Kitchen Nightmares takes a break from the West Coast this week to join Gordon in Norwalk, OH, where he meets Joe. Who is Joe, you ask? Well, Joe is the owner of both a livestock ranch and Mill Street Bistro, a “fine dining” establishment that doesn’t use obnoxious words like “fine dining.” However, those really are the only words one could use to describe a place run by a man who was trained by and worked for European chefs. Said man is Joe, of course, and he thinks his place is the best one in the entire known Universe and defines fines dining, but without the fancy words. You understand. Server Jen disagrees, because she has taste and sense.
Joe says all his ingredients, elk included, come right from his ranch. It’s not a huge place, so I wonder how he manages to provide all the meat a restaurant would need from the comparatively few animals he keeps. Cook Tom and Server Amy contradict this claim by virtue of knowledge—they know for a fact that much of the food with which they work is frozen, not fresh (take note of this, because we will hear much more about the definitions of both words), and a lot of shortcuts are taken in the preparation. Oh, and the steaks are bought wholesale, not harvested off Joe’s ranch like he