‘The Bear’ Season 3 Finally Put Lingering Fan Theories About Joel McHale’s Mean Chef To Rest

There’s a good chance that, if you clicked on this post, you gobbled up the third season of The Bear already when it dropped last week. This means that you almost certainly enjoyed the score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and the wealth of cameos. Perhaps you even began ‘shipping Luca and Sydney, but it’s also worth noting that the show gave us a definitive answer regarding a character who we’ve only seen in nightmarish bits and pieces until now.

That would be Joel McHale’s “NYC Chef,” as he was credited along with the character’s actual name: Chef David Fields.

Behold how awful he was to Carmy in the first season while telling him (under fever-dream-esque lighting during flashbacks) that he was “bullsh*t” and “talentless.” He also tossed in a “you should be dead” for bad measure:

Fields did appear very briefly in the second season finale, too, when he was shown for a split second at The Bear’s “friends and family” night despite being neither friend nor fam. In the first two seasons, we also didn’t see him interact with anybody other than Carmy, so it was only natural that Fields would be the subject of fan theories that he wasn’t real. Redditors, especially, wondered if Fields (who they at times referred to as “Chef Winger” as a riff on McHale’s Community character) was imaginary or perhaps an “insecurity avatar” or a manifestation of “Carmen’s inner demons holding him back.” Other Redditors wondered if Fields was real but perhaps Carmy’s memory of him was altered or whether where was an actual reason why Fields was a total jerk.

Well, Season 3’s finale episode confirmed that Fields exists (outside of Carmy’s mind) because when Carmy gestured towards him at Ever’s farewell dinner, Luca and Sydney glanced over at McHale’s character and acknowledged that he existed. With that question resolved, the audience can rest assured that Carmy was truly following Fields out of the party to confront him over how “you gave me ulcers and panic attacks and nightmares.” Fields, however, remained convinced that he “gave you confidence, leadership, and ability” and helped Carmy be “an excellent chef.”

The episode also actually pulled a Mad Men moment with an “I think about you too much” followed by an “I don’t think about you.” That was strange, yes, but also, McHale did reveal the inspiration for his character (as noted by Collider in a visit with Seth Meyers) to be real-life Chef Thomas Keller. McHale added, “I don’t think he is as awful as I was, but he does whisper at his employees.”

Interestingly enough, Keller also appears in The Bear‘s third season finale, “Forever,” as himself and a seemingly helpful mentor who helped Carmy learn how to handle a “family dinner” chicken. That episode, like the rest of The Bear, can be streamed on Hulu.