Kitchen Nightmares

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So, one of the shows that I always get sucked into is Gordan Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.  I really didn’t like it at first, but it has grown on me.

A lot of times, it reminds me of this restaurant where my mom used to work.  It was an Italian place called ‘Luigi’s’.

Luigi’s was a huge place, and I mean huge.  It had private banquet room, massive dining room and a bar.  Mom started in the restaurant before graduating to the bar where she worked for many years.  I would hear all sorts of stories (some of them not until I was much, much older) about the weird and crazy things that happened at that place.  On that long list was a lot of drugs being done by customers and employees alike, something that my mom did not like at all.

I remember Luigi’s as being very dark; dark walls, little red candle jars on the tables.  The bar area was dark but had a jukebox and a Ms. Pacman and had leather booths all around the edge and a few tables in the middle.  I used to go there after school to spend some time with mom.  I’d sit in a booth doing my homework and maybe we’d split a french dip sandwich or something before heading home after her shift.

Co-owned by bickering brothers, the majority of the employees were their kids, some of whom were only there to collect a paycheck.  When I was 15 or 16 years old, they announced that Luigi’s was going away and would soon be remodeled into something else.  Apparently, the business wasn’t doing so well and they decided to make a change.

They brought in some guys from Florida who transformed the place from old school Italian to a family style buffet called ‘Peaches’.  With the change, mom became the manager, the brother’s were pulled out and acted more as investors and the majority of their kids were let go.  The banquet room was gone, as was the bar, replaced by more dining space.  Alcohol was served but it wasn’t a sit down bar as before – everything was brought to your table.  The drugs were gone too.

With the place ‘cleaned up’, mom felt comfortable telling me they were hiring bus boys.  I applied and got the job.  Soon, I was cleaning up other peoples messes and fighting for spoons in the kitchen (there never seemed to be enough spoons…).

I want to say that I worked there for years but my memory of such details has never been so good.  I probably worked there, at most, six months.  More likely I worked there for less time – I honestly can’t recall.  But I do know that the place was packed all the time and considered to be quite the success.  I even got my friend Tom to apply for a bus boy job (he got it) and once in a while we had shifts together, which was fun.

What I didn’t know was that the brothers were unhappy.  They wanted more control and disagreed with a lot of the decisions that the Florida guys were making – like firing their kids.  My friend Tom?  Fired.  Replaced by one of the brother’s kids.  Soon, other members of their family were back.  The Florida guys running the place were pushed out and Mom was fired.  I would show up for work and instead of bussing tables, I would be handed a towel and told to clean the underside of dish carts, or to haul boxes around – the writing was on the wall as far as I was concerned, they didn’t want me around anymore.  So I quit.

Back in the hands of the old owners, Peaches closed it’s doors.  I don’t remember for certain how long it took, but I want to say it was about a year before they closed up shop.

Kitchen Nightmares, with all it’s tales of restaurants being run into the ground by owners who don’t know what’s going on in their kitchens, are disconnected from their staff and make bad decisions, reminded me of that place.  In some cases, the owners on the show keep all the changes made by Ramsey and see their business turn around.  But there are also those few who reject the changes, even though they are for the better, and return to how they did things before – like with Peaches.

~P

1 comment for “Kitchen Nightmares

  1. Bunni
    March 25, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    It does just remind me of the resto business, but a LOT of business where, in essence, the problem is the management can’t handle a brutal, but an honest assessment of what is going on in order to improve. As a prof, the majority of my students honestly have never encountered constructive criticism before-they don’t know what to do with the idea “X is hurting you, but you can fix it by doing Y.” I shudder to think what happens when they try to helm a business.

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