Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.
Okay then, folks! It’s been damn near a month, but Fox has finally seen fit to toss us another episode of Kitchen Nightmares. At this rate, the alleged season finale should hit my DVR sometime in August, though Fox’s website claims the next episode is the last. We shall see. In any case, I live to serve (not really), so let’s cozy up to Gordon and dive into this.
Philly plays host to the histrionics this week, with a visit to Chiarella’s, an Italian joint owned and run by an Italian family. Looks like a lot of weeping and yelling and man tears, brought on by the usual stubborn denial. It’s plenty of the usual: something is wrong, that something is tanking the business, but no one will admit to anything.
Tommy and Dina are a married couple, who inherited the legacy of Chiarella’s from her parents. After a good start, business started flagging and Tommy developed an attitude. Dina says she doesn’t understand the problem, because the food is great! Of course it is! But never fear, because Server Craig is on hand to tell us that it in fact “blows.” Someone had to say it I guess, because there’s actual footage of Tommy telling a customer that her complaint is only her opinion. Oh really? Well, it is my opinion that Tommy just fucked that table’s tip right down into the toilet. Too bad it’s his servers who suffer for his mouth.
Server Renata says Tommy retreats to the basement every time something upsets him, so he can work out. She’s not kidding. He’s got a whole weight bench down there on which to vent his frustrations, and he must be ripped as hell, because he runs down there at the first sign of an issue. Dina wants Tommy to be happy. Might I suggest a career change? I hear ITT Tech promises beaucoup employment opportunities!
Gordon shows up in his v-neck and learns that Dina essentially grew up in the business, so I have to wonder if Tommy wasn’t sort of badgered into becoming a proprietor. Maybe he had other dreams that have fallen by the wayside.
Sure enough, we find Tommy pumping iron, and he admits he doesn’t even know what kind of help he needs. Dina says the food is consistent, but the customers are inconsistent, and they don’t know what’s missing. Well, that’s why they brought Gordon in, and I have a hunch he’ll take up Server Craig’s chant.
But wait! Turns out Dina has a few ideas in the “what’s wrong” department after all, namely that Tommy isn’t running the place in a manner that brings about success. Tommy had no clue she felt that way, and gets mucho butthurt. Gordon kicks Dina out for a one-on-one with Tommy, who says the restaurant is killing the marriage. As an Italian Man (TM), he can’t believe his wife left her rightful place in the birthin’ chair long enough to say a word against him. Looks like misogynistic stereotypes are alive and well at Chiarella’s!
But enough of the failing marriage–it’s time for the food! Gordon is baffled by the sheer number of dishes on the menu, most of which are named after family members. Poor Renata has to explain this and other foolishness to him, like that they’re still working off the old menus and don’t even offer some of the options. Chef Felipe knows the food sucks, but making changes is not within the scope of his authority.
Gordon takes a time-out to visit the facilities, but to get there he has to journey through Tommy’s gymnasium, and he gets all sorts of distracted.
In the walls are fist-sized holes aplenty, which Tommy denies are of his making, but Dina tells us he’s full of falsehoods. She’s suffering from a bit of denial herself, though, because she’s convinced Gordon will love their wonderful food. Meanwhile, he’s dry-heaving into his plate, pronouncing it “ghastly.”
Tommy knows the food is good, because the food is always good in these failing restaurants. Renata says that instead of managing the kitchen and putting the smackdown on chefs who screw up, Tommy just sulks. And punches holes in things, I guess.
Predictably, Gordon hates the rest of the food, especially his overcooked crayfish masquerading as a lobster. Tommy and Dina still won’t admit the food is anything but amazing, but Renata and Felipe and everyone else aren’t singing along with that little tune. Gordon gives Felipe a bit of hell, but reassures Tommy and Dina that the blame really lies with them. Yet still they insist they stand by their menu.
Gordon: “You’re in denial!”
Dina: “No, I’m not in denial!”
And so it goes.
But then! Tommy loses his shit. He tells Gordon that everything is his own fault for letting Felipe cook. At least that’s what I think he said, but it was kind of hard to translate past all the bleeps. Gordon tells him to pull his head out of his own ass. Let’s see how that goes, shall we?
Dinner service time! Apparently Tommy considers himself a waiter, yet another point of contention between him and Dina. I guess she has a point, since he can’t exactly run the place if he’s telling customers to get bent. Gordon asks who’s expediting, and I can only assume Tommy will get back to him after he looks up “expediting” in the dictionary.
Felipe is used to flying blind, so he has no problem taking the initiative and filling tickets. Granted, what sends out is atrocious swill, but it does leave the kitchen in a timely manner. Unfortunately, to Gordon’s complete lack of surprise, it gets sent back in droves. Meanwhile Tommy, the epitome of masculine Italian Men himself, is hiding behind the hostess stand. Dina digs his balls out from wherever she stashed them and marches back to the kitchen to expedite the place her damn self.
She rips into everyone, and Gordon acknowledges that she’s doing her best, but Tommy needs to step up. Tommy can’t be bothered, however, because he’s busy avoiding conflict. In order to fix a pasta dish, he’s attempting to drain the excess oil into a bowl instead of confronting the kitchen staff and demanding they remake the entree. When Dina hears this she flips, and Gordon is right behind her. The customer deserves better than that, he says, and starts unloading on Tommy–who flees the kitchen in the middle of his upbraiding.
Tommy is humiliated, good for nothing more at the moment than having a nervous breakdown on his weight bench. I think the real issue is that he just isn’t cut out for leadership of any kind. He’s too passive. Maybe his Italian Man upbringing has led him to think he has to be the alpha dog, but that’s just not his personality. He doesn’t seem like a big enough asshole to run a restaurant, but it seems Dina’s got that covered, so don’t worry. She’s not letting anyone get away with shit in that kitchen, and manages to crank out the rest of the tickets by raining brimstone on Felipe’s head. Remind me not to piss this woman off by writing snarky things about her business.
By the end of service, Gordon has lost patience. Even after all the BS with the oil and the piles of returned food, Tommy and Dina are still standing by their menu, and that, combined with Tommy’s disappearing act, unleashes the Beast. Gordon tells them their best bet would be to pull their heads out of their asses and, barring that, give up the ghost and shut the place down entirely.
The next day, Gordon shows up at their house for a diplomatic chat with Dina, who still will not give an inch on the food issue. Stacked daughter Danae is forced to gently break it to Dina that no one is going to pay Chiarella’s high prices when they can get the same perfectly good case of diarrhea down the street without breaking the bank.
Gordon isn’t concerned with Dina’s feelings, though, because he reminds her that he didn’t say her food was horrible–he said it was disgusting, thank you very much. If Dina refuses to budge, they’re at an impasse, and he might as well leave instead of wasting everyone’s time. Dina is nostalgic about the menu, but she agrees to let Gordon do his thing, and they move on to the real issue: Tommy.
Gordon can see Tommy crumbling before his eyes, and Dina and Danae agree that they need to rescue the poor man before he disintegrates entirely. Tommy joins them, and Gordon attempts to involve him in an emotional chat.
Tommy admits that his fear of losing the restaurant is stifling his entire world. He’s exhausted and sick of feeling like a weakling and a failure in every aspect of his life. Dina and Danae insist they love him and he’s not a failure. Tommy’s self-esteem is in the john, however, and I’m sure the national broadcast of his tearful breakdown isn’t going to go very far toward repairing that.
His biggest problem, I think, is that he’s applying his failures within the business to the spectrum of his entire life. I’ve seen plenty of folks fall victim to that mindset, and it’s understandable, but I do wish more people realized that their worth as human beings extends beyond their career achievements. Honest work is honest work, everyone has to earn a living, and employment is but a small facet of life. We are so much more than our jobs, people, so love yourselves regardless of how you earn that paycheck.
Wow, what the fuck was that? Am I feeling all poignant about life because I just saw The Hunger Games, or did those few weeks without anything to recap actually soften my cold, hard heart? Christ. I may have just puked in my mouth a bit. Tastes like Veal Sinatra!
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, Tommy is fishing for compliments by denigrating his own worth. Gordon tells him to be tough and bounce back, fish his real personality out of that deep, dark abyss of depression, and come out swinging for his family and for himself. Anyone think the Italian Man will consent to therapy? Not too likely, right?
Gordon thinks the ticket is to get Tommy involved in running the kitchen, and Dina approves. Anything to get him out of that waiter mindset, I guess. Gordon teaches him to cook a few simple dishes, and Tommy seems to be digging it. He’s also surprised at how good food can taste when a real chef has the reins.
Now that he has Tommy and Dina by the short ones, Gordon goes ahead and sics his design team on the place, updating the decor and menu so they match the vibe of the current neighborhood and century.
Surprisingly enough, Dina and Tommy are on board with all the changes, and are even happier when Gordon brings in a local boy, Chef Mike, to train Felipe in the art of cooking good food.
I have to hand it to Dina, specifically–she was very resistant to change, but tasting the new dishes brings her right on board. Maybe it’s my goddamn softened heart talking, but this family is good people. They care about the business and each other, they’re willing to work hard, and the place isn’t wall-to-wall assholes like so many of the places on this show.
But will this good vibe last? Opening night arrives and starts out well, but someone dropped the ball–Table 20 is being denied their delicious meal because Tommy messed up some numbers. He looks like he might lose his shit and head for the weight bench, but Gordon talks him down and he pulls it together long enough to fix things and take a few breaths. Dina is so proud to see him running the place like a big boy!
The night is a success, even if Gordon’s hair has gone all sorts of crazy by the end. And did Fox spend the concealer budget on bathtub gin this week or what, because he’s been running around with some kind of boil on his nose all episode, and they’re not even attempting to hide it. Anyway, Gordon may look a hot mess, but he congratulates the staff and the couple on their improvement. He reminds Tommy to take care of himself and reminds Dina to keep riding Tommy’s ass. She does, and the place is still rocking it out in the recap. Aw, good for them.
Next week, Gordon takes things south of the border to whip another husband-wife team into shape. Caliente!
Thanks for joining me in all my recapping glory and tolerating that unexpected foray into patience and understanding. I swear it won’t happen again. I’ll keep recapping this as long as these extra episode keep flying out of absolutely nowhere, and I appreciate you guys hanging in there with me.