“The Bear”, FX’s hit dramedy made headlines again this week for taking home three Golden Globes for Best Television Series, Best Actor and Best Actress in a musical or comedy; and while Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri are phenomenal talents who deserved those accolades, I want to shine a spotlight on Matty Matheson who plays Neil Fak on the show.
For those who don’t know, The Bear is about a young chef named Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (pronounced BEAR-zaa-tow), played by White, who leaves his position at a Michelin star restaurant in NYC to return home to Chicago to take over his brother’s sandwich shop after his shocking suicide. Carmy recruits the help of the promising young chef Sydney Adamu, played by Edebiri, to help get the place running efficiently as he tackles his brother’s massive debts while dealing with mental health issues and family trauma. After the discovery of a huge amount of cash that his brother borrowed from the mafia, Carmy chooses to close down the sandwich shop and open his own restaurant called The Bear.
Surrounding Carmy and Sydney is a wonderful cast of characters which include Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Richie and the aforementioned Matty Matheson as Neil Fak. And while I can’t mention everyone by name, let me make it clear that everyone on the show is brilliant and capable in their roles; and Jamie Lee Cutis’ guest starring role as Donna Berzatto one thousand percent lives up to the hype! However, for the intent of this article and the bears out there I want to focus on Fak.
Neil Fak is the childhood friend of Carmy and his ‘cousin’ Richie and his role at The Bear starts as trusted handyman who is now potentially a front of house host/ server (we will find out more next season). As a big man and a bear, I have found the inclusion of Fak in this storyline to be so unbelievably rewarding and uplifting. Even though neither Fak nor Matty Matheson are gay, they are big-bodied men. In fact Matheson once described himself to The New York Times as a “fat, sweaty dude covered in tattoos,” which coincidentally is just how we like ‘em at Bear World Magazine!
All kidding aside though, the relationship between Fak, Richie and Carmy involves a lot of ribbing and poking fun at each other. What I love about it is that Fak’s size and weight is NEVER used as a way to tear him down and believe me these guys are constantly busting each other’s balls! Fak is presented as a capable and highly valued asset to the team, constantly coming through with affordable solutions to fix things that are constantly breaking down and he even discovers and rectifies the problem that was preventing the restaurant from passing their fire suppression test which in turn was preventing them from opening.
It is so encouraging to see a highly celebrated mainstream show put a fat person front and center in a way that celebrates them instead of making them the butt of the joke. In a show that can be very tense and dramatic, Fak comes through with sincerity and comic relief but in a way that makes you love him, not laugh at him. His bromance with Richie provides endless entertainment and seeing these two straight men go from wrestling around on the floor in season one to straightening each other’s ties in a show of love and solidarity before the restaurant opening in season two is emblematic of good writing and fantastic character building brought to life by two dedicated and talented actors.
Further to all that, I’d be remiss if I did not highlight that Matty Matheson not only stars in the show but is also an executive producer and a real-life chef who provides consulting to the writers and actors on appropriate kitchen dialogue and how to make it seem like they are actually cooking on the show. His culinary experience is extensive. In fact, according to Variety: “…before joining “The Bear” in 2021, Matheson had several irons in the culinary fire, running restaurants like Cà Phê Rang, Prime Seafood Palace, Rizzo’s House of Parm (named after his daughter, Rizzo) and Fonda Balam, all under the umbrella of his hospitality company Our House. He’s been the face of numerous food programs such as Vice’s “Munchies,” “Dead Set on Life” and “It’s Suppertime” along with YouTube series “Cookin’ Somethin’ W/ Matty Matheson” and “Stupid F*cking Cooking Show.”
During his time in the culinary world, he so happened to work with Courtney Storer, sister to show creator Christopher Storer, who is the culinary producer on “The Bear”, which is presumably how he came to be involved in the project. He is also a bestselling author of two cookbooks: Matty Matheson: A Cookbook and Matty Matheson: Home Style Cookery.
We do a lot of stories about representation here at Bear World because it is so rare that we see ourselves in mainstream media. Big men are not usually featured so lovingly, so it’s always worth celebrating when we see it. And although I am admittedly a bit late to the party, I am so grateful to have finally found Matty Matheson, Neil Fak and “The Bear”.