At "PJ's Steakhouse," it's a pathetic joke (that's what it stands for) - Kitchen Nightmares review

(S0303) Having lived in Queens, New York for a spell, I can tell you that there are the strangest stores tucked away here and there with dusty and completely disorganized shelves, with perishable foods literally rotting where they sit. I don’t know if these places are drug fronts, run by people completely inept or incapable at running a business, or what. It just would blow my mind that these kinds of places could exist somehow within the largest city in the United States.


PJ’s Steakhouse, located in Forest Hills, Queens isn’t nearly that bad, but the poor state of the restaurant does remind me of the feeling of being astounded how businesses can exist in highly competitive markets when they themselves are not, let us say, competitive. The answer as it turns out – surprise surprise – is that they don’t. At least not for long.

Owner Joe took over a former bar and grill from his late and beloved brother PJ (thus the name of the restaurant) with his wife Madalyn. They’ve sunk $2 million into the place yet seem genuinely clueless and perplexed as to why they are on the brink of bankruptcy and losing the joint. It’s obvious from the jump that a combination of incompetence and complacency along with the god awful attitude and work ethic of head chef Eric has made for a true kitchen nightmare in this case.

Even by Kitchen Nightmare’s typical hyperbolic editing standards, PJ’s is a disaster at the jump. There’s bits of plastic in Chef Gordon Ramsey’s crab cakes during his introductory meal. And that may have been the best thing about it. “Rancid,” Ramsey declares flatly. Because Kitchen Nightmares tends to be formulaic (which is not a negative criticism for this kind of show) I like to point out some anomalies from week-to-week. For example, it’s rare when Ramsey takes issue with a menu for having too few items, but here he notes that the steakhouse only offers two cuts of steak instead of the 8-10 he considers appropriate.

Meanwhile, Joe sits at the bar drinking wine and watching television as Ramsey eats his introductory lunch. I’m going to take a little guess and say that Joe hasn’t watched Kitchen Nightmares before, or there was simply some amazing Irish telenovelas going down that day. What’s obvious is that he is tuned out (sorry for the bad pun there!).

Ramsey then rolls up his sleeves to get to work, calling out Eric on the food he sends out of the kitchen: “That was pretty f—king embarrassing.” Then after finding crates and bags of rotten produce in the walk-in refrigerator, Ramsey rightly declares that, I’ve just come to the conclusion that no one gives a f—k.” Madalyn echoes this sentiment by later declaring, “The bottom line is nobody here wants to work. Nobody.”

The theatrics this week literally get theatrical, as Ramsey brings everyone into a movie theater to watch camcorder footage of interviewees on the street explaining exactly why they hate PJ’s Steakhouse. Chef Eric maintains a kind of moron smirk throughout, declaring “It’s not that bad” in between epithets in the face of overwhelming contrary opinion. To Eric essentially the customer is not always right. Or ever, perhaps. Ramsey soon points out the stark facts about the Eric Problem to Joe and Madalyn: “I’m telling you, the engine room is f—ked.”

Eric is given a final chance during the next service, in which the new “mixed grill” special goes on the menu along with other new fast and small dishes such as Irish Stew and Chicken Scaloppini as part of the rebranded PJ’s Grill. After Eric continues to send out cold and poorly prepared food, Ramsey shuts down the place, and Eric is soon after 86ed by Joe and Madalyn. Ramsey then takes measures that I’ve never quite seen before, installing one of his own chefs in the kitchen for a month as well as bringing in a restaurant manager to help mentor Madalyn. So essentially, Ramsey’s team winds up taking over the restaurant for the final service we see, so of course it makes sense that everything from that point “magically” goes well.

After Ramsey installs his people and everything runs smoothly, I jotted this note down: “Things went well after that… but not really sure how Joe and Madalyn really participated in that?”

And as the episode ends, we learn that Joe and Madalyn actually end up selling the restaurant and returning to the construction industry. So that’s that then.  

More thoughts on “PJ’s Steakhouse”:

  • Also on a Queens note: I’ve always thought of Forest Hills as the nicest part of the borough.
  • “You know what I know about running a high end steak house? Apparently not much.” – Joe the owner
  • “That’s it, I’m goin’ drinking.” – Joe. “Going drinking? You’ve been doing that all day.” – Madalyn
  • I like that Joe declares “I’m going drinking” in the middle of dinner service, as though the four-step walk over to his favorite bar stool encompasses some kind of journey.
  • “If he can help us, great. If he can’t, he can go f—k himself.” – Eric the Chef on Gordon Ramsey
  • “I don’t really suck that bad, you know?” – Eric the Chef on himself
  • “I just don’t know how to have better manners at the table.” Madalyn
  • Video: Kitchen Nightmares, “PJ’s Steakhouse”
    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] 

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    On: Friday, December 30, 2011
    kevin said:

    Eric wasn't capable but he didn't deserve to be castrated like that.  Ramsey's a dick and Fox is a fuckin joke.  For the sake of ratings you ruined a guy that, while he wasn't up to the task, probably has kids, a wife and comittments to answer to and he's fucked as even a short order cook because of this retched piece of shit Gordon Ramsey.  fuck Ramsey.

    On: Friday, December 30, 2011
    mrpeter said:

    sorry. I disagree w you. Eric did not belong in a kitchen that freezer was classic example of taking advantage of owners.


    sorry eric, get a job driving a cab and remember to clean the puke out of the back seat


    ramsey may be a dick, but he knows how to run a kitchen


    I ever see eric in a kitchen, I  will be sure not to eat there.

    On: Thursday, May 3, 2012
    Peter McGregor said:

    Ramsay is nothing but a money grabbing HUN


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