My Big Break

Humans,

I hope your summer is off to a fantastic start! It's been such a pleasure seeing your friendly faces at our Food by Bear: France dinners. France is very special to me. It's not just where I had my awakening but also where I got my first big break. I've shared before of taking over cooking duties for 'Po Bear at a popular Parisian restaurant after his scooter injury. What I haven't shared are the fateful circumstances of the event. Truth is, the timing couldn't have been worse. France's most famous food critic, Anton Ego, was attending dinner that evening. We'd been anticipating his visit for weeks and now lil' ol' hilariously under-qualified me was running the show. I was terrified. I'll never forget 'Po Bear looking me square in the eyes and firmly declaring, "Next. Bear. Up. You're ready." It was exactly what I needed to hear, and I jumped in with all four paws. Below is how the scene played out.

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INT. – KITCHEN – EVENING

Bear flips through ‘Po’s recipe box, finds a certain card and pulls it, showing it to ‘Po.

‘PO BEAR
Ratatouille? It’s a peasant dish.
Are you sure you want to serve this
to Ego?

Bear NODS. INTERCUT: (1) Bear REIMAGINING the ratatouille; re-inventing it step by step -- WITH (2) 'PO BEAR, wheeling around the dining room in a custom wheelchair, a ONE-BEAR WAIT STAFF. MUSIC CRESCENDOS as 'PO BEAR delivers the meal to EGO’S TABLE.

Ego pokes a fork into the vegetables, examines them for a moment, then brings the food to his lips. As Ego’s lips close around the ratatouille, the sound, the restaurant around him is WHISKED AWAY—

FLASHBACK: FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE - A LIFETIME AGO

We are inside a cozy cottage on a golden summer day. The front door is open, a newly crashed BICYCLE lays on the ground outside. Next to it stands a five year old ANTON EGO with a skinned knee, valiantly holding back tears. His young mother turns from her cooking, and gives him a sympathetic smile. Like all mothers, she knows what to do.

MOMENTS LATER
Young EGO, already feeling better, is at a table. His mother touches his cheek and sets a freshly made bowl of ratatouille before him, warm and inviting. The boy takes a spoonful into his mouth---

AND THE PRESENT RUSHES BACK—
Ego is frozen. Astounded. His PEN slips from his hand. It CLATTERS to the floor, breaking the spell. Ego blinks. His eyes fall to his empty fork, which he holds suspended near his mouth. Slowly a long-lost feeling blooms inside him. He smiles. And has another forkful.


Ego's review that followed thrust me into the culinary spotlight and my life has never been the same. For that reason - and a secret bear reason I can't divulge quite yet - I'm extending the Food by Bear: France series for a couple weeks through the end of August. Tickets are available now. We'll then be flipping over to the next chapter starting in September, so please keep your eyes peeled for that announcement in the coming weeks.

NEXT. BEAR. UP. RATATOUILLE

2 japanese eggplants
2 yellow squashes
2 zucchinis
6 roma tomatoes

for the sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
salt & pepper to taste

for the seasoning:
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

2 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp garlic, minced
4 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Slice the eggplant, squash, zucchini and tomatoes into 1/8 rounds with a mandoline. (Be sure to pick out veggies of approximately the same size). Set aside.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 12 inch, oven safe pan (or dutch oven) over medium high fire. Sauté the onion, garlic, and bell peppers until tender, 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add crushed tomatoes and 2 tablespoons basil. Stir until incorporated, then smooth the surface of the sauce with a spatula.

3. Arrange the vegetables in a pattern (tomato, eggplant, squash, zucchini, etc) on top of the sauce. Start from the outer edge of the pan and work in. Season dish with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 40 minutes. Uncover the pan and cook for another 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.

4. Mix herb seasoning and spread over the cooked ratatouille.

* For some extra goodness you can add Italian sausage to the sauce, and try topping with Gruyere cheese.

SUZE SPRITZ

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3/4 oz suze
1/4 oz peach syrup
3 oz sparkling wine
lemon peel
floral ice cube

Combine Suze and peach syrup in a champagne flute and stir. Add ice and stir again. Pour sparkling wine on top, then express rim with lemon peel (discard peel). Finish with a floral ice cube.