Illinois restaurant owner identifies with characters in FX series: 'The Bear' gets a lot right'

ByJordan Arseneau Localish logo
Wednesday, July 3, 2024
Illinois restaurant owner identifies with characters from 'The Bear'
Chef Erich Wennberg knows the pressure and stress that comes with running a restaurant. It's why he's a fan of FX's "The Bear" on Hulu.

HOMEWOOD, Ill. -- On a Wednesday night at Maple Tree Inn in Homewood, Illinois, chef and co-owner Erich Wennberg holds a pre-shift meeting to go over the restaurant's specials and guest list.

"We've got 135 in the books right now; that's probably where we're going to end up," Wennberg said to his staff. "We have an anniversary at 5 p.m., birthday at 6 p.m., two birthdays at 6:30 p.m."

The scene is not unlike what viewers see on FX's "The Bear," the critically acclaimed drama series streaming on Hulu, starring Jeremy Allen White as a chef and restaurateur based in Chicago. Wennberg and his wife and business partner, Katie, are fans of the show.

"'The Bear' gets a lot right; you can feel the stress. You can feel the indecision; you can feel the pressure through the screen," Wennberg said. "I see some of myself in almost every character."

The episode Wennberg connects most with is season two's "Forks." A scene takes place where characters in a pre-shift meeting, similar to Maple Tree Inn's, discuss making the night special for two teachers from a local high school, who were eating at a three-star restaurant for the first time.

"When the guy talks about the two teachers, that's real. That happens," Wennberg said. "That's our privilege to do that, to take care of somebody like that on that level."

Another scene in the episode featuring an employee expediting food on a busy night made Wennberg cheer. An overwhelming list of diners, dishes and special requests are juggled using a color-coded system.

"You see her just crush that service," Wennberg said. "If you didn't tie in to that scene and do a fist pump when they cleared the board, I don't know what you're in this industry for."

SEE ALSO: Chicago restaurants play starring role in 'The Bear' as series returns for season 3

Maple Tree Inn opened in Blue Island, Illinois almost 50 years ago. It was founded by Katie Wennberg's father. The restaurant burned down in 2018, but reopened in Homewood in 2020, continuing the tradition of elevated Louisiana fare.

"The way we approach Cajun cuisine is very old school, done in a refined way," Wennberg said. "What we really focus on is a level of service."

Wennberg said he wants the main character of FX's "The Bear," Carmy Berzatto, to have with his girlfriend what he has with his wife, Katie: a relationship of mutual understanding and loyalty forged by a commitment to success.

"We made the decision together to purchase the restaurant and resurrect it from where it was," Wennberg said. "The moral of Katie and I, first and foremost, is when you find someone who loves you for who you are, and you love them for who they are, you grab onto them with both hands. And you never let go."

Season three of FX's "The Bear" premiered on Hulu on June 27.

For more information on Maple Tree Inn, visit

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