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Myesha Evon Gardner for TODAY

Ayo Edebiri isn’t following anyone else’s recipe

The comedian and breakout actor of the hit FX/Hulu series “The Bear” is one of Hollywood’s rising stars — but she’s determined to remain in control.

This article was originally published on Nov. 16, 2022.

One year later, Ayo Edebiri starred in Season 2 of “The Bear,” which led to her first-ever Golden Globes win on Jan. 8, 2024, followed by her first Emmy award on Jan. 15 for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series.

Here, you can revisit TODAY’s 2022 digital cover story with Edebiri.


Streaks of golden light dart from vintage ceiling fixtures up a stairwell lined with mirrors. At the top stands Ayo Edebiri, smiling, her body language confident. “Genius of Love” by Tom Tom Club booms from a stereo system; every few seconds, Edebiri’s cafe-au-lait latex dress reflects the flash of photographer Myesha Evon Gardner’s camera.

The song has likely made its way through this space before: The Sugar Hill Supper Club is a historic restaurant and nightclub in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn that, since the 1970s, has welcomed club-goers, hungry patrons and high-wattage figures. Madonna, Jesse Jackson, Mary J. Blige and Hillary Clinton have held court in these rooms; the day after this shoot, coincidentally, Harry Styles would debut his most recent music video, set here.

Now, Edebiri poses for TODAY’s fall cover the morning after the Time 100 Next Gala 2022, where she was honored as a rising star alongside names like SZA, Jennette McCurdy and Keke Palmer. Fresh off a big night, Edebiri takes some time to warm up in front of the cameras. But soon, she manages to find her groove, despite the constant hovering from a gaggle of glam squadsters, a film crew, an art team and this writer.

In between photos, I notice Edebiri dancing playfully to the music of Chaka Khan, Patrice Rushen and Diana Ross, and I surreptitiously pull my phone out to record. Edebiri immediately catches me and stops dancing, wagging her finger at me as if to say: “Not on my watch.” 

Edebiri’s star might be on the rise, but she makes one thing clear on this warm fall day in Brooklyn: She’s in control. 

Ayo Edebiri poses for a photo in an old super club in Brooklyn for TODAY's cover shoot. Ayo is wearing 79 retro inspired clothing, hair, and makeup.
Myesha Evon Gardner for TODAY

YES, CHEF

Even if you’ve never seen Edebiri’s performances, there’s something to learn from how she’s handling her hard-won celebrity; after a full day dressed in opera-length gloves and Louis Vuitton, she suggests we conduct the interview for this story at a low-key cafe. (She chooses the admittedly “granola” spot because of its proximity after she notices that, thanks to the brand-new shoes I bought yesterday to impress her, my feet are absolutely killing me.)

First things first, of course, I have to ask about “The Bear.” The hit FX/Hulu show follows Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White), a decorated chef who leaves the high-pressure world of high-end restaurants at the peak of his career to take over his family’s sandwich shop, The Original Beef Of Chicagoland, after his brother dies.

In the debut episode, Carmy hires Sydney, a sous chef with some pretty impressive chops of her own. Throughout the eight-episode season, Edebiri’s character makes it known that her abilities in the kitchen are the key to turning the struggling restaurant into a Chicago landmark. Edebiri’s comedic timing, depiction of resilience in the midst of chaos, and ability to telegraph a wide range of emotions with just one eyebrow or blinking stare have earned her rave reviews. The awards buzz has already begun, starting with a nomination for outstanding performance in a new series at the Gotham Awards last month.

“In order to understand comedy, you need to understand what’s sad about the world,” Edebiri says, seated in the window box of a cafe in Bed-Stuy — her old neighborhood before she made the move to Los Angeles. “I think in order to understand what works dramatically, you have to have a sense of humor.”

Ayo Edebiri poses for a photo in an old super club in Brooklyn for TODAY's cover shoot. Ayo is wearing 79 retro inspired clothing, hair, and makeup.
Myesha Evon Gardner for TODAY

Audiences were first introduced to “The Bear’s” resilient, underappreciated and overworked sous chef on June 23, when her character appeared on screen with two gentle knocks and a “Hi, hello,” long braids tied back in Sydney’s signature style.

