Kitchen Nightmares – Sal’s Pizzeria/Mama Marie’s – RECAP

We’re going to experiment with re-capping some new shows. Check out Eric’s recap of t”Kitchen Nightmares” starring the volatile chef, Gordon Ramsey.  The show airs on FOX on Friday nights.  Please comment and let us know what you think!

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As far as cranky Brits go I would take Gordon Ramsey over Simon Cowell.  This week we are in Brooklyn at Sal’s Pizzeria/Mama Marie’s. The episode precap shows that we can expect a customer to be sent to the hospital which cannot be good.

John, the owner, has been working in Sal’s Pizzeria since he was 14. He quit High School to help with the pizzeria. They were successful enough to buy the restaurant next door and after his mother passed away they turned the space into Mama Maria’s Italian Restaurant.

Once John took over the restaurant it started going downhill because John refused to change with the times. He is puzzled to why it is failing since he never changed at all but now that the area is more populated with a younger hipster crowd the restaurant is not cool and John says he won’t change for the crowd. Even the restaurant manager, Fabio, says that John is a stubborn man and that John’s system stopped working twenty years ago.

His staff notes that John has no leadership as the owner since all he does is stay behind the counter in the pizzeria and barely ever steps into Mama Maria’s although he treats it like a second home letting his kids run wild inside and outside the restaurant.

Ramsey walks up to the restaurant and instantly notices the stoddy signage with letter falling off. He meets Fabio inside who tells him John is next door in pizzeria. Fabio says that John decided to cut out the letter when they started falling off. When Gordon asks him John says the wind did it which surprises Fabio.

John says he blames the lack of business on new competition in the neighborhood and not on the fact that the restaurant is outdated.  As Gordon is waiting for his food the restaurant has someone walk around displaying desserts. When Gordon examines it there is mold on the food which disgusts me. There’s nothing like handling mold right before eating. The Manager argues that making a new display daily would be a waste of money since they are just displays. I argue that this place should be shut down.

The menu says that pasta is made fresh daily but as Gordon gets his meals it is clear that the food is frozen. You know that you watch too many Gordon Ramsey shows when you can tell when something is frozen before Gordon eats it. We also find out that the meatballs are also frozen. I understand that freezing food is cost effective but if you are going to do it then don’t advertise that the food is cooked fresh daily. It’s just wrong. If I want frozen food I’ll eat at home.

While waiting for more food Gordon takes a look around and sees that the dining room is filthy. When asked when the last time it was clean Fabio admits he has no clue and that the restaurant doesn’t have a cleaning crew. Gordon examines a potted plant for a smell, and as he lefts it some gross liquid falls out onto customers dining. I felt bad for the couple but Gordon makes up for it by telling them he will cover the dry cleaning. At least they got that to show for their afternoon lunch because they won’t be enjoying the food.

It’s funny how the chef knows the food will be gross and that Gordon will send it back. What truly amazes me is how the servers and manager had no clue that the food was frozen. Gordon calls out the kitchen staff, made up of Joe, Oscar, and Francino, and wants them to explain the food. Joe freely admits that he is not proud of the food and would not eat it. He says that John is set with the menu and will not accept change. John then admits that his menu and practices may be holding back the kitchen staff but doesn’t think that the food is the problem. Gordon says that freezing food worked in the sixties but not in 2012. As Gordon leaves John has a mini breakdown as he walks around mumbling that he has had enough and he notes that he just doesn’t understand why the old ways are not enough.

Joe serves food at a steady pace but it doesn’t help that the customers hate the food. Other than just bad tasting and freezer burned food one customer finds a bone in the spaghetti sauce. The real problem is she is a vegetarian and nothing vegetarian should have a bone in it. Joe says that John has then cook pork bones in the sauce. Joe can’t change it since John says if you don’t like it then work somewhere else. I know it’s not easy to find a job but I’m not sure I could work in some of these places on these shows. Of course if I was struggling to pay my bills I’m sure my attitude would change. John doesn’t see a problem with how the sauce is made. When Gordon calls him out for how stupid it is to cook bones in the sauce and then serve the same sauce to a vegetarian he goes back to mumbling about having enough.

It’s at this point where everything totally falls apart. Gordon discovers that there is a customer in the bathroom sick after eating the lobster tail. Gordon looks at the lobster and discovers that it is bad and smells of ammonia which was just eaten by the customer. They call an ambulance for the man and Gordon forces them to shut it down and send everyone home. Nothing like having a manager approaches you and tells you to leave but not to eat another bite. I would have freaked out.

Gordon makes John admit he is in over his head but wants to provide for his kids. He says that John has given up and John asks him to help him change for the better. After Gordon sends John home for some sleep he checks the freezers only to be mortified with how much food is frozen. Usually I feel that the show makes these things to be a bigger problem than it is but as Gordon clears freezer after freezer it is amazing how much food is stored. It is also crazy how long of the containers are labeled or dated so God knows how long the food has been there.  It gets worse as they find food that is not only freezer burned but some that is also moldy despite the fact it is frozen.

Gordon drags up all the food upstairs to give John and his staff a wakeup call. It is amazing that the manager had no clue that the food wasn’t fresh with this much frozen food in the restaurant.  Gordon updates that the customer who was taken to the hospital was discharged that morning and is ok but then shows them his table of frozen food which Gordon notes is enough to make a restaurant run for a year.  John says he knew it was happening but is amazed how much it food was actually there. He says that he is still buying food as if the restaurant is getting the same business it was getting in the past.

The staff says they have tried to make changes but John always says no. John says he knows he needs to change but can’t. They highlight a specials sign which has been up since before his parents died and John says he can’t take it down.  We get to the obvious root of the problem. John is still running the business like his parents are alive. He can’t let go of how they ran the business. He says he has been helping in the restaurant since he was 8 and sacrificed his education for the restaurant when his parents needed him. This guy could definitely use a therapist as I’m pretty sure he has a lot of built up issues.

Gordon gets him to admit that he is using the pizzeria as a safety let while John says he needs help because he wants to be able to spend more time with his family.  Gordon gets him to promise to stay out from behind the pizzeria counter.

We come back from commercial to the staff wearing blindfolds. He got rid of awning and replaced with a hip sign. Inside there is new tables decorated with old newspapers of the pizzeria and restaurant. There are pictures of the restaurant in the older days. There is also a cool painting of the Brooklyn Bridge and some other cool signs. It is a nice blend of the old and the new. With a new look comes an updated restaurant and it is time for the re-launch but first John gets a new shirt showcasing that he is the owner and not a pizza boy. Before dinner service starts Gordon lets them know that he invited some journalist and food bloggers including Eat It: Brooklyn Food Blog. Blackboard Eats Blog, and New York Observer Food Blogger.

Dinner service starts off really strong with food leaving the kitchen and John staying out of the kitchen.  John then gets distracted talking about the older days with two customers and forgets to serve some food. Gordon gets John back on track and the night finishes off strong. Gordon leaves feeling good about the experience and in the recap at the end we see that John kept his promise to stay out of the kitchen and the restaurant is on its way to being a hotspot.

  • tibitibis

    Great Recap Eric ! …i Love Gordon Ramsey shows ( Master Chef , Hell Kitchen and even Hotel nightmares :) ) … i didn’t knew Kitchen Nightmares was in Fridays though ….. Thank you ! :D

  • Kirsten

    It’s at this point where everything totally falls apart. Gordon
    discovers that there is a customer in the bathroom sick after eating the
    lobster tail.

    I have to call shenanigans on that.

    I’m sure that the production crew was having kittens of joy when some dude starting ralphing (and have been hoping that would happen for years), but a chef like Gordon Ramsey should have enough food safety knowledge to know that food poisoning typically takes hours to appear. People often blame what they just ate, but odds are, it something they ate for their previous meal. This does not seem to be the type of restaurant where you spend hours eating. It was one of those one hour in-and-out places and his wife said he had just eaten the lobster.  He probably had the flu.

    Gordon creating mass hysteria like that was ridiculous. Ugh.

    That said, the restaurant owner should have been on episode of “Food Hoarders”. That was insane. He needed to forgive his parents for ruining his life by leaving him two restaurants and he needed to get with the times.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bug-Menot/100003601718986 Bug Menot

     Well, he did say the lobster “smells of ammonia” so maybe it was a reaction to a chemical and not food poisoning.

