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Last week’s Kitchen Nightmares took viewers in the kitchen of PJ Steakhouse located in Forrest Hills, Queens, New York.
The restaurant owners are Joe and Madalyn who took over the establishment when former owner and Joe’s brother, PJ, had passed away. When the restaurant came up for rent, the couple decided to purchase it and name it after their beloved family member.
Both Joe and Madalyn do not pretend to know everything about running a restaurant; they admit to knowing more about construction since they had previously worked in the field. Their nonchalance for the food industry is realized in this episode as Madalyn is seldom in the kitchen looking after things while Joe can always be found at the bar drinking alcohol and watching TV.
Just before Chef Ramsay arrived, Manager Warren complained about how inconsistent their food was. He also said that customers were always complaining about it as well.
When Chef Ramsay arrived he was in awe with how great the restaurant looked even from outside. His love for the exterior of the place turned into disappointment when he entered the establishment and found that there was no one at the front desk.
While looking around for some assistance, Chef Ramsay mistook owner Joe for a customer and expressed that he didn’t expect to see him sitting at the bar. After introductions, Chef Ramsay commended Joe about the beautiful décor of the restaurant before launching into conversation about how the restaurant was being ran. Joe admitted to Chef Ramsay that he wasn’t restaurant material and was simply learning as he went along.
Chef Ramsay’s first order of the day was to taste the food that was being served at the restaurant. We then meet Chef Eric, a cook confident about his food to the point where he had predicted that Chef Ramsay would not find anything bad to say about his cooking; he was sure that Chef Ramsay would find something bad to say about other things in the restaurant.
As Chef Ramsay looked over the menu the first thing that he realized was that it consisted of only two steaks. He said that since it is a steakhouse there should have been more steak meals on the menu. Nevertheless, Chef Ramsay was ready to order and he did so with crab cakes, shrimp and roasted garlic ravioli and Fillet Mignon.
The dishes left Chef Ramsay’s table as quickly as they came; the words he used to describe the meals ran the gamut of “rancid and disgusting” to start and a "big pile of crap”.
Joe, who had finally left the bar area, was quite surprised that Chef Ramsay did not like their food. He said that he was “shocked” because he always felt the food tasted good.
Chef Ramsay then visited the kitchen area where he met with Eric and other members of staff who all gathered as Eric defended his food. He told Chef Ramsay that he received compliments from the customers about it. Chef Ramsay responded to Eric by saying “how could you get compliments when there is never anybody here?”
With Eric finally keeping quiet, Chef Ramsay wanted to know who was running the place to which a “blame game” match ensued between Joe and Madalyn. Chef Ramsay takes a walk outside for fresh air and to get away from it all.
Later, one when Chef Ramsay returned to the restaurant, he sat with Madalyn to get a history of the company and she revealed that her husband Joe and his brother PJ were best friends and that Joe spent $1.2m to purchase his brother’s old Irish restaurant.
“The money is getting to him”, Madalyn lamented. She also told Chef Ramsay that they had designed and built their own home and have had to eventually sell it so they can keep the business opened. “This place has given us Joe back”, Madalyn said, “and we would do whatever it takes to keep it”.
Next on Chef Ramsay’s agenda was to observe how the staff operate in a dinner service setting and at the end of the night, Chef Ramsay was definitely not pleased. It started with Chef Eric not communicating with the rest of the kitchen staff which caused the diners to wait close to two hours to get their entrees. Chef Ramsay also observed Madelyn’s lack of professionalism when she told the customer that she was not the waitress and did not know anything about food.
Chef Ramsay referred to PJs as a “Pathetic Joke” when the customers started to complain about the food being gross and tasting like lemonade. Madalyn entered the kitchen and ordered them to take the dish off the menu. Eric soon buckled under pressure of embarrassment from the food returning to the kitchen; he says he can’t go on and leaves.
Chef Ramsay decides to go to the restaurant’s storage area and is appalled with the amount of rotten food that he has seen. He then takes the box to the staff and both Joe and Madalyn are shocked by what’s inside of the box. They are both disappointed and privately resolved that Chef Eric may be the source of their problems.
On the second day, Chef Ramsay heads to downtown Queens to get people’s views about PJ’s Steakhouse. Most past customers criticized the food with most vowing never to return to the restaurant again.
Chef Ramsay who had recorded the vox pop took the staff of PJ’s Steakhouse to a theater for a private screening of the video. Joe and Madalyn were noticeably embarrassed; they even recognized some of the customers on the video. Chef Eric on the other hand saw humor in it all as he concluded that he didn’t believe what the customers were saying.
At the next dinner service, Chef Eric’s job has now been placed on the line and so he was asked to “cook his butt off” to save his job. The owners finally realized that Chef Eric was the main culprit behind the mediocre food and said that he should have been fired years ago and that he took advantage of their weakness.
Chef Ramsay changed up the menu to include a mix grill with sliders and Joe is fond of the new menu. Chef Eric says he can handle the job and do it all before the doors of the restaurant opened to give him the opportunity to prove himself.
Joe is no longer sitting at the bar; he’s doing salads in the kitchen. Madalyn is also doing a good job as she is communicating with staff and the food is leaving the kitchen at a good pace.
The food immediately goes back to the kitchen as the customers collectively found that it was cold, raw, horrible and dry. Chef Eric argues that he is doing too much at the same time and takes out his frustration on with Chef Ramsay who urged him to “solve the madness!” Eric shots back “close to (restaurant) door!!” before storming out.
With dinner service cut short, an emergency meeting is called and Joe and Madalyn choose their restaurant over Chef Eric; he is fired. Day three brings new beginnings; the restaurant is now PJ’s Grill and is represented by the new sign outside of the restaurant. Chef Ramsay has added sumptuous meals to the menu and inside the restaurant in a corner he has affixed a pictorial tribute to PJ which bring tears to the owners’ eyes.
Chef Ramsay also installed one of his Chefs at the restaurant to work for a month and assigned his business associate Enda to help Madalyn with being a better hostess. All involved are excited about what is to come and this quickly turns to a case of the nerves for Madalyn when one of the critics from the video walked in.
Everyone is nervous; they want to ensure that this particular customer gets great service, and of course good tasting food. Instead, food was leaving out of the kitchen at a fast rate but they never got to the critic’s table because of a host of ticket mix-ups. Madalyn eventually took charge and alleviated the problem; the critic was fed and was impressed and satisfied with the food.
Other customers also expressed their delight in the new menu and they even promised to visit again.
At the end of the day, the staff and owners were proud of the team work and great dinner service but it obviously wasn’t enough for them to keep PJ’s opened; the restaurant was closed shortly afterward as the owners returned to the construction business.