Sweetbitter episode 2 recap: Taste on the tip of your tongue


In this week’s Sweetbitter episode 2 recap, Tess discovers a taste for her new life.Can your tongue detect all the different food flavors?

After joining the restaurant family, Tess discovers in Sweetbitter episode 2 that she has a taste for this new life. While diners only see the polished service, the chaotic world behind that façade is both exhilarating and demoralizing. Will Tess embrace this new world or be consumed by the chaos?

In this week’s Sweetbitter episode, the focus isn’t necessarily on the restaurant. Instead, the focus is the life beyond the restaurant. The episode is titled “Now Your Tongue Is Coded.” This simple phrase happens in the first portion of the episode but can be a metaphor for things to come.

After forgetting her wallet at the restaurant, Tess returns to find all the staff enjoying an after work drink. The scene is somewhat un-nerving for Tess. She seems unsure of herself. Just like during service, she is constantly looking around waiting to be pulled in another direction.

Sweetbitter Season 1, photo provided by Starz

The episode’s title comes from a phrase that Simone tells Tess. After pulling Tess aside, the two of them sit to enjoy a glass of Riesling. Simone asks Tess what does she taste. Tess’ naïve answer comes with a long explanation from Simone.

Simone’s condescending response about the tastes of sweet, bitter, sour and salty give Tess a slight bit of knowledge about the culinary world. It was like dangling a carrot in front of a hungry bunny. She could see and smell it, but can’t quite get close enough to eat it. Tess is intrigued and almost infatuated. Still, she is the outsider to this restaurant world.

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The simplified explanation of taste left out a major component, umami. That flavor is the one that you know but can’t always describe. For Tess, she hasn’t developed her tastes, nor herself, yet. She is learning but has a long way to go. From being accepted into this new world to understanding the many layers of tasting, Tess is only at the beginning of her journey.

The remainder of the episode takes place in Home Bar. The after work gathering place for restaurant staff is quite different than the polished restaurant where everyone works. Here the staff drinks heavily and acts without remorse. Gone are the pretend smiles and catering to peoples’ whims.

Tess’ time in the bar continues her portrayal of the naïve girl. Most of this episode was almost like a hazing or initiation of sorts. From walking into a confrontation to drinking with everyone, she has to earn her place in the restaurant family. Even though she wants to be accepted, she seems to lose part of herself for this new world.

This high end restaurant world is nothing like her previous life. The calm, predictable world seems mundane. While these new experiences are alluring, the new life may not be all that it seems. Could those nights of drinking be hiding a world of sadness and lies? Right now, Tess just wants to be accepted and she doesn’t see any of the darkness surrounding her.

Sweetbitter premiere season 1 episode 2., photo provided by Starz

While the “tasting lesson” with Simone is the name Sweetbitter episode 2, the most telling scene is when Tess almost eats a bite of discarded food. Howard catches her sniffing a lamb chop and quickly reprimands her.

Howard brings her a single bite of food to taste. Again, Tess wants desperately to be part of this new world that this taste satisfies her yet leaves her yearning for more. She so wants any tiny morsel that she is willing to sacrifice her self-respect for that smallest conciliatory act. At some point, hopefully, Tess will find herself within this new world.

For the foodies, this Sweetbitter episode didn’t have a lot of food references. Other than Simone’s tasting lesson, the restaurant drama was the focus of this episode. Even the opening scene glimpses of food are quickly forgotten.

This week’s episode is a reminder that Sweetbitter isn’t a food show; it is a coming to age story set in the restaurant industry. While food can bring people to the table, it isn’t the only story at the table. Without the people, the food would never be on the table.

Next: Royal Wedding food celebrations

Have you developed a taste for Sweetbitter? Check back next week for another recap and thoughts about this Starz series.