear season two in years to come, they’re going to think of the omelette.

The sequence in question comes in the middle of the penultimate episode. The gang of surly, ambitious reprobates who screamed at each other during season one have now largely transformed into a gang of less surly but even more ambitious would-be high-end chefs, racing to transform their run-down sandwich shop into a restaurant of international repute. But it comes at a cost. Finances are stretched, tempers are frayed and attentions are being pulled in a thousand different directions at once. When pregnant project manager Natalie (Abby Elliott) asks Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) for an omelette, however, everything comes to a halt.

Sydney goes to the kitchen and, for the first time in a season about menu creation and renovation, actually cooks. She whisks two eggs through a sieve. She melts butter in a pan. She cooks the eggs to a soft scramble, pipes Boursin down the centre, folds it, dresses it with chopped chives and carefully crumbles ridge-cut crisps and serves it to Natalie. The joy of The Bear comes from watching all the characters react in the white-hot furnace of their workplace, but the omelette sequence comes as a deep exhalation. Food means several different things on this show, but here it is unquestionably an act of love.

The calm in the storm … Sydney creates her eggy opus.
The calm in the storm … Sydney creates her eggy opus. Photograph: Hulu

I’m not the first to point out the sequence’s similarity to the ending of Stanley Tucci’s masterful film Big Night. There, after a long-planned banquet ends in disaster, the film glides to an end with a wordless sequence of Tucci knocking up an omelette, cutting it in half and sharing it with his brother. They’ve both been through hell, and their relationship may not fully recover, but the omelette represents a green shot of rapprochement. Tucci isn’t trying to dazzle his brother with form-defying ambition. He’s taking a couple of everyday ingredients and making something simple, but making it well. It is the perfect gesture for the situation.

And just as it’s impossible to watch Big Night without running off and making an omelette, so it is with The Bear. Needless to say, people have fallen over themselves to recreate the dish. Websites have published the recipe. Chefs have been interviewed about it. TikTok especially is rammed with tutorials by people eager to capture a little of the magic they saw onscreen. I cannot be the only person to have chucked a box of Boursin in my basket at the supermarket after the episode. And this, I think, has a lot to do with the choice of dish.

The Bear often depicts food at its most intimidating; small, fiddly dishes that require a host of complex ingredients and a set of tweezers. It isn’t exactly food you can replicate at home. But an omelette? Anyone can make an omelette. This is an elevated omelette, sure, but it’s still just a few eggs and some butter. It isn’t out of the grasp of the home chef. Part of the appeal of The Bear is how aspirational it is (look at all the articles about how to dress like the main character, even though he essentially just wears a white T-shirt) so of course people will latch on to a slightly fancier version of what they cook for their lunch.

Ultimately, no matter how well it goes, there is one thing about that omelette that is absolutely unquestionable. On TV, on that specific show at that specific moment, it is absolutely perfect.

• The Bear is streaming on Disney+