How The Bear’s Tina Has Changed My Approach To Growth

A review of Tina and Sydney’s relationship on FX’s The Bear. And how it’s changed my outlook on growth

Ebosetale Jenna Oriarewo
6 min readAug 13, 2023

When Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas) first comes on our screens, she’s calling Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) a puta and telling him not to unplug the machines because they won’t come on again. Then subsequently we see her be this very uncooperative combative person who’s so obsessed with ‘the system’ aka Michael’s way of doing things. She won’t wear the blue apron. She won’t say ‘chef’. She doesn’t believe in a higher level.

She’s a bit nicer to Carmy because of her love for Mikey (previous owner of The Beef and Carmy’s now late older brother), but she’s extremely resistant to Sydney (Ayo Edebiri). Even when Syd tries to empathize with her as the only women in the kitchen. Tina won’t even speak English to Sydney or eat the food she’s made for family time. There’s also a moment where she turns on high the stock that Carmy left in Sydney’s care.

While there’s no clear scene that shows why Tina doesn’t like Sydney, it’s easy to deduce why. Sydney is representative of a new, young, and fresh thing she doesn’t think she fits into. It’s not a matter of competition, it’s a matter of fear.

Tina had been a part of The Beef for a long while — since before Syd was born like she tells her. She’s not a fancy chef with a fancy training like Syd. She’s been a simple cook comfortable at the level she had always been. Likely because she was never challenged or required to do more. What Carmy and Syd represent is a newness that she can’t see her place in.

And that’s understandably scary. For anyone. Including a very stubborn overplanning me.

Gradually though, something changes with Tina’s perspective that leads to her growth. And it starts with mash potatoes. Sydney is going around doing a check-in with each chef. When she gets to Tina, she asks if she remembers it’s a new recipe and Tina replies “remember when I told you to fuck off?” Tina then goes ahead to over boil her milk for the mash that it’s now rolling over so she has to throw that away. When she gets back to her station, she sees Syd has another one heating on the stove. Almost like she expected her to fail. For someone who’s already unadmittedly afraid of her position in this new system, you can imagine how this makes her feel. Especially because she’s clearly frustrated with herself and also displeased to see that new pot.

When she’s done making the potatoes, she tastes, adds a little more salt, stirs and tastes again. Then she goes to dump the pot in front of Sydney to ‘get it over with.’ She’s a confident character but not in this moment. You can see and tell she’s not confident in herself and what she’s made. She expects negative remarks and she’s prepared to take it. “Taste it and tell me it’s shitty” she says to Syd. So imagine her shock when Syd tastes it and says “it’s great. Thank you chef.” She can’t believe it. For someone who has had the sharpest mouth all along, seeing her be speechless at that compliment is a beautiful thing.

The beauty of this scene is enhanced by 2 extra things. One: the music Loved By You by Kirby. Whose lyrics somehow relate to Tina’s situation.

“Bless my soul

I’ve been alone too long

Somebody without someone

Is no one at all

And baby all these nights

I’ve struggled and fought my pride

Scared that someone your type

Couldn’t see past my flaws”

And two: the fact that Tina turns after a few seconds, smiling, and says to Syd “Thank you Jeff. Chef.” A symbol of respect.

This relationship is very important (to me). But I think it should be to everyone else because it shows how much having someone who sees you and doesn’t give up on you is important in helping us grow and reach beyond our expectations for ourselves. How having someone who acknowledges your efforts can immediately improve the way you see yourself as well as your dedication to your craft.

After this episode, we see Tina become more receptive of not only the new system but also Sydney. In season 1 episode 6 when Richie is being a menace disregarding Syd’s orders and disrupting Tina’s flow, she takes him outside and asks him to go home and cool off because he’s fucking up her game. In her words:

“You need to get out of here, you’re fucking my shit up!” “My game has improved 300% in 2 months. This place is organized and clean and smooth and… yo I love Mikey. You know how much I love that kid. But this is alive and… good.”

She sees potential in this restaurant and also in herself now because someone stuck with her and showed her she could be more than ordinary. Showed her she could fit in too.

In season 2, the restaurant is revamping. The Beef is gone and now The Bear is coming. Everything is improving — menu, decor, even the people. Marcus goes to Copenhagen to train under a renowned pastry chef. Richie stages at Ever to learn about the hospitality part of the restaurant business. Sydney goes on a food crawl around Chicago looking for inspiration. Ebra and Tina go to culinary school. Carmy is Executive Chef. Sugar is Project Manager. Syd is Chef de Cuisine (CDC). Also, Tina is now sous chef. A position even she didn’t think of herself for.

When Syd tries to ask her outside of the restaurant building, she first offers to ask around for anyone capable. Then Syd makes it clear that she’s asking her to be the sous. Again, we see Tina go silent. She’s surprised and then elated as she goes to hug Syd and even lifts her up in the process. After Syd returns to the restaurant, the camera is still on Tina who stands outside smiling, hopping on a spot, clearly very happy about this new opportunity. I don’t know, but this made me happy and teary.

In an interview, Liza Colón-Zayas mentions how she personally could relate to her character’s joy in that moment. How it felt to be seen, to be trusted, and to be given the opportunity not only to grow but also to dream again.

Tina knows she’s not young. She clearly admits this to Ebra while discussing the importance of older people like them surrounding themselves with ‘bad mothefuckers’ who push them. She knows she typically shouldn’t fit in with the young people at culinary school. She knows their invite to the bar is a pity one. But she’s also a new woman now. A woman with potential. A fucking sous chef. So when she performs at karaoke that night in season 2 episode 5, and all eyes are on her and their applause, I believe she knows she’s a star. And she belongs.

Simply because someone took a chance on her. Tina and Sydney’s relationship teaches me how important it is to have people who see you and push you. How you can be good but sometimes to be great, someone needs to hold your hand and walk you there. I want that. I think we all should.

So from now on I’m approaching growth in my career and life like this: with hands open to change and a heart open to and hopeful for people who will see me and my potentials. Even when I can’t see.

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