TV’s Favorite Baker, Lionel Boyce, Fills Up on Cool Ranch Doritos Instead of Donuts

Lionel Boyce on The Bear. All images courtesy of FX.

Yesterday, actor Lionel Boyce returned to screens everywhere as the obsessive pastry chef in The Bear, a deep dive into the dysfunctional kitchen of the fictional Original Beef of Chicagoland. Last season, Boyce, who plays Marcus, won over fans with his increasingly unhinged quest to craft the perfect donut. In season two, the theatrics return as Carmy, played by Jeremy Allen White, once again tries to elevate his inherited restaurant with help from his ragtag crew of employees. Here, Boyce explains how his work on the hit culinary show has changed his real-life relationship to cooking. 

CULTURED: Where are you,  and what's in your system at the moment?

Lionel Boyce: I'm at home in Los Angeles. I don't think I ate today. I have this big bottle of green tea that I’ve just been drinking because I found out that green tea is hydrating, so I can not drink water and I could drink green tea instead. I don't know why I don't like to drink regular water. It's been like this since I was a child. I'm known as the friend who doesn't drink water.

CULTURED: What has the show done to your relationship to food? 

Boyce: The one thing that hasn't changed is I still don't cook at home because I'm never home. But it's changed in a lot of ways in that I have an appreciation for food where I'm more open-minded with things that I wouldn't have eaten before. I have an appreciation for a restaurant, where I want to try other places outside of the same four or five places I eat at all the time. I feel like it's affected some of my friends too, because I'm the go-to person for restaurants now all of a sudden where I feel like they didn't trust me as much before. I think I have more of an appreciation for kitchens. And I've been learning to bake for the show. So I’ve been learning how tedious that can be and how detail-oriented and meticulous one has to be to make something even work. 

CULTURED: What are your go-to spots in LA?

Boyce: I'm going to My 2 Cents because I love restaurants where you can eat anything on the menu, and it's all good. My 2 Cents is incredible. And they have this strawberry cake there that is out of this world. I'll go to Jon & Vinny's just because it's the same thing. It's easy and you can have anything on the menu. I'll get some American Deli wings. Like if I'm at my homie's house, we just Postmates it over there. Those are good. I love wings. Bodega Park is good too. They have good Korean fried wings and waffle fries.

CULTURED: What is your go-to gas station snack if you're on the road?

Boyce: Cool Ranch Doritos, which is weird. I thought that everyone loved Cool Ranch Doritos and I'm finding more and more people hate them. And it's confusing because it's like the best flavor of Dorito. That and Nerd Rope clusters. It's my favorite candy.

Ayo Edibiri and Boyce

CULTURED: So if you don't cook much, does your fridge have anything in it? Or is it just pristine and empty and creepy?

Boyce: It's sad. It's a bunch of sparkling water and these bottles of green tea and almond milk and cereal.

CULTURED: That makes me even more intrigued to ask you: which kitchen utensil or tool do you use the most?

Boyce: I use forks when I'm ordering Postmates. But I don't cook at all, so none. I'm one of those people who leaves their house and doesn't come home until he has to sleep.

CULTURED: You also mentioned that you're the go-to restaurant recommendation friend. Obviously, you have a longstanding group of creative friends in LA. What was their reaction to seeing you in a role like this as a famous non-cook?  

Boyce: They like the show. It's great to have friends we can share things with. I value honesty so much and all of my friends are honest. And my family is the same way too. Actually, when she came to the premiere last season, my younger sister was like, “Wow, that was actually pretty good.” I was like, “She thought it wasn't gonna be good?” I remember one of my friends was like, “This is weird, seeing you, and it's you but it's not you and it is you but it's not.” 

CULTURED: That makes me wonder about your relationship to Marcus. How much does that character feel like it is you, and how much does it feel like it's not personality-wise?

Boyce: If I feel like he is a lot like me. That's why it was so easy when I read the part. I was like, "I get exactly who this is." There are a lot of qualities that we share. His ability to disarm people, I think I have that at times where people just feel comfortable. I think the curiosity that he has is similar to me and finding a passion, as a person on a journey and going down that rabbit hole, [that] was me because it's not like I grew up knowing I wanted to write and act and do all these things. I grew up playing sports, and I found my way into it. And Marcus is similar where it's like he's lived two lives. He had a life before and then started working this job, and then he found a passion within his job.

CULTURED: Are there any moments in the time you spent watching operating kitchens that really stuck with you? 

Boyce: One thing that did stick with me, was when I was at Hart Bageri. I remember Richard Hart was there, and he was talking with his team, and they were talking about one of the people who sources their bread for them sent an email that wasn't so nice to the team. He was giving them a hard time, and Richard, he’s like, “Whoa, no, that's not how I operate. I don't care about the money. I'm writing this email to this person like, ‘Hey, this is how you talk to my team.’” To me, that was so important because it's them knowing that he has their back and he treats them like family, with respect and equality, over money. He's like, “I'm willing to cut a client.” It makes them love him more and want to work and help and believe in this company more. And I thought that was such a great thing to see.

Ebon Moss-Bachrach

CULTURED: What new pressures presented themselves after the first season? What things felt a lot easier?

Boyce: I think a new pressure that I felt was trying to keep the pressure off of myself. I haven't been a part of a hit show. People's personalities change. You always hear about that, like stories on the outside looking in [where] the next season comes and everyone's pulling up in a Ferrari and behaving in a certain way. The day I got there, it was easier because it was as if we took a week off. When we came back everyone was excited to be there. Same mentality.

CULTURED: Are there things from seeing the rest of the cast operate that you've absorbed and taken for yourself?

Boyce: Ebon [Moss-Bachrach] is really good, and he asks so many questions because that's what leads him to the truth of what he's searching for. In episode four, there’s a moment where the wall falls, and he has a line and I think if it weren't him, the line wouldn't have been delivered in this way that felt specific to Richie. He finds a different entry point into his decisions. He disassembles things. It's allowing me to ask “why” more.