At "Classic American," enter as strangers, start dating the owner - Kitchen Nightmares review

(S0302) Kitchen Nightmares takes it focus to Long Island, New York this week, which is typically where the best episodes take place (I’m a Long Island native, so I’ll leave it to y’all to make your own conclusion as to the if and why of this). The locale is Classic American, a tiny diner-like restaurant in West Babylon, where former waitresses Colleen and Naomi purchased the place from their boss ten years ago. These days, Colleen’s son Kevin is the head chef, boyfriend Dom – who makes for something akin to a poor man’s Frank Vincent – is the manager, and overall the joint is about $1 million in debt.

frank vincent

As I’ve mentioned in other reviews of Kitchen Nightmares, it typically becomes pretty clear early on that the particular problems are that Chef Gordon Ramsey must “figure out” and use his bulldog-meets-jedi skills in running kitchens and restaurants in order to help save the day. At Classic American, there truly seem to be a true mash up of multiple problems, including ineffective leadership, terrible disorganization in the kitchen, money running so lean as to leave the restaurant deprived of food stocks and even menus (and in fact Colleen has resorted to living at home while both owners haven’t received a salary in over a year), and of course the ever present terrible menu (too large of a selection, outdated foods such as the hideous looking “bomb” burger) and the prerequisite of hideous tasting food.

It’s ridiculous and bordering on pathetic (and I mean that in the sense that this is really a place that’s inches away from closing for good) that the restaurant only has 13 menus with 50 seats in the house. But it is an interesting insight into the real world issues that businesses face. In other words, when you sit down at a restaurant you fully expect a menu to be placed in your hand or available on the table. But there’s a lot that has to happen – and I emphasize has to happen – in order to place that physical object into a customer’s waiting hands.

After Ramsey has met the staff and sampled the menu, he holds nothing back right from the jump. Ramsey’s math when questioning Kevin on rating the restaurant from 1-10 (take half of Kevin’s six, then subtract another two) is both brutal and, I must admit, pretty funny. He then calls out the restaurant on their “audacity” for claiming they serve classic American food.

As blunt as Ramsey can and will always be, he’s surprisingly sympathetic to his clients this week, perhaps because co-owners Colleen and Naomi are so broken down and emotional and painfully aware of their shortcomings very early on.  The rest of the episode runs fairly predictably, with lots of crying from the owners and whining/cajoling from Ramsey and banter from “salty” Dom for color. Classic American gets shut down at one point, but of course post-redesign and a fresh start to the décor and menu (greatly reduced selection with emphasis on fun/modern meals like sliders) there’s a happy note to go out on.

More thoughts on this edition of kitchen nightmarishness:

  •  “I started hooking up with Colleen and then she said, ‘Well I could use you at the restaurant.’ So, she’s using me.” – Dom
  • Is it just me or does Kevin kind of remind you of a rich man’s Leonard, the psychotic dude who kills himself during basic training in Full Metal Jacket?  
  • “Every night sucks he-uh.” – Teresa the waitress
  • I don’t quite know why, but I found the shot of the waitresses texting and smoking out back on break during a chilly day amusing. Even better: the waitresses going MIA during the grand reopening while the grab a quick smoke. It turns out that they are “nervous.”
  • “Mate, you’ve got issues.” – Ramsey to Kevin
  • “The situation is actually worse than I thought it was going to be.” – Chef Ramsey. I doubt that Chef, but okay.
  • “There ain’t no f—king chiefs here. Who signs the checks here, you or us?” – Dom
  • “50 seats and 13 menus.” – Chef Ramsey
  • “I wouldn’t serve that to my dog.” – Chef Ramsey, echoing a common refrain from Hell’s Kitchen (though I must admit I miss a reference to a “dog’s dinner”)
  • “Yiz are closed?” – Classic American customer. I do believe that Long Island, New York is the home of the slang term yiz
  • “Gordon got us this awesome computer. It does everything but wipe your f—king ass.” – Dom, on the awesome computer
  • “Did we see any delicious appetizers we want?” – A waitress. I have several problems with this question. The biggest though is that it is posed in the third person.
  • The term “all day” was thrown around the back-of-house at one point, and I’ve always wondered what that and other insider restaurant terms mean. I dug up this glossary, which isn’t immensely helpful, but still cool to learn that “all day” means: “An announced confirmation of the total number of a specific food item needed, considering all orders. For example:"I have two medium steaks on the first check and three rare steaks on the second check. I need five 'all day.'”
  • Video: Kitchen Nightmares, “Classic American”
    Check out the episode in full from Hulu, while available:

    By Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader"

    About the author

    Eric is the publisher and revered leader of TV Geek Army… at least in his own mind. TV Geek Army is a place for serious TV reviews and news for serious fans of great television. Contact: eric-[at]-tvgeekarmy.com 

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    3 Comments
    On: Monday, January 31, 2011
    Kenna said:

    From what I've just read, it sounds like Gordon Ramsay's days on TV are limited... http://foodiegossip.blogspot.com/2011/01/sharks-that-gordon-ramsay-killed-movie.html

    On: Monday, January 31, 2011
    Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:

    Very interesting, thanks Kenna !

    Not sure if this will keep Ramsey off the air... as we know it's all about money. Look at Charlie Sheen's off screen actions matched with his continued presence on the #1 rated sitcom on the air (yeah, I shiver having to write that ;-)  

    On: Monday, January 31, 2011
    Gordon S. Miller said:

    Kenna, it sounds like you don't know much about the TV business. It looks more like you are just trying to get people to visit a site with a shocking headline that turns out to be BS as Ramsay didn;t kill any sharks.  

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