For those of you who have never heard of “Sweetbitter,” it is a six-episode television adaption of the amazing bestseller by Stephanie Danler and your next summer binge. The Starz channel original centers on Tess, a young and naïve 22-year-old who has just arrived in New York City and is training to be a server at a posh Manhattan restaurant.
Tess’s spontaneous move to New York with no real plan or direction, results in meeting a staff of eccentric characters who take her under their wing and show her the ins and outs of not only the restaurant industry but also the gritty underground of the New York party scene.
Unsophisticated Tess learns about the way different tastes hit the tongue with the help of her new mentor, Simone, the seasoned and worldly server, and the mantra, “sweet, sour, salty, bitter.” From Will, Sasha, Ari, Heather and Jake, she is welcomed into a culture of booze, sex and drugs during the restaurant’s after-hours.
Like most shows or movies set in a restaurant, “Sweetbitter” captures the closeness of a wait staff through their “family dinners” as well as the chaos that goes on behind the kitchen doors of a high-end restaurant. The show strays from being just a restaurant drama though with the added intermingling of coworkers and the relationships that form.
In comparison to the book, the adaption is about as close as it gets to the original, as Danler wrote a few episodes herself and helped to develop the series. One thing missing from the book, however, is more character development which the show could use more of if a second season should follow. For example, through the course of the season Tess is on a trial basis which she must pass in order to become a server. In this fictional and prestigious restaurant business, you start at the lowest position like most jobs and work your way up, making Tess’s first position a back waiter at that. To most, it doesn’t sound like that great a job and especially so after observing how cutthroat it is in the kitchen even for servers, yet Tess clings to this low-level job and works her butt off to reach her goal of passing her trial. It would be interesting to learn more about why Tess wants this job so badly considering she’s a college graduate with an English degree. The vague motivation behind Tess’s journey, however, does add more emphasis to the allure and pull of New York.
The shows focus on a young millennial trying to navigate the big apple and find her place in the restaurant world gives a unique spin on a storyline as old as time — a young woman’s New York awakening as seen by the likes of “Sex and the City,” “Girls” and so many more. The partying that ensues and the provocative corruption of the innocent, wide-eyed newbie is classic — not to mention entertaining.
“Sweetbitter” delves into the culinary world and takes you behind the scenes of the NYC restaurant business. It is a show that refines your taste in wine, haute cuisine and the art of sophistication. Overall, it is sexy, sweet and delectable.