Kitchen Nightmares Sneek Peak: j. willy’s bar & grille, South Bend

The next season of Kitchen Nightmares starts in the Fall, but we’ve got a tip about one of the places that will be featured.

Gordon will be visiting j. willy’s bar & grille in South Bend, Indiana. A local paper covered the news.

What did Gordon think once he got there?

“This is a dynamic team,” Ramsay said, pointing to the j. willy’s crew. “We have the most amazing decor, the most amazing ribs, and the most amazing barbecue sauce.”

(Thanks to John)

Gordon’s Burger Recipe on Kitchen Nightmare’s: Lela’s

A number of people have asked about the recipe that Gordon Ramsey showed on the episode of Kitchen Nightmares when he went to Lela’s and created “Lela’s Famous Burger”.

Gordon wasn’t using an exact recipe. Here are the ingredients:

Chopped Beef
Dijon Mustard
Worcestershire Sauce
Finely Chopped Red Onion
Three Egg Yolks

It looked to me as if he used about 3 or 4 pounds of meat, and just estimated the right amounts for everything else.

After mixing, the made them into patties, and grilled them. If anyone comes up with a more exact recipe for this, let me know and I’ll post it here.

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.

Kitchen Nightmares: Lela’s

Gordon Ramsey
Tonight’s episode took Gordon Ramsey to Lela’s in Pomona, CA. What he found there was a restaurant that billed itself as a “fine dining” establishment, but which didn’t have some of the food the menu listed, frozen food, and a lot of yelling. They couldn’t even serve him a brownie ala mode because the homemade brownies went missing. Not a really good first impression. The owner, Lela, was in big trouble.

Gordon’s entrance into the kitchen didn’t go over well with the executive chef, Ricky. Gordon’s criticism of the lamb, which was served in chocolate mint sauce was that there was hardly any meat on the lamb, was met with “That’s just what we buy here, and that’s what we serve”. The chef doesn’t like what Gordon has to say.

The next day, the inspection of the kitchen doesn’t go well either. The refrigerator has a temperature of 51 degrees, there’s food in there that’s going bad, and even the tomato soup Gordon had at lunch.

While the staff cleaned up the place, Gordon took a walk around the area and found out that most of the people around the area were young people on a budget.

The dinner service that night didn’t go well. One of the customers ordered sea bass, and when it should have been time to get the order, the head waitress, Tabitha, found out they were out of sea bass in the kitchen! Back in the kitchen, Gordon finds potatoes on the stove… made from potato flakes. A sous chef attempts to slice some cake (also brought in) and even that goes wrong. The expiration date has passed. To top it off, the staff starts to take off near the end of service.

Gordon tracked down one of the prep cooks, Buzzard, and confronts him about the “goodies” he’s taken from the restaurant without permission. They go back into the restaurant to tell the owner. After they unpack everything (food and wine) and Buzzard asked how he can take things from a failing restaurant, he walks out.

After service, Gordon told Ricky he wasn’t the “executive chef” he thinks he is.

The next day, Buzzard came back. Gordon told Buzzard that the things in Lela’s belonged to the owner. Lela ended up firing Buzzard.

Then they did a blind-folded taste test, where Lex (the sous chef) and Ricky were blindfolded. Lex identified everything correctly, and Ricky didn’t. Gordon asked them both who was the better chef, and Lex said he was. Ricky disagreed.

On day four, Gordon give Lela a day off to get pampered and a make over. Meanwhile, Gordon takes charge to change the menu from “fine dining” to casual. Gordon tells Lex and Ricky to create their idea of what a “Pomona salad” would be. The wait staff tried it, and they liked it.

Next Gordon came up with a “Lela’s Famous Burger” recipe, and take it to the streets to let people try it. Lela comes back from her makeover. The restaurant gets a makeover too, and to tell you the truth, other than a red couch and some butcher paper on the tables, I didn’t see all that much of a difference. The staff thought it was a lot different though.

To prepare that night, Gordon made Tabitha the manager, and Lex the head chef. Ricky, of course, didn’t think that was fair.

At dinner time, the restaurant was packed; even the mayor arrives (Gordon arranged that). Thirty minutes in, no food has gone out. When it finally does go out, not everyone at the table gets food at the same time. An hour in, the kitchen is still arguing with the front of house. Finally, Lex leaves the kitchen to cool off.

Lela goes to confront Lex and they argue. Lela tells him that they need to serve the food, and Lex tells her that he doesn’t like the way she’s talking to him. Lela lays down the law, and says if Lex doesn’t want to work, he should leave.

Lex leaves.