Sydney is there to “stage” — to work on a trial basis as an unpaid intern — for Carmy. Her resume flashes on screen, including a degree from the Culinary Institute of America, stints in high-end Chicago eateries and a history of running her own culinary business; she immediately seems too good for The Beef. But through eight episodes, Sydney’s fast-talking staunchness shows there are many layers to peel back from her character.

It took less than a month for the bingeable series to be renewed for a second season, and audiences have devoted memes, coined multiple catchphrases and thirsted over the show’s lead, among other laudations. In addition to being praised for its engaging and often harrowing depiction of the realities of the restaurant industry, Edebiri’s performance was a standout among critics and audiences alike; up until this point, she had been known solely for her comedic output, with credits in Netflix’s animated show “Big Mouth” and stand-up sets on Comedy Central.

“A lot of this story was inspired by Chris’ sister Courtney, who is not a Black woman,” Edebiri says of creator Chris Storer’s sister, who also serves as culinary producer of “The Bear.” Edebiri adds that after she was cast as Sydney, Storer and co-showrunner and executive producer Joanna Calo worked with her to make the character more intersectional.

While taking her phone out to Shazam a song blaring on the cafe speakers — “I Trawl the Megahertz” by ’80s British band Prefab Sprout — Edebiri says she relates to Sydney in many ways.

“I feel like I kind of identify with the character a lot,” she says. “Her care and craft is also a product. How do you reconcile that and stay sane in that and not lose passion for it, even though it’s something that’s been commodified?”

To prepare for the role, she and White trained at the Institute of Culinary Education in Pasadena, California, and afterward went their separate ways for further training based on each of their character’s experiences. Edebiri worked with female chefs, and eventually, the two took shifts in the kitchens at Michelin-starred restaurants like Pasjoli in Santa Monica, Contra in New York and Elske in Chicago. Edebiri says she also pulled from her time working in restaurants to inform her performance.

“I worked in restaurants for five or six years in New York,” Edebiri says, adding that in high school, she worked in food service as well. “I’ve worked in restaurants a lot in my life. Never in the kitchen, but waitstaff or hosting, reservations, and my first job was being a dishwasher. I understood, I think, the rhythm of how people spoke and the feeling of being in a kitchen, but never from the chef’s vantage point.”

Ayo Edebiri poses for a photo in an old super club in Brooklyn for TODAY's cover shoot. Ayo is wearing 79 retro inspired clothing, hair, and makeup.
Myesha Evon Gardner for TODAY

Before “The Bear,” Edebiri says she knew her way around a kitchen to a point, enjoying cooking with family or for friends, but admits that it’s a whole different ballgame training to be a chef.

“It was kind of cathartic returning to a restaurant with less fear. I remember always being afraid of the chefs,” she says. Now that Edebiri is playing one on TV, she appreciates the real-world effort that goes into running a restaurant every day.

“Jeremy said once, ‘I look at every restaurant like it’s a miracle,’ and I think that’s so true. Just how every night it can keep operating and everybody keeps going just because they have to is really astounding and admirable and cool,” she says. 

Edebiri says her friends are holding on to hope that her on-screen skills in the kitchen will continue to translate to feasts at her dinner table. She explains that when she was practicing making cola-braised short ribs with risotto for friends last year, they had no idea it was because she was preparing to make the dish in-character on what was soon to be a hit TV show.

“Jeremy said once, ‘I look at every restaurant like it’s a miracle,’ and I think that’s so true.”

“I think when the show came out, they were all like, ‘We just thought you were depressed and lonely, and that’s why you were cooking for us,’” she laughs. “I was actually doing work!”

Still, even with all the acclaim for her role, Edebiri is taken aback by just how well-received “The Bear” and her performance have been.

“I guess any sort of feedback at all feels surprising,” she says. “There’s so much content — so many shows people can watch, and so many things people could pay attention to, and a lot of it is really good. For our show to break through it, in a way, has definitely been surprising … but really nice.”

For those curious about what’s in store for Sydney in the second season of “The Bear,” you’re not alone: Edebiri, too, is wondering about her character’s future.

“I really don’t know anything about Season Two, which I’m really sad to say,” Edebiri says, answering my question before I even finish asking it. “I know they’re just writing it right now, so hopefully I’ll know soon.”

Ayo Edebiri poses for a photo in an old super club in Brooklyn for TODAY's cover shoot. Ayo is wearing 79 retro inspired clothing, hair, and makeup.
Myesha Evon Gardner for TODAY

ORDER UP

Growing up in Boston as the daughter of immigrants — an only child born to a father from Nigeria and a mother from Barbados — Edebiri would have never predicted she’d end up not just as a writer, but an actor. She has said that religion was a big part of her adolescence growing up in a Pentecostal family and attending private schools in the Boston area, but her upbringing didn’t turn her into an angsty, rebellious teen; instead, she was a well-behaved kid who read the Bible for fun.

“My dad joked, ‘You were very good at disciplining yourself,’” Edebiri says. “He was like, ‘We never got to discipline you. Because you would just stop yourself before you did anything.’”


“‘It’s not always the loudest person or the class clown who’s the funniest. It can be the person who likes watching people, observing and listening to them.’”

Her initial childhood ambitions were to enter the medical field, but Edebiri remembers that as a teen, a teacher steered her toward the performing arts. After drama class, she was asked to join the improv group at school.

“I remember saying, ‘I don’t really think that’s my calling, sorry,’” Edebiri says. “And my teacher said to me, ‘It’s not always the loudest person or the class clown who’s the funniest. It can be the person who likes watching people, observing and listening to them.’”

It was while living in New York after she got her bachelor’s degree at NYU that friends and acquaintances in the New York comedy scene showed her that she might be able to consider a career in entertainment. “It seems very stupid, but while I was in New York, I discovered that writing was an actual job — that it was something I could learn how to do,” she says.

Inspired by the writing of movies like “Moonlight” and “The Truman Show” and the work of Charlie Kaufman and Kenneth Lonergan, Edebiri stuck with writing. Eventually, she landed gigs in the writers rooms for the NBC sitcom “Sunnyside” and Apple TV+’s “Dickinson,” the latter of which marked her first major acting role as Hattie, appearing alongside Hailee Steinfeld.

Edebiri’s first big headlines, however, would come during her stint in the hit sitcom “Big Mouth.” Although she also started there in the writers room, Edebiri later took over the voice role of Missy Foreman-Greenwald, a Black character, after Jenny Slate, a white actor, exited the series, writing on Instagram, “Black characters on an animated show should be played by Black people.” 

The cartoon is now in its sixth season, with guest stars like Quinta Brunson and Lena Waithe playing Missy’s cousins, joining Chelsea Peretti and Jordan Peele, who play her parents.


Ayo Edebiri poses for a photo in an old super club in Brooklyn for TODAY's cover shoot. Ayo is wearing 79 retro inspired clothing, hair, and makeup.
Myesha Evon Gardner for TODAY

In her writeup about Edebiri in Time’s Next 100 issue, Brunson admits her pleasant surprise at Edebiri’s dramatic acting chops in “The Bear,” given her background in comedy.

“I went to the premiere of ‘The Bear’ with Ayo Edebiri and remember asking her, ‘How come you didn’t tell me you could act so good?!’” Brunson writes. “As chef Sydney, she was so honest and gave one of the most clear-eyed portrayals of the modern working Black girl I’ve seen onscreen in a really long time.”

Edebiri says she was honored by her friend’s kind words.

“You don’t know who’s going to write for you,” Edebiri says. “I had no idea that she had done that … so I was very moved. She’s just the best.”

Edebiri is accepting her flowers, albeit with a tiny bit of self-admitted imposter syndrome. She says that having friends like Brunson and Rachel Sennott (actor, friend and upcoming co-star in the comedy “Bottoms”) helps, though.

“I’m proud of my friends, not just the ones I can name-drop in conversations.”

