(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.
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haven’t received a salary in over a year), and of course the ever present terrible menu (too large of a selection, outdated foods such as the hideous looking “bomb” burger) and the prerequisite of hideous tasting food.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:
Video: Kitchen Nightmares, “Classic American”
Check out the episode in full from Hulu, while available: