The final scene of the first season of The Bear — an eight-episode comedy-drama about what it’s like to be a smokin’ hot guy who also inherits a failing but beloved restaurant from your deceased older brother — ends with the entire kitchen staff jubilantly opening dozens of cans of San Merican tomatoes. Inside the sealed cans are wads of Saran-wrapped cash that amount to over 300,000 dollars, a ragtag failsafe system that was set up by Mikey — owner Carmy’s dead brother — to insure that the restaurant would stay afloat financially once Carmy took over. When they discover the cash, Carmy immediately closes the original beloved-yet-flawed-restaurant, which is funny to me, and rebrands as something closer to his dream dining establishment.
But this conclusion left more head-scratching questions than answers — So wait, are they still paying their mafioso uncle Cicero back the $300 grand loan that Mikey borrowed? How did the tomato sauce get splattered all the way onto the back wall ceiling? Why does a restaurant need a 1-to-1 ratio of can openers to kitchen staff? The Beef is just... closed now? But what about the regulars? — but no question has been more puzzling than this: How did Carmy’s brother seal all that cash into all those cans?
In an interview with actor Jeremy Allen White (who plays Carmy), Vulture writer Roxana Hadadi asked this very question. “What I kept wondering about that scene was, ‘How did Mikey reseal the cans?’” White’s response conveniently papered over the plot hole: “There’s a machine that does that in restaurants,” he told Hadadi. “I asked the same question.” Well, I also asked the same question, of my neighbor, who is a chef: “Are there machines at restaurants that reseal already open cans?” I asked. His response: “Not to my knowledge.” Interesting.
I searched for an industrial can resealer online, which led me to House of Cans, a company that sells all things container related. “Whether it’s cans, pails, drums, jugs, jars, bottles or boxes — we have a full line,” the site reads. In a subcategory of container-related products, House of Cans sells “open top can sealers.” I figured — in theory — if you could use this tool to seal a can, it must be able to reseal cans after you’ve shoved $300,000 into them. That had to be what Mikey did — used his industrial can-sealer from House of Cans to reseal the San Merican tomatoes. But when I called House of Cans, the representative on the phone said no, you cannot reseal a metal can once it’s been opened. I asked twice. The answer was no.
Okay, but maybe there was still a way. Another chef friend suggested that if the can had somehow been opened in an immaculately precise manner, it might be possible to seal with a new lid. “But the contents inside will have been exposed to oxygen,” making the possibility of tomato spoilage incredibly high. (Imagine if they opened all those cans and found not just cash, but mold. Yeesh!) Roger Kissling, the VP of sales and customer management at Iron Heart Canning, backed up the vanishingly small likelihood that the cans could be resealed. In an email, Kissling wrote that, though the company specializes in beverage canning, “I can tell you that cans cannot be resealed once opened because the cans are seamed by folding and compressing the metal of the lid and body of the can.” To open them, Kissling wrote, “the metal is cut so it cannot be resealed.”
Resealing out of the question, this leaves two theories for how all that cash got into all those cans: First, Mikey canned the tomatoes himself and pasted the San Merican labels on. This means he’d definitely have to have one of those industrial can sealers sold by companies like House of Cans, as well as a label printer of some sort and a very steady hand for wrapping paper. Seems like a lot of work for a guy whose restaurant was in shambles, among other things.
Or, Mikey was laundering money through KBL, a shadow company he said he was paying off in the balance ledger at the restaurant. KBL, which was printed on the bottom of the cans, was maybe the company stuffing the cash in the cans pre-seal, adding tomatoes from wherever, sealing the cans, then sending them back to the restaurant sealed. Whether this company was a canning company or a tomato grower or neither doesn’t really matter. At the very least, it was seemingly a family business: As one Reddit user noticed, Carmy’s dad was wearing a KBL jacket in an old photo with their uncle Cicero. Could KBL stand for K. Berzatto Laundering?
We’ll just have to wait until Season 2 to find out.