kitchen nightmares

Restaurant Shows, Ranked by Stressfulness

Photo: FX

“It would be weird to work in a restaurant and not lose your mind,” says Ayo Edebiri’s character on FX’s new restaurant dramedy The Bear. And her Sydney, a sous-chef at one of the most hectic, anxiety-inducing restaurants in Chicago, would know. But let’s take that a step further: It would be weird to work in a restaurant and then watch TV about people who work in a restaurant and not lose your mind. You could end up reliving some of your worst moments! You could be inviting stress in! We live in 2022. None of us need to be inviting stress in, my babies. And yet, there are some really great shows about restaurant life. Your tolerance level for TV-induced stress is up to you, but to help you decide which restaurant shows — or shows with a main character whose job at a restaurant is a main source of conflict for them — are on your desired level, scroll through our ranking below of ten TV series that take place in a restaurant from least stress-inducing to most stress-inducing, complete with a handy little antacid count so you know exactly the level of stomach-churning these shows might evoke. Bon appetit!


Bob’s Burgers

Oh dear, sweet Bob’s Burgers! In real life, sure, a small family-run burger place like Bob’s Burgers might be prone to give a person agita — the majority of the employees there are children, the health inspector is up the Belchers’ butts (you’re welcome, Tina), and the raccoon drama is overwhelming. But watching Bob’s Burgers, now, that is one of the most wonderful ways to pass the time. It’s silly and warm and the Belchers really care about one another. And even though there are hijinks and the restaurant seems like it is on the brink of closing every other week, everything works out in the end.

Antacid count: Zero needed. Instead, I’ll sit back, relax, and like Linda says, I’ll have “half of four bottles of wine,” please.

Streaming on Hulu


Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place

The biggest conflict this Boston-based pizzeria ever really provided was that it made the show’s title unbearably long, so they ditched both after two seasons and let a fresh-faced Ryan Reynolds do his thing.

Antacid count: Zero after watching the show, but probably at least one after I eat all the pizza an episode makes me crave. Dairy baby, now that’s stressful.

Available on DVD


Happy Endings

It wasn’t always easy for Dave Rose to keep his steak-sandwich food truck Steak Me Home Tonight afloat, but damn it if he didn’t keep trying. Surely some of his problems came from letting his friends try to help both in the kitchen and with marketing to disastrous ends (both of those examples are referring to Max, by the way, so maybe Dave just had a Max problem). But he also brought some troubles on himself — creating a cocktail that makes all your friends have sex dreams about you is unfortunate, after all.

Antacid count: This show is a wild, wacky balm, so zero antacids. I will, however, take at least three deep-V tees in Dave’s honor, okay?

Streaming on HBO Max



One would think Starz’s two-season drama about the people who work at a stand-in for the Union Square Cafe would be at the top of this list simply because of how pretentious almost every single person employed at this place is, but eventually you come to realize that this series is mostly just that — pretentious, not stressful. Sure, when small-town girl Tess arrives in New York City and promptly lands a job here with no experience simply because she called it “special” in her interview, she’s there for all of maybe one hour (she fills, what, one salt shaker?) before she almost has a panic attack, but after that Tess … mostly stares at people? There’s a lot of staring going on at this restaurant. Sure, there’s some stress in being reminded of how awkward it can be when you hook up with a co-worker and then have to work a shift with them, but overall the stakes here feel surprisingly low.

Antacid count: One, but only because Tess is really creeping me out with all the staring.

Streaming on Starz


The Monster Foodies Truck Sketch on Sesame Street

Is Sesame Street mainly a stress-free watch and also meant for children? Sure, fine, yes to both of those questions. And yet still, any time I catch this Cookie Monster and Gonger sketch in which they take a kid’s food order, make that item in their food truck, and then launch it to the customer via catapult, I get a little twitchy. Neither of these guys is wearing hairnets and they are legit like 95 percent hair. They never have all the ingredients they need, so they are constantly having to drive out to different farms and factories and those excursions cost you valuable time in the kitchen. And do not get me started on the food-delivery mechanism these monsters (and I mean that on several levels!!) employ.

Antacid count: Only three — despite their questionable culinary practices, these monsters are cute and have a catchy theme song.

Streaming on HBO Max



This mid-’90s BBC sitcom stars Lenny Henry as Gareth Blackstock, the chef de cuisine at an Oxfordshire two Michelin-starred French restaurant called Le Château Anglais. Literally one of his first lines in the entire series is “I’m Gareth Blackstock. I am seriously unpleasant. I am a bastard,” so, like, yes, this man is an asshole and proud of it. The show is a comedy and much of Gareth’s dressing down of his staff (and guests!) is played for laughs, but I think the laugh track might make it worse? Being berated by your boss for your incompetence and having a bunch of strangers laugh at you is true nightmare fuel. Eventually, thankfully, Gareth reveals himself to also be a bit of a goof who can’t bring himself to fire even his most inept employees — he just happens to be ultrapassionate about his work (his art!). He is so over the top about it that, eventually, you’ll be able to laugh about it, too.

Antacid count: Was going to say five but will deduct one because when Blackstock yells at that guest who asks for salt without even tasting his dish first in episode two, that is both a hilarious and valid response to the situation.

Streaming on BritBox


Oh My Ghost! (South Korean version)

Hi there, serious question here: Which section in the health code covers staff possessions by ghosts? It’s like, you think you have enough to be stressed about when you’re working for an arrogant celebrity chef who you have a mortifyingly huge crush on because even though he is an ass he will do things like reach around you to physically show you how to cut onions properly, and then on top of that, you have to worry about a fucking ghost taking over your body?? And friends, I’m not using fucking for emphasis here, the ghost that possesses shy, unassuming kitchen assistant Bong-sun in this South Korean dramedy is the horniest ghost you’ve ever seen! Shin Soon-ae died a virgin and believes her unfinished ghost business is to get laid. Oh, there’s no HR department at this restaurant in case that wasn’t already clear.

Antacid count: Two for watching how exacting Chef Kang Sun-woo is in his kitchen plus three more for all the horny-ghost shenanigans.

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video


Kitchen Confidential 

You’d think a series based on an Anthony Bourdain book on the restaurant industry would be a little spicier (pun extremely intended), but this Bradley Cooper vehicle is more wacky sitcom than gritty workplace drama. There’s lots of fast-paced, bustling kitchen moments, but those are mostly fun. The actual stressful parts stem from the fact that there are two things in abundance on this show: pranks and treating women like shit. I find both of those things stressful for very different reasons!!

Antacid count: I’ll need three for the time when sous-chef Steve chops his finger off and is covered in blood and three for all the hating women stuff.

Available on DVD


SpongeBob SquarePants

I know it’s a Nickelodeon cartoon, but damn, SpongeBob is stressful — especially the parts having to do with the Krusty Krab. Think about it: Kindly, frantic SpongeBob is oblivious to most of this but he has a co-worker who actively despises him (Squidward), his boss Mr. Krabs is always up to shady shit, many times at SpongeBob’s expense, and then there is that little dick Plankton who is relentless in his pursuit of stealing the secret Krabby Patty recipe. It is too much for a little sponge! And it is too much for those of us who care about that little sponge!!

Antacid count: It doesn’t seem like it, but Bikini Bottom is a seedy place and our naïve fry cook knows no peace! Half a bottle, please!

Streaming on Paramount+


The Bear

FX’s The Bear, about Carmy Berzatto, a prodigy chef who walks away from one of the best restaurants in the world to take over his family’s Chicago sandwich shop after his brother kills himself, isn’t just one of the most stressful shows about a restaurant on TV, it is simply one of the most stressful shows on TV, full stop. If the word cacophony was a TV series, it would be this one. The Bear is loud and sweaty and frenetic. People are always yelling. Why are they always yelling?! In the kitchen, it never stops moving and everything feels suffocating, both emotionally and physically. But all of these things also make it feel like the truest depiction of life spent working in a kitchen — which might make it almost impossible to watch if you know exactly how that feels.

Antacid count: A whole bottle and then I’m going to go throw up in the alley behind the kitchen and then I’ll have one cigarette and no one is allowed to say a single thing about it.

Streaming on Hulu
Restaurant Shows, Ranked by Stressfulness