Kitchen Nightmares: Campania

Gordon Ramsey

Kitchen Nightmares – Campania

This week Gordon headed for Fairlawn, New Jersey to Campania. The business was bought by an owner (Joe) how cooks but has no formal training. The entire staff admits it’s like high school, the latch on the walk-in is broken, and the ovens are broken. Bills are piling up, and things look bleak.

Gordon’s sampling of the food when he first got there took more than twenty minutes to get started, and the soup that finally came out wasn’t that good. The Spicy Sausage Ravioli had too much garlic. The Chicken Pistachio didn’t go over well either.

Gordon went back to talk to the staff. He told them about the noise he was hearing from the kitchen wasn’t something that he wanted to hear, since he was waiting for food.

On day 2, Gordon wanted to hunt down where the waste was. Specifically, what Joe was wasting in the refrigerators. A quick inspection showed that they had a lot more stock than was warranted, since they didn’t have that many customers. (It also turned up some bad mussels). This was news to Joe.

The service at dinner turned up very few customers, but the kitchen was packed with staff. In their one-on-one interviews, the staff admitted they goofed around like it was high school.

All together, there were 11 people there that night, so Gordon asked the obvious question, “Who’s going home?” They weren’t fired, but they sure weren’t needed that night. Joe picks one of the wait staff and one of the kitchen staff. They weren’t happy about leaving.

As for the customers, they ordered and waited. And waited. And waited. One guy even used his cell phone to order a pizza. The kitchen was overwhelmed. When the food finally did go out, it wasn’t good. The people didn’t like some of it.

On top of it, the portion sizes were huge. Everyone was taking food with doggie bags. Gordon sat Joe down and told him the portions were much too large, but Joe insisted that people liked that. Gordon told Joe that he wasting a lot of money. Joe finally got upset when Gordon asked why Joe was in business if he didn’t understand business.

On day three, Gordon went to meet Joe’s wife and kids. If the business fails, they’re going to lose the business and the house.

To turn the restaurant around, Gordon has to retrain the kitchen staff on everything from prep to presentation. He shows them a few things, and then what they hope will become the signature dish: meatballs. (They didn’t give the recipe for them… sorry folks).

How do they spread the word? T-shirts and signs with “New Jersey’s Best Meatballs”, and handing out samples to folks on the street. They all loved the meatballs.

Gordon sat down in Joe’s office, and asked how things were going. The restaurant had spent $120,000 in 18 months. Joe didn’t expect it to last more than 6 months; Gordon thought it might be less.

On day four, the design team changed the look of the restaurant. It looked a lot better from the outside (especially the signs) and the interior looked much better too. And, in the kitchen, new stove! The head chef, Gene, was jumping up and down. They even got smaller plates.

Gordon unveiled the new menu when he sat down with the chefs, which was smaller and easier to death with. The staff sampled the new menu’s food, and they all liked it.

Next Gordon took the wait staff aside and told them that they had to sell at least one of everything on the menu. They’d mark it off on the board, and once they got their board filled, they’d get a $100 bonus.

That night the restaurant re-opened, and the place was packed. The first customers like the food, but there some people that said the food was “terrible” and they wouldn’t feed it to their dog. Gordon took a look at the food, decided there was nothing wrong with it, and went to stick up for the chefs. He confronted the lady who was complaining. The exchange went like this:

Woman: The food was terrible. The worst food I’ve ever eaten.

Gordon: Oh, really? Why don’t you just take a seat? And sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee?

Woman: How can you… my husband is starving, number one… we sent it back… my steak was tough.

Gordon: O.K., good. Madam, unfortunately, you’re talking out your rear.

Woman: Oh, yeah? Am I? Watch your mouth, sir. … I don’t care who you think you are…

Gordon: Well, you’re just walking around trying to cause trouble. Why don’t you sit down and stop trying to cause trouble?

Woman: Grow up, will ya?

(She walks away). Gordon greeted some new guests with the woman standing right there and said, “So sorry about the old bag.”

Meanwhile, Menu Bingo was going well, but the kitchen started to get stressed out. Joe went out into the dining room, and left Gene in the kitchen. The service slowed down, people waited for more than two hours for their food. One of the tables was very upset, and one lady went to the front and she just kept complaining which upset Joe’s mother. So, what happened?

Believe it or not, other customers went out and confronted her about the food in the parking lot, and accused her of complaining so she’d get her food for free! It looked like the argument went on for a while. A police car rolling through stopped the argument.

Back in the kitchen, Gordon asks to speak with Joe privately. Gordon tells him that when he’s upset, he should try and deal with it and move on. Gordon says if someone’s upset, deal with it and put an end to it. Don’t stand there and bargain with them. Gordon wants to see Joe run the kitchen and restaurant. Joe takes this to heart, and it rubs off on the staff. Josette won the $100 bingo game.

Gordon brought everyone together and told them that the difference between the service that night and the night before was like night and day. They did 203 covers that night, double from the previous night. Joe estimated they made $7500, which was 3 times what they did the night before. Gordon compared the old plates to the new plates, and let the large plates drop on the floor. All the staff joined in.

They said the days following the customers were satisfied with the quality of the food, and everything started doing a lot better.

This show followed the same basic formula the rest of the shows. I think this owner was a lot more willing to listen to what Gordon had to say than some of the owners in previous shows.

This was the first time we’ve seen anyone confront really upset customers. It was fun to see Gordon go out and stand up to that woman.

I’m not sure why this show has to try and sensationalize things. The description of the show said “the polic crash the party at the restaurant’s reopening”…. no they didn’t! They just rolled through the parking lot!

Anyway, I’m glad these people got the restaurant turned around. Any know if they’re still doing well?

Next week Kitchen Nightmares is a repeat.