“Quinta and I met a few years ago when I first moved out to LA,” Edebiri says. “I think that’s a city that’s very easy to feel lonely in. And as soon as we met, she told me, ‘You need people. If you want me to be one of your people, I can do it.’”


“And ever since then, she’s just been such a great friend and person I can go to whether I need work help, or if I need a couch to sit on, and, I don’t know, order weird food and eat and just complain,” Edebiri jokes. “I’m proud of my friends, not just the ones I can name-drop in conversations. But I’m very, very proud of the work that they’re doing, which will hopefully continue to grow.”


Ayo Edebiri poses for a photo in an old super club in Brooklyn for TODAY's cover shoot. Ayo is wearing 79 retro inspired clothing, hair, and makeup.
Myesha Evon Gardner for TODAY

CLOCKING OUT

After hours, away from the sets, writers rooms and Hollywood fetes she now frequents, I wonder out loud what Edebiri does in her downtime. But she declines to answer almost every noncareer-related question — unless it’s about the four-legged companion she acquired during the 2020 lockdown.

“I like getting up early and going for walks with my dog,” Edebiri says of Gromit, a dog with black-and-white hair who is part Chihuahua, part minikin and part terrier. She knows the mix because, as she told The New York Times, she had his DNA tested. I asked her if she has any other hobbies, hoping to get a glimpse into what Gromit sees.

“I like keeping my little hobbies to myself,” Edebiri says with a smirk, her pitch rising ever so slightly as if she’s asking me a question. Because I’m good at prying, I did eventually get her to reveal one hobby, but I’m going to honor her wishes and not tell you. Only Gromit and I will ever know the truth.

Ayo Edebiri poses for a photo in an old super club in Brooklyn for TODAY's cover shoot. Ayo is wearing 79 retro inspired clothing, hair, and makeup.
Myesha Evon Gardner for TODAY

For all her control, confidence and vision of who she wants to remain, Edebiri doesn’t know what the future holds — and she’s completely OK with that.

“I used to do like five-year goals, 10-year goals … lately I’ve just been like, ‘Let’s just see where it goes.’ It’s like you set goals and then it’s like, ‘Oh, I beat this in three days’ — turns out, doing my laundry wasn’t a five-year goal,” Edebiri says.

“There are some things where it will just take time, and it’s up to time to dictate what it wants. But hopefully, I’ll be in a spot where I can feel challenged and feel excited. And maybe I can be in a place to have people I’m helping in whatever capacity — as a friend or as a collaborator or as a mentor.”

In this present moment in her career, with cameras flashing and awards season buzzing, Edebiri is going to let the chips fall where they may.

“I don’t want to say anything about the present — I don’t like narrating things as they’re happening,” she says, pausing as she takes one final bite of rice and places her fork into an empty bowl.

“I’ll have something to say about this — maybe later on. I’m a pretty unreliable narrator.”

Additional reporting by Joyann Jeffrey.




Photographer: Myesha Evon Gardner

Photo Assistant: Ashley Markle

Digital Tech: Isan Monofort

Stylist: Laura Sophie Cox

Styling Assistant: Vandy Brooks

Hair: Nai’vasha Grace

Makeup: Camille Thompson


Head of TODAY Digital: Ashley Codianni

Editorial Director: Arianna Davis

Senior Food Editor: Emi Boscamp

Writer: Joseph Lamour

Art Director: Jennifer Prandato

Art Director: Tyler Essary

Talent Booker: Christina Manna

Production Manager: Brittany Howard

Videographer: Luke Piccoli

Videographer: Mike Smith

Video Editor: Jessica Montgomery

Lighting: Javier Parra

Social: Melissa Radzimski, Dana Samuel

Production Assistants: Claire Phelan, Julia Eckley




LOOK 1

Dress, choker, undergarments: Miu Miu

Shoes: Giuseppe Zanotti

Gloves: Wing & Weft 

LOOK 2 

Sweater, dress, boots: Louis Vuitton

Ring, earrings: White Space

LOOK 3

Dress, shoes: Kwaidan Editions 

Rings: Celeste Starre; Ettika

Earrings: Dinosaur Designs