November 29, 2007 05:46 AM by Joe Reality
Written By Jennifer Brown.Tonight The Chef helps a Fairlawn, New Jersey restaurant with a high school feel.
Now, this ought to be interesting. Take a formula consisting of: Smiling Restaurant Owner + Happy, Tight-Knit Staff + Grinchy Gordon Ramsay, and what are you likely to get? Do I hear predictions of fireworks? Bloodshed? Or will Campania bring out the soft and fuzzy in The Good Chef?
Tonight Gordon travels to Fairlawn, New Jersey, to help ailing Italian restaurant, Campania, with a history of success but a new owner who’s managed to sink so low into debt in just 18 months the place is on the verge of shutting down.
Meet Joe, the happy, ever-smiling owner with a clear passion for food, but an unclear eye on business. Meet Joe’s wife, sweet and supportive, but worried that a tanking Campania will dismantle her life. Meet Pat, Joe’s mom, who’s worried about Joe’s stress level.
And then meet the staff, which bop onto the screen like The Brady Bunch: Gene (Head Chef), Jessica (waitress), Josette (waitress), and Ariana (waitress). Think slamming lockers and cheerleading camp and mixers, because this staff goofs off like a bunch of high school kids.
Gordon arrives to Campania in a taxi, and right away notes the poor location of the place (in a strip mall). But at least he’s managed to walk through the door without getting bleeped, so the place must have promise. He’s seated and soon Joe comes out to greet him. Right away, Gordon picks on Joe’s hand gestures. Joe brushes it off and keeps that grin plastered. “I was smiling,” he says, “but my heart was racing.”
Gordon proclaims the soup “bland,” and says the pasta sauce has too much garlic in it, but he hasn’t called it “pet food” or raced to the restroom to vomit, so one can imagine the food is actually pretty good. He’s put off that he can hear happiness coming from the kitchen.
He calls Joe out on the carpet about the food, and Joe’s not too happy. “I think it was a mistake that I did this,” Joe says.
Next, Gordon hits the fridges to see what he can uncover. What he notices is that there’s way too much food for the amount of customers that Campania pulls in. He decides that Joe’s throwing his profits away in food!
It’s time to oversee a service, and the first thing Gordon does to warm the hearts of the Campania employees is make Joe send half of them home. Then the customers start coming in and it becomes clear what Campania is known for: waiting forever for your food to arrive. Some of the food comes back with bad reviews, and nearly everyone goes out with doggy bags because the portions are so huge. “I think that’s what the people like,” Joe defends, but Gordon counters, “You’re throwing thousands of dollars down the drain!”
Gordon presses the issue with Joe while sitting at a table in the dining room while customers are around. This embarrasses Joe who, for the first time loses his cool (and his smile). “Why are you embarrassing me in front of my customers?” he booms.
Gordon decides to take a side trip to Joe’s house for a heart-to-heart with Melissa. She breaks down in tears and Gordon shows his soft side, gently encouraging her and assuring her that the restaurant will turn around.
It’s time to hit the kitchen, where Chef Ramsay gives the guys some pointers on plating techniques. “Having Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen – that was pretty cool,” Joe says. Gordon also creates a signature dish for Campania – meatballs. They hit the streets with t-shirts and free meatballs and try to pump up customers for the restaurant.
In the meantime, the design team has added a new sign and has made the restaurant look a thousand times more inviting, and has also replaced Campania’s broken oven with a brand new gi-normous one. “It was just alive,” Joe says (smiling, of course). “The restaurant was alive.”
Time for the relaunch and Gordon gets everyone familiar with the new, streamlined Campania menu, featuring their signature meatballs. He also creates a waitstaff “Bingo” challenge, where the first one to sell every item on the menu wins a $100 bonus (Josette ends up the winner).
Things start out looking great, but soon there are some unhappy customers. One, an older lady, is very loud about it. “Even I can cook better than that,” she boasts, adding that she wouldn’t serve this food to her dog. After examining the food and deciding that it’s fine, Gordon turns into SUPERCHEF TO THE RESCUE!!! Gordon rushes out to the dining room and promptly tells the lady off. “Unfortunately, you’re talking out of your rear,” he tells her. Later, as another customer is leaving, he gives us,
The Quote of the Night:
[Waving goodbye to other customers, with Complainer Lady standing beside him griping away about the food,] “Goodnight,and so sorry about the old bag.”
As the restaurant fills, the stress begins to get at Joe, who needs to take a breather. He heads out to the dining room to schmooze a little, and while he’s gone, Gene gets backed up in the kitchen. Soon we have more unhappy customers, who feel they’ve had to wait too long for their food and then complain that they felt like they were eating “Ragu” (hey, I like Ragu!). When Joe doesn’t give them the explanation they feel they deserve, one lady in particular continues on and on (and on and on) about it to anyone who’ll listen, until finally another customer confronts her in the parking lot about it. There’s a screaming match and a police officer on a nearby neighborhood patrol comes and breaks it up.
But in the meantime, Joe’s come back to the kitchen to finish out a successful dinner service.
Afterward, Gordon gives the team a pep talk about keeping up the good work. Melissa and Mom wrap themselves around him and soon the whole staff is laughing and having a great time the way they like to do, and breaking plates with Chef G in celebration. The restaurant has made 3 times the amount of money it had made just the night before. “You hate to see him go,” Gene says as Chef Ramsay leaves. And dare I say,I think I saw a smile on The Chef’s face as he went,?