October 30, 2008 08:11 PM by Lisa Stauber
Chef Gordon Ramsay takes Kitchen Nightmares to the midwest this week, visiting J Willy’s in Indiana. The food is terrible, one owner is running it into the ground while the other ones can’t be bothered to show up. The restaurant is in a college town – Notre Dame is just up the street – but the bar and grill is going under fast. Owners Rick and Trisha live several hours away and count on John Williams to take care of business, but he doesn’t care.
The restaurant was struggling, so they fired the chef. Now they’re getting complaints about the quality of the food. The dishes are made from canned and jarred sauces, beans, and vegetables and no one likes it. “Now, this place is so depressing,” owner Rick says. “It just makes me want to cry.” They have to make $22,000 a week and all of the owners have sunk their life savings into the place and cashed in their 401(k)’s. They’ve got to start turning a profit, and fast.
Ramsay Pinpoints Problems
Ramsay isn’t impressed with the outside. “My God!” he says. He hates the signage and the ambiance. Rick is embarrassed to have Ramsay in his restaurant. “We’re not even close to a decent standard,” he says. Ramsay grabs a menu and notices the amateur photos inside. Steve, the cook, hopes Ramsay doesn’t yell at him. “This food wasn’t my idea,” he says.
The Baked Potato Pizza comes out, and Ramsay thinks it looks so bad he asks a nearby priest to bless it before he bites into it. The pizza not only has potatoes on it, J Willy’s uses ranch dressing for the sauce. Next up are ribs. “What’s in the sauce? Chef’s recipe?” The owners admit it’s generic bottled sauce and the ribs are low quality, full of fat and gristle. The pulled pork sandwich is drowning in processed cheese, and once Ramsay scrapes the goo off, finds it tasteless. In fact, the food is so bad, he takes the priest’s food and tells them not to eat it.
“We don’t have a chef,” John says. “The recipes never change, we don’t need one.” Ramsay is shocked, and takes the owners aside to have a heart to heart. Trish blames John for the lack of leadership, but John says he doesn’t have the money for a chef or quality ingredients. Rick confesses that they are two weeks away from closing down the restaurant and losing their home.
The cooking is terrible. The pizza has frozen dough, frozen sausage crumbles, and canned sauce. “It’s hard when you’re trying to stay open,” John says. The burgers come out of a plastic bag along with everything else. “John is not upholding the standards,” Rick says. It’s not long before food starts coming back to the kitchen. “I’m devastated,” Ramsay says. “They’re cutting corners in all the wrong places.”
Back to Basics
Now that Ramsay knows what’s wrong, he can start helping J Willy’s turn around. “The problem here is that the food sucks. Even frozen food is handled badly,” Ramsay says. He asks John if he wants to stick around, or get someone else in to run things.
Another problem is the staff. They are clueless and slack off on hygiene. He finds a pan of warm, raw chicken and dumps another bucket of rotten potatoes. “I’ve been in denial,” John says. “It takes someone like Gordon Ramsay to wake you up.” Ramsay decides to throw all of the food out and start completely over.
Ramsay’s going to concentrate on improving the food, but first he takes the owners to church. He has the owners confess their greatest fears for the restaurants. Rick’s afraid because his future is in John’s hands, and John worries because no one listens to him. He confesses that he’s ready to change. Trish wants John to be J Willy, and take control of things. She wants to see enthusiasm and passion.
New Food, New Look
Ramsay teaches the staff to make their own barbecue sauce, with real molasses. “We’re serving fresh, homemade barbecue sauce tonight.” It’s going to go on a fresh, homemade burger with home fries made from scratch. The kitchen staff is excited to be cooking good food for a change. Steve, the cook, is enthusiastic but has trouble running the kitchen. He’s disorganized and can’t read the tickets, and the fry cooks don’t know what they’re supposed to cook. Burgers are ordered well-done, but served medium rare. The kitchen runs out of ground beef because they were all served to the wrong customers. One lady starts crying because she didn’t get to eat. Ramsay checks the kitchen and finds a frozen burger on the grill.
Ramsay sends in his decorating crew, and hopes to get the staff back on board with the food. Rick’s depressed. “If we don’t execute tonight…”, he trails off, choking up. He’s got everything on the line, but Ramsay’s staff has made J Willy’s look fabulous. Ramsay also trimmed the menu from 75 items to fewer than 40, and all made from scratch.
He’s also adding in four new chefs to teach the staff how to run a restaurant. “We will be ready for the relaunch, tonight!” he declares. Food comes back, because an order of skins went out with no bacon. The staff is starting to slip and the kitchen slows down. Ramsay makes the cooks keep up the highest standards, even though they want to cut corners to get the dishes out. The diners are hungry and getting cranky.
One of the patrons waited two hours and goes into the kitchen to tell the chefs how mad she is. Ramsay takes the owners aside to give them a pep talk. “It’s not the end of the world, is it?” he asks. “C’mon, guys! Let’s go!” John steps up and starts pushing the staff just like Ramsay would. The kitchen rises to the occasion and gives a final push. “The best ribs I’ve ever had,” a diner tells Rick, and all the customers are cleaning their plates. They just might turn things around! Ramsay’s saved another restaurant.
J Willy’s has turned around so well, they even won a prize for their barbecue sauce at the college and they are on their way to success!
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Photos courtesy Fox.