On "Kitchen Nightmares" we get to see the most run-down restaurants with the most dysfunctional staff. Gordon Ramsay comes in and BOOM the restaurant is brand new, and everyone goes away with a happy feeling and a promising future. But what happens after the show ends and Ramsey leaves? The people in the following stories share what happened to some of the restaurants that were featured on the show.
(Content has been edited for clarity.)
Just Do What He Says!
“I live in Washington. ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ was in Everett at this place called the Prohibition. I have been there five times, twice before Gordon visited, three times after.
Here is what I think. The food there was HORRIBLE the first two times. Not good. For example, I had a cheesecake that was ROCK hard when I was there the second and what I thought would be the final time. My dad liked the food. He grew up in war-torn WWII Germany and was always happy just to have food.
I saw the episode and decided to try it because it would be cool if it were somehow good now that Gordon was there.
The first time after Gordon had been there, I had the chicken pot pie. IT WAS AMAZING, creamy, delicious, crispy/flaky crust DELICIOUS! Gordon had adjusted the prices and made things a bit cheaper. The belly dancing owner lady told me that it was to get people to come in more often. I would have easily gone in twice a week if they had kept the food the same!
The second time I went in the food was gross. I had the same chicken pot pie but it was NOT THE SAME, it was nasty.
The third time they didn’t have chicken pot pie, So I had a steak and it was disappointing. I have not been back since.
My take on it was that they tried the recipes and then either they were too difficult or they didn’t see the value and went back to the old methods.
The head cook there was a jerk if I recall from the episode. He did not care. The owner was too dumb to do anything about it.
Note to self: If I ever own a restaurant and Ramsay comes and revamps its menu, I WILL KEEP IT JUST THE WAY HE MADE IT.”
The Infamous Amy’s Baking Company
“I cannot speak to the before, but I did go to Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale, Ariz. after the episode aired. I was there on a business trip and thinking, ‘This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see how crazy these people are.’
My last day there, I decided to have lunch at noon. Like a normal person. Nope, they’re closed. Well then. My plane leaves at 6 p.m. I can try to have dinner or something there before I go.
I get there at 4:30 p.m., and I see they’re open. I walk in and immediately see Amy and Sammy sitting off to the side looking at their phones. They look up. They are the only two people inside. I’m alone. With these nutters. So this is how I end. My heart drops into my stomach.
‘Hey… are you guys open?’ Sammy hops up and smiles, gesturing to a table. ‘Yes, of course!’ He leads me to a table, all smiles and charm. ‘Can I get you anything to drink? Coffee? Tea? My wife makes an excellent vanilla bean drink! Would you like some cake?’ He keeps babbling. I’m overwhelmed. I never thought I’d say this, but I look over at Amy for relief. She’s also all smiles. I ask for some of the vanilla drink (because who wouldn’t right now), and go up to look at the cakes after Sammy leaves to get the drink. I realize I must play dumb or I will be eaten alive.
‘You make all of these? They look great!’ I ask Amy. She starts babbling about her dreams of being a cook and how she makes all of them (yeah right) and how she just finished her cookbook and would I like to look at it. I act impressed. The cookbook is 75 percent fluff. I think this would be the best souvenir I could bring back. As I’m looking through it, gagging at the $40 price tag on the book, she starts talking about her fur babies. She gets her phone and starts showing me her Instagram that has cat pictures. ‘Oh, here’s one of his birthday!’ It’s a cat picture with; I kid you not, a little party hat painted on it like it’s from MS Paint. I die a little inside.
Eventually, my vanilla bean drink arrives and it takes all of my reserves not to chug it. I ask for some of the overpriced chocolate cake and tell her I’ll take the cookbook, but only if she’ll autograph it! She happily obliges.
I finish my pretty-good-but-not-eight-dollars-good piece of cake and honestly really good drink with them hovering over me. Do you want something more to eat? More drink? More cat pictures? (I might’ve made that last one up.) Before I leave, I ask to take a picture with her. She obliges, a bit hesitant, with Sammy jumping up to take the picture. I figure I pushed it just as far as my ‘ignorance’ would let me without them getting entirely suspicious of my real motives for being there. I say thank you, leave and immediately call my husband to tell him what happened.
