Friday, February 01, 2008


A few nights ago my buddy Jeff called me. As we talked about food and restaurants, he mentioned a BBC show called Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. The title sounded familiar to me, but I had no idea what the show was about.

After Jeff described Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares to me, it reminded me of a show I used to watch on Food Network called Restaurant Makeover. Here are the basic premises of Restaurant Makeover:
  1. Independent restaurateur realizes he or she is in deep shit, so he or she contacts Restaurant Makeover, begging for help.
  2. Restaurant Makeover sends a chef and a designer to the failing restaurant (along with a camera crew) to assess the situation.
  3. Following assessment and consultation, the restaurateur decides how much money he or she is willing to invest in the makeover, then Restaurant Makeover matches the owner's investment up to a maximum of something like $20,000. (If the owner contributes $15,000 to the project, then Restaurant Makeover puts in another $15,000. But if the owner contributes $30,000, Restaurant Makeover tops out at $20,000. Something like that, anyway.)
Yeah, Food Network used to not suck.

Anyway, since Jeff told me about Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, I've managed to catch four episodes, and I love it! The premise of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares is as follows: You and your restaurant are in deep shit, so you called me, Gordon Ramsay, a proven successful chef and businessman, to come here and work my magic because you realize that 1) You're losing your ass, and 2) I know how to save your ass.

Although it is kind of similar to Restaurant Makeover, it has plenty of differences. First of all, it's an hour long (rather than half an hour). Second, the star (Chef Gordon Ramsay) is a filthy-mouthed, no-bullshit motherfucker. Sometimes his communication style is a little too, um, let's say, uh, sometimes he's a real asshole for no apparent reason. But mostly he's honest, straightforward, and reasonable. He's there to fix a problem, and fixing that problem is his only objective.

In every episode I've seen so far, Gordon Ramsay proves that independent restaurant owners tend to be the stupidest people on this planet. Everything he says makes complete sense, but even though the owners know they're doing something horribly wrong--even though they're about to lose everything--most of the owners become combative and refuse to follow Gordon's advice. Some of the owners eventually overpower their huge egos enough to follow Gordon's advice, but some of them don't.

And you know what ultimately happens to each group, respectively? Yup, the listeners win and the non-listeners lose.

I tried doing something kind of like what Gordon Ramsay does. I've offered my services to several failing pizzerias, essentially for free, in an effort to help them turn their huge failure into success, partly because I like helping people and partly because it was an opportunity for me to prove that my skills, talents, and intellect are pretty freakin' valuable.

As you may already know, I never got shit from it, nor did I ever get a chance to prove anything about myself. All I got was ripped off.

For example, when I went to Charleston, South Carolina, thinking I'd finally found the right opportunity, I quickly learned that I was dealing with the two stupidest people alive. (I can only blame myself for failing to recognize this side of their personalities before heading to SC.) After busting my ass for them, usually off the clock, and sharing very valuable ideas with them, all they did was attack me. Like Gordon Ramsay, I cared more about their restaurant than they did. Even though I made it very clear from the beginning that my objective was to fix things that needed fixed, they apparently expected me to perpetuate a process that generates $200 a day in sales.

Some people just don't get it. $200 a day is not good. $200 a day barely pays for the cost of sales. Forget about paying for labor and utilities and all that other stuff (like the elusive "owner's salary"). You simply can't do it.

If you only bring in $200 a day, it's because you're doing something VERY wrong. If you want that to change, you must stop doing things wrong and start doing things right. If you can't figure out what you're doing wrong but you are lucky enough to find someone who can figure it out, don't fuck that person over.

I didn't fail Sonny's Pizza. Sonny's Pizza failed themselves. When you refuse to allow people to help you, you cannot be helped. I learned from it; they didn't.

Sonny's Pizza no longer exists. (I never got paid for my time on the clock, either.)

(Oh, I'm just dying to find out how and why this post makes me ungrateful and negative. So hit me, anonymouses.)

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