  • Kirsten

     

    Well, he did say the lobster “smells of ammonia” so maybe it was a reaction to a chemical and not food poisoning.

    That means the lobster is spoiled (not that it was washed in ammonia – although you can do that. They did it for years to combat E. Coli in beef. Then that “pink slime” broo-ha-ha started and was not well received by the purchasing public). Lobster, shrimp and crab start smelling of ammonia when they go “off”.

    I’m not saying that they should be serving that lobster or that the guy wouldn’t have eventually gotten sick from eating it (the cooking process may have neutralized the bacteria, so he may not have gotten sick), it’s just that his symptoms appeared way too soon to have been caused by the lobster he just ate. Gordon should have known that and stopped running around like chicken little.

    He was right that they should stop serving the lobster (and other assorted spoiled food).

  • davedpg

    I’m really not a fan of the American version of this show. Every week, the formula is 

    Gordon walks in and comments what a dump the place is
    He sits down for food which is terrible
    He meets the owners who don’t see the problem
    He brings the place a makeover, a new name and a new menu
    The place is sorted and the owners are grateful.

    It’s all about people shouting at other every single week and it just feels so repetitive. 

    Whereas in the Channel 4 original, every episode was different, Gordon would work with people and teach them what they could they do to make their place stand out from the crowd. 

    And the one big difference from the American show, Gordon would always acknowledge that the programme would’nt ensure the survival of the business and it could still go belly up in the years to come.

    Just a real shame that Ramsey is making crap like the American version

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-Mitchell/515077335 Eric Mitchell

     I agree that he trumped it up for TV. Ramsey is known for making bigger deals out of things.

  • http://twitter.com/Miztig Miz

    I’ve had food poisoning twice and both times reacted within about 30 minutes. The most recent was eating peanuts (I’m not allergic to them) that were recalled for salmonella.

    The first time I did not think it was food poisoning because I also was under the impression it took hours. My doctor told me it depends on the person.

  • Kirsten

     

    I’ve had food poisoning twice and both times reacted within about 30
    minutes. The most recent was eating peanuts (I’m not allergic to them)
    that were recalled for salmonella.

    Really? Well, I suppose anything is possible.

    The CDC says that it takes 12-72 hours to get sick from salmonella exposure. That’s because the bacteria has to survive through the acid bath in your stomach and pass into the intestine. Food poisoning has many causes and some are more rapid acting than salmonella (in some unusual cases, people can react within a 1/2 hour). If you can get salmonella poisoning within a half-hour, it doesn’t sound like your stomach is getting enough time to properly do its job (I’m not surprised you get food poisoning).

    Still, Ramsey should assume normal timelines. When you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras. From the description given, the guy ate the lobster and then started throwing up (it doesn’t sound like he even had a 1/2 hour – this was not a fine dining establishment). The most likely scenario is that he was already sick (flu or previously eaten tainted food – maybe he had lunch at the same place).  Or maybe it was psychosomatic because the food looked/tasted gross.

    Gordon and the producers immediately jumped to blaming the food because it makes exciting television. All chefs take food safety courses and he had to have known how unlikely it was that the food had immediately made somebody sick. The fact that there was no follow-up recriminations makes me think that the ER doctors did not link the illness to the lobster.

    But, that is reality television. Amp up everything for ratings.

  • Nosgoth1979

    It seemed like they hammed
    the food poisoning bit up some, but overall it was still a good episode. I’m
    glad I wasn’t eating when I watched it though. Now that I started working the
    evening shift I’m constantly playing catch-up with my favorite primetime shows.
    And since the networks insist on putting their best shows on primetime that
    means it’s just about ALL of my favorite shows. Because of that I end up
    hearing spoilers from my DISH coworkers fairly regularly; luckily that kind of
    thing doesn’t matter for shows like Kitchen Nightmares, but it’s hard to avoid
    some of the spoilers for long. Luckily my DISH Hopper has the PrimeTime Anytime
    feature, which automatically records all the primetime shows on all four major
    networks. So all my shows will be waiting for me this weekend when I have some
    time to catch-up. With my old DVRs, I always had to make tough decisions due to
    scheduling conflicts and I’d have to choose which shows to miss entirely.