Gordon chases after him, and tries to talk to him. Lex continues to his car, and Ricky chases after him. It’s no good. Lex jumps in his car and takes off.

Ricky steps up and the orders start to go out of the kitchen. The customers really like the food, in spite of the wait. Lex returns after he cooled off, and stepped back into his role as sous chef.

Gordon was very impressed with Ricky, and Ricky really appreciated it. I thought Ricky did a great job and really turned that kitchen around.

During the rest of Gordon’s stay, things continued to improve: the staff, the service, and the food. Things were looking up.

Five months later, the bills had piled up and Lela’s was forced to close.

Overall, it was interesting to watch, and I’m sorry the place ended up closing. It would have been good to get more than a 10 second “what happened after Gordon left” synopsis. I remember in one of the show in the British version of the program, they tracked down the people that were at the closed restaurant to find out what happened.

I suppose that even finding out that little bit of information is an improvement over what they first did on the show (which was nothing), but I sure hope for the next round of restaurants they spend the last ten minutes of the show going over what happened after Gordon left.

Kitchen Nightmares: Sebastian’s

Gordon Ramsey
Kitchen Nightmares finally heads to California, and lands at Sebastian’s. This restaurant is having problems. The owner has fired 49 people in the last year, has 23 combinations on the menu, and an estimated 6 months before it shuts down.

When Gordon first gets into the restaurant, he spent quite a bit of time with the menu. Between the 23 different combinations and the menu pictures, it didn’t go over very well. Gordon ordered calamari which Sebastian said was fresh, but the waitress confirmed it was frozen. The Popeye pizza didn’t go over very well (watery), and either did the New York strip steak (looked like dog food).

After the initial food, Gordon talked to Sebastian about the frozen calamari, and the flash frozen pizza dough. Even thought Sebastian’s is a pizzeria, the owner said it was famous for the menu. As usual the owner doesn’t really like what Gordon had to say.

Dinner service didn’t go well either. A customer found a hair in her food, nearly all of the food was frozen and reheated, and about $300 of food was “comp-ed”. Still, the owner maintained that the restaurant was something that could be turned into a franchise, and would be the launching pad for his name.

Gordon finally decided to change the menu and go with fresh pizzas for the menu, and brought in some folks to help teach the staff how to throw pizza dough.

The restaurant transformation was pretty big too, and it really looked great. They even brought in a new mixer to make the new dough.

After this, Ramsey brought out the new menu: pizza, steak, and wooden oven cooked chicken. Sebastian (the owner) thought the “strength” of the restaurant was the old menu, and really didn’t like to see that the menu was gone. I don’t mean a little upset, I mean REALLY mad.

The restaurant’s dinner service started really well, the customer’s loved the new menu, the staff ran the kitchen well…. but Sebastian was still unhappy about the menu change. In fact, he changed to the old menu during service.

At this point, Gordon pulled Sebastian aside and told him that he didn’t believe in him and that he thought he was going to go back to his old ways. Sebastian was very mad, and confronted Ramsey calling him all kinds of names.

Meanwhile, the kitchen ground to a halt, but Ramsey came back and got things started. Sebastian talked to the camera about trying to accept the fact that he was failing, and trying to comes to term with the change. Sebastian came back ready to go. The service got back going, and the customers were happy.

Overall the change went well, but Gordon wondered whether things would continue that way after he left.

I think the changes were good, and that place could do very well if they stick to that new menu. They sure seemed to have a lot of customers.

They flashed “Kitchen Nightmares Now Casting – Call 866-226-2226” on the screen at the end of the show. Anyone have any idea what that means? There’s no cast on the show! It’s just restaurant owners, their staff and Gordon. …Well, and the announcer. Was that supposed to be a call for new restaurants?

Again, they did something that they’ve done for the last couple of shows: It ended abruptly, and they didn’t a “this is how they’re doing now” segment. It would be great it they did that.

UPDATE I was able to recover this posting after losing it the other day (thanks to Google’s cache), but unable to get back the comment section. Sorry about that folks.

Kitchen Nightmares – Seascape Inn

Gordon Ramsey

The Seascape Inn really went through big changes. The usual changes to restaurant we’ve seen before: new menu, new decor, and cleaner kitchen. But this time the owners also fired the head chef and sous chef. The main reasons? The kitchen was filthy and the chefs didn’t care.

From the looks of it, they really shouldn’t have waited until day five to bring in a new chef. Everything went into the dumper during the dinner service with the wait staff getting confused and the front of house didn’t communicate with the back of house.

One good pep talk to Peter the owner, and with some help from Jon-Baptiste (who runs Ramsey’s restaurant in New York), they finally figured things out.