My plane ride is pleasant, mostly because I am tipsy thanks to the vanilla drink. Would I go again? Heck no.”
A Budget ‘Secret Garden’
“In 2012 or 2013 my wife and I went to The Secret Garden in Moorpark, Calif., not knowing it had previously been on ‘Kitchen Nightmares.’ We had a hankering for some French food, and it came up as an option in the Google search.
We were initially waited on by a female server, and then waited on by the owner/chef (in hindsight there didn’t appear to be anyone but those two working), and tried a few of his suggestions off the menu including the escargot.
The owner had a creepy vibe to him that involved spending way too much time at our table making uncomfortable amounts of eye contact, mouth-breathing very heavily, and bragging about all things himself and French cuisine related.
After spending too much time at our table, he waddled off to the back.
We received some drinks from our server and proceeded to wait, and wait, and wait, and wait for our appetizer of escargot to crawl its way to our table. What we were expecting was the usual butter/garlic feast of snails in the special ceramic mini-muffin-like plate. What we got was a bizarre arrangement of sauteed vegetables swimming in butter with a few snails hiding in their midst. Not the best escargot we had ever had.
I honestly don’t remember what we ordered except that it took an inordinate amount of time to arrive at our table. While waiting for our meal, the owner came out to chat us up some more and awkwardly suggested that we check out his ‘secret garden’ in the back of the restaurant.
Our curiosity piqued by the fact that there was a secret garden and not simply a flowery restaurant name, we made our way out the side of the restaurant and down a sidewalk to the back.
What we encountered was not impressive. The ‘secret garden’ consisted of a plot of ground covered in astroturf with a covered banquet dining area, a corner dance floor, and random, unmatched pieces of lawn furniture and decor scattered throughout. A few strings of fairy lights and some shabby shrubs rounded out the experience. Despite being offered to be re-seated out in this glorious area, we declined and instead elected to stay indoors.
When our food arrived, it was mediocre. What I recall of it were the mainly poor presentation and relatively bland flavors. While the chef was preparing our main course, he had returned to the bar to fill up his glass several times, so perhaps his attention to the preparation was lacking. However, a few weeks after eating there, we dug up the ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ episode for the restaurant and were surprised to see that our experience was right in line with the pre-Ramsay cooking techniques.”
Could He Just Care A Little?
“I live in Denver, where a pizzeria called Pantaleone’s that was on the show is located. I have eaten there off and on for almost 25 years believe it or not. The pizza was always good, very expensive and often unavailable (because of the odd hours and habits of the owner). The owner is a cantankerous guy that seems not to care much about what his customers think of his place. After the show, you can see that the menu is standardized, but honestly, I see no change in the place. I’m honestly curious how he keeps the place open sometimes. If he just hired a delivery person and cared about customer service, this place would probably dominate the neighborhood.”
Someone Listened To Ramsay!
“I took my wife and kids to Luigi’s in Anaheim, Calif., about five years ago (Disneyland trip and it was about a five-minute drive from our hotel and from Disney). My wife and I are fairly picky with Italian food, half my family are Italians and even got an Uncle Vito with a restaurant of his own that doubles as a deli over in New Jersey. So, I went in there with high hopes, and you know what, I found a great little restaurant it seemed with nice staff, but just okay food. It was a family Italian restaurant. It was not a fine dining place, and honestly, I prefer that myself when I get Italian. Anyway, overall the experience was extremely mediocre. I remember not liking my dish at all to where I only finished maybe a quarter of it and didn’t even take any left to go. It just felt very average. It wasn’t expensive, so I didn’t complain that much.
Ok, so, on another Disneyland trip about six months ago, we are back in Anaheim. My wife and I are both fans of the show, having burned through the seasons on Netflix, so when we remembered this restaurant we had to check it out again! First, the look was not all that different from what I remember, though we sat near the front door as it was decently busy, in a booth and I didn’t bother to wander around. Overall, facilities seemed well-kept and clean though. For anyone that has been there, you walk in the front, and we were the first booth on the left, like opposite of the front desk. You could see them working in the kitchen from where we sat.
Now, the food. For me, I’d say the food was great, above average, though my dish wasn’t anything mind-blowing. It was good. However, my wife loved it, and she is the more picky eater. I can’t remember what she got, but I do remember it was something with chicken. She let me tries hers, and I do remember thinking, ‘Wow, that’s better than my dish,’ and I got something good with Italian Sausage. I rarely get chicken, but I would have gotten that dish again.
Prices were good too. Cheaper than you’d get from going to Olive Garden and better food, bigger portions (though I guess you miss out on those breadsticks!). I’d go again next time I head that way.
So, good for them.”
They Just Needed A Bit Of Direction
“I had my rehearsal dinner at Leone’s in Montclair, N.J., in 2012. Their episode was on TV about a year earlier, but I don’t know when he was there.
We watched the show before we booked, the problems on the show seemed to be management related, as well as the classic two billion items on the menu he seems to encounter every episode.
I can not speak highly enough about how they handled the rehearsal dinner. The food was great (though to be fair, good Italian food in a setting like that in North Jersey is NOT hard to come by) but the service, especially the attentiveness of the manager, could not have been better.
I can’t speak to how it was before other than what I saw on the show, but if that was accurate than Gordon whipped the guy and the establishment into shape.”
Not The Best, But Better!
“I live near Capri, in Los Angeles and have dined there pre and post ‘Kitchen Nightmares.’
Before the show, it was dingy, dusty, and in dire need of redecoration. It was exactly as it looked on the show. We have restaurant letter grades in Los Angeles, and it was rated B at the time (you have to make a concerted effort to be filthy to earn a C). The food was meh; the Caesar salad was pale and sad.
Then came Kitchen Nightmares, and honestly, yes, the place turned around. It’s not the best pizza in the neighborhood, but it’s nice, and yes, the garlic knots are tasty. They are still going strong.”
A Kitchen Nightmares Tour
“I’ve been to Zocalo and Chiarella’s, which are both in Philly.
I was in grad school at the time, and my boyfriend and I stumbled into Zocalo post ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ since it was close to our school, but we deliberately sought out Chiarella’s out of curiosity. I think we discovered Kitchen Nightmares from a small sign in the front door of Zocalo about Gordon Ramsay’s visit.
Zocalo had awesome margaritas and some good appetizers. The food was pretty good, but for a Mexican restaurant, it lacked a little spice. Chiarella’s food was really good – great pasta, dessert, and meat. I specifically loved the spaghetti and meatballs even though I usually don’t dig that stuff. I felt a little awkward going there since the family drama was pretty intense in that episode.
We tried to get to the Hot Potato, a place that mostly served baked potatoes, but it closed before we could get there.”
The Foods Great, The Owner Not So Much
“I live in Nottingham, UK, the home of ‘The Curry Lounge’ featured on ‘Kitchen Nightmares UK.’ The place is still open today! I never went before Ramsay but I, along with a few friends and my dad, went in for a late night curry after several pints-too-many. The decor was gorgeous, hands down one of the nicest looking restaurants I’ve ever eaten. On the show, Ramsay slated them for using shop bought jars of curry sauce and inspired the chef to cook traditional homemade curry’s. It paid off – to an extent – as the restaurant was packed with customers and the food tasted great. They did give me a lovely bout of chronic vomiting and the runs at 5 a.m. the following morning. My dad, with his astute judge of character, actually met and spoke to the owner who he referred to as being ‘a bit of a nob.'”
A Little Bit Of Drama For The Camera
“I lived down the street from Luigi’s D’Italia from Season 5 and used to frequent that place before the show aired. The food wasn’t awful; it was just your standard hole in the wall Italian fare that you’d find in any city. I’ve got to think that the screaming that went on in that episode was more for show than anything because I’ve never experienced that in all the times I’d gone in the past.
The food did improve, albeit slightly, and the updated look was welcomed. The same family still owns it, and you’ll often see the wife (the ‘crazy’ one) working the front counter and serving tables.”
“I went and lived by a place called Big City Eats. It was in Moline, Il. I’ll just preface by saying I lived there after it was remodeled. From what I gathered was that it was always dead before and the food was so-so. When I went, it was plenty busy, but in all honesty, I could not see why. Coming from New Orleans and loving that style cooking I have a certain taste for it.
The gumbo that was advertised as authentic was horrible. Just from looks, no gumbo is white, period, end of story. It’s always brown, always. When tasting it, just deplorable. I can’t say anything else about it.
I tried a few of the other dishes, and nothing impressed me. Not a surprise but the place was closed down shortly after. Was just the worst experience I’ve had short of a long Taco Bell line.”
You Gotta Know Your Demographic
“The Maple Tree in Las Vegas wasn’t bad. It had a loyal customer base who happily enjoyed large portions of relatively inexpensive good/okay food in a cheerfully run-down location. The owners sold to a nice young lady who had no clue what she was doing.
The show yuppified the restaurant and the menu. The renovation was gorgeous but looked more like a place for ladies who brunch instead of retirees on limited income who like treating themselves to breakfast once a week. The biggest mistake was getting rid of the restaurant’s popular apple fritter and replacing it with a gourmet donut hole. The show may have helped with publicity, but the new owner finally threw in the towel. She was still doing catering a few years ago.
The problem seems to be that despite the celebrity’s good intentions, they seem unaware of the restaurant’s target audience and their willingness to accept change. These customers won’t pay $15 for a smaller meal that used to cost $10 and came with an apple fritter the size of a Pomeranian.”
Ramsay Was just Not Enough To Change Anything
“I’m a local to Baltimore and have eaten at Cafe Hon for years. When I first arrived (2007) the place had a fun, quirky charm. They had a delicious chocolate cake that a lot of people stopped in for by itself. I did notice a pretty steady decline in the food quality though, to the point that by the time Ramsay came through my wife, and I had pretty much stopped going.
I’m a huge Ramsay fan and wanted to go to the re-opening, but something came up. Either way, we went a few weeks later, and the food was improved but also really bland and cookie cutter. I think he does a lot of easy to prepare and universally liked foods (which makes sense), but that is really out of place in a neighborhood like Hampden where weird is the key currency. Also, the cake was a bit stale, and the only reason we ate there was when my wife wanted cake so.
At the time I was finishing up law school and working as an intern trademark attorney, so I followed the whole trademarking of HON thing pretty closely. Ramsay did a pretty decent job of presenting it I thought. He cut through a lot of the misinformation and honed in on the key issues, which was surprising because within the local community and even some of the major media coverage there was a lot of incorrect information going around.
One thing that the episode missed (probably because they weren’t aware of it) is that the staff went downhill hard at Hon Cafe and I think that killed the charm that allowed it to skate by on just ok food. It used to be an enjoyable place to eat because the staff was excellent, and it just started sinking. Even after Ramsay came through, it just is uninspired and lifeless.
Still, though I love Chef Ramsay and it was awesome to get to sort of experience the whole circus.”
“The Greek in Ventura was popular when I was a kid. It had great food when I was about 10 years old. They even catered a big middle school party we had at Anacapa, Miss.
It was great!
I remember returning a few years later, around 15 years old, and the food was unfortunate. It was bland, cold (when it should’ve been hot), service was okay, but food quality wasn’t great.
After I saw The Greek got a revamp via Gordon Ramsay, I went back with a group of friends to give it a go. The food was delicious. It was flavorful, hot, service was smiling and happy, the atmosphere was Okay, but the quality of food was so much better than it had been in a long time.”
We Get It Already!
“Went to Zeyna flaming grill before Ramsay showed up. Never witnessed the arguments and nasty food, but I rarely ever went there. The food is light years better now, but the people are a little too pushy with the fact that they were on kitchen nightmares. They bring it up in every conversation.”
How? Just How?
“Oceana in New Orleans is still some of the worst seafood around. It’s on an incredibly busy corner, and there’s always a line outside. I would have never eaten there if I had seen the show, but I did with some out-of-towners from work.
I remember feeling distinctly bad. They were here for two days, and they wasted a meal on godawful fried seafood. How do you mess up fried seafood? You can overcook it, and they sure did, but it also just tasted terrible. How did they do it?”
Serving A Better Purpose Now
“The Mad Cactus was in an episode, and it was so disgusting even longtime customers were turned off. It was open for about 28 years, but it was so dirty on TV, and you KNOW they cleaned like crazy before they appeared on TV, and it was still so bad no one wanted to ever go back. It is currently a Christmas tree lot, and I don’t think many people care anymore. I only miss the Margarita nights. If anyone had not seen the mad cactus episode of ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ I would suggest it.”