Courtney “Coco” Storer has worked in some of the world’s most vaunted kitchens, including Verjus in Paris, both as a chef and in the front of house. Now, she’s a private chef with her own catering business and the self-described “luckiest culinary producer in the world,” thanks to her job on The Bear. Storer is the person responsible for training the hit show’s actors in essential kitchen skills as well as helping the writers make the scripts sound as true to restaurant life as possible. And, of course, she comes up with all the dishes you see on screen.
Storer is the sister of The Bear creator Christopher Storer. She grew up with her brother in Chicago, but the two drifted apart when they were young, after their parents split up. Eventually, she moved to Los Angeles, where she worked at Animal (which closed this month after 15 years in business) and later became culinary director at Jon & Vinny’s while reconnecting with her brother, who also lived in the city. She knew he’d been working on a film inspired by legendary Chicago sandwich spot Mr. Beef for years, and when the script eventually morphed into The Bear, Storer signed on to shape the show’s culinary identity.
Eater sat down with Storer following the second season’s much-anticipated debut to talk about making food look delicious on television, training actors to look like competent chefs, and the real-life restaurants that served as inspiration for the series’ food.
Eater: Was working so closely with your brother weird, awesome, or both?
Courtney “Coco” Storer: Chris and I grew up in Chicago, and we kind of got pulled apart after our parents split up. We came back into each other’s lives when I moved to LA, and it’s been a real joy for me. I’ve kind of done it all — training the actors, working with the writers, telling stories from my own experiences. It’s definitely interesting at times because it can be like worlds colliding. I’m in his TV world; he’s in my food world. He’s had some experience peripherally in restaurants, and worked with a ton of chefs, but I’m a person who works in restaurants. I get it in a different way because I’ve lived it. We wanted to complement each other to make the show as good as it can be.
How would you describe the food aesthetic in the second season of The Bear?
Everything has to have a thread that connects it to what the characters are experiencing in their personal lives, and the journey of The Bear from Season 1 to Season 2. I wanted to make sure [Carmy and Sydney’s] beef consomme with the frozen grapes — a version of that — makes it to the menu. You have this cannoli that is the cause of so much heartbreak for Carmy and the Berzatto family, and Marcus turns it into this beautiful, savory thing. He’s saying, “I see you. Let me help you make this thing yours, and bring the power and the control back.” You have the doughnut from Season 1 that’s evolved into this zeppole with fermented cherry glaze, and the honey bun, which is Marcus’s ode to his mother who always bought those for him. The food is showing who they are, their growth. Using little parts of all of them to create the menu was one of the most fun, and the most thoughtful, things I’ve done in my culinary career.
Which actual restaurants served as inspiration for the food in The Bear?
All the places that you see in the show — Ever, Avec, Kasama, Lao Peng You — were really big inspirations for us. Chef Curtis Duffy [of Ever] was just such a resource. He made so much time and space for us and helped bring these dishes to life.
Were there dishes that you really loved that just didn’t make the final cut for the Bear’s opening menu?
There were. There was going to be a cavatelli with bolognese, and they cut out a crudo dish. It happens so fast that you almost miss it. But you know, that’s also what happens in restaurants.
What was it like to train a bunch of actors to look like competent chefs?
It’s no different than being a chef in a kitchen. You have to be able to assess a person’s skills honestly, and it’s kind of like being a coach. Everybody learns very differently, so my approach with Ayo [Edebiri] is different from my approach with Jeremy [Allen White]. We didn’t just have to think about how to make the cooking look doable — they had to do the work. Liza [Colón-Zayas] had to actually break down a branzino, and that’s a hard thing to do if you don’t have practice.
Which one of the actors displayed the most natural talent in the kitchen?
I would have to say Ayo. She is the most courageous, brave, strong person. I wish I could have channeled her in so many kitchens, early on. I was brave, but Ayo just has a different energy of confidence. I could show her something once, and she had it. She’s a very quick learner, and it was amazing to see. We first made the omelet [from episode 9] at my house, and she did it perfectly the first time. Then on set, she did it perfectly again. She has a very natural ability.
It seems inevitable that The Bear will be picked up for a third season. Do you already have plans for dishes that you want to include?
I do, but if I tell you, it’s revealing too much! Of course I have ideas, I have a whole notebook full. There are definitely still so many stories to tell.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.