The rest of the week was spent organizing a new menu with local seafood, and they even started a local chowder cook-off that was judged by the mayor.

So, what happened after all of this?

Five months later, the restaurant was sold.

Now, if you’ve read my other posting about “Kitchen Nighmares” and “Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares” (the British version of the show), you know I like the show.

I do have some suggestions about it though.

One of them I’ve said before: Let Ramsey narrate the show. They do it in the BBC version, and it’s great.

Next, the show doesn’t need such a long introduction. We KNOW he’s there to save a restaurant, why spend a big chuck of the show telling us that?

What makes this worse, the final 10 seconds of the show let us know that everything that was done was for nothing! No other explanation than “Peter got an offer he couldn’t refuse”. Come on! The BBC version tracks down the people later, and we find out who’s moved on, where they’ve gone, what’s happened to the owners if they place got sold… What’s the big deal? Even if they can’t get the old owners on camera, have SOMEONE tell us what happened. Getting people sucked in to the show for an hour and then just dumping the “They sold the restaurant” message at the end just as the show ends is a BIG turn-off. Keep doing that sort of thing, and people won’t want to watch! Why should they?

Kitchen Nightmares – Episode 2 – Dillons

Gordon Ramsey
This was the episode that brought Kitchen Nightmares national headlines even before the show premiered last week because of the lawsuit brought against the show by a former restaurant manager, and I can see why. That place was disgusting.

How in the world, with three managers running around, plus the owner of the place, could they have let things get into that state, we’ll probably never know. The kitchen was dirty, there was rotten food, bugs… It was a mess. If there ever was a place that needed help, that was it. I can’t imagine what the people that were sitting in the restaurant at the time must have been thinking when a manager told them they weren’t going to be serving dinner that night.

Martin, the general manager, ended up quitting on camera after overhearing Gordon telling the owner that he didn’t need as much management staff as was there. It was quite a confrontation.

The place ended up being better in the end than before Gordon was there (not that it would have been tough), but I was really, really surprised the place was still open by the end of the show. Probably the two best things that happened to that place were hiring the consulting chef, and redecorating the inside of the restaurant.

One thing is certain: This show will make you think twice before going out to eat.

Kitchen Nightmare’s Episode 1 – Peter’s Italian Restaurant

Gordon Ramsey
Great premiere episode of Kitchen Nighmares, the American version of Gordon Ramsey’s British Show “Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares”.

Quick summary:

Gordon went into Peter’s Italian Restaurant to find the kitchen on its last legs, rotten food, and a broken fridge. Most of the people in the restaurant considered Peter (one of the co-owners) part of the problem.

As is usually (but not always) the case, Gordon was able to turn the place around. I was quite surprised to see that Peter changed so much. I have to give Peter a lot of credit, I think he’s really helping in the restaurant’s success. Hopefully they’re still doing well.

You can really tell that Gordon cared about what happens at the restaurants he’s trying to help, and despite what others have said on other blogs, he definitely shows a much softer side than his appearances on Hell’s Kitchen. Running a kitchen, and helping to bail out someone else’s kitchen are to very different things, and these shows show that difference.

You might be wondering what the main differences are between the American version and the British version of the shows are.

The biggest difference was that in the British version, Gordon does the voice overs for the show himself. They have someone else doing the voice overs for the American version of the show. Personally, I like it better when Gordon does them because it feels like he’s leading you through the process.

The second big difference is that I don’t recall ever seeing Gordon revamping a kitchen like he did on the show tonight. New ovens, a stand-up fridge, new plates, etc. There might have been one BBC show where he did this, but not to this extent.

All in all, I wonder if this show is going to last, only because it seems like more of a show you’d see on Food Network or Bravo. I hope it does stick around though, because I really enjoyed it.

Gordon Ramsey’s Reaction to Kitchen Nightmares Lawsuit

Gordon Ramsey
TV Week has a story in which Gordon Ramsey reacts to the recent lawsuit over his new (not even out yet!) series, ‘Kitchen Nightmares’.

“The idea of bringing moldy food in and planting actors is a f**king joke,” Mr. Ramsay said. “There’s a man who got very scared and very embarrassed about his lack of professionalism. For a man to waste lawyers’ time and taxpayers’ money to get upset about something you’re the cause of…”

The BBC version of Kitchen Nightmares is a great show. Can’t wait to see the American version. I remember the first time I saw it on BBC America… My first thought was “They could never do this in the US; they’d get sued!” Sure enough…

Kitchen Nightmares starts on Sept 19th on Fox.

Via TV Week. Thanks to John for pointing me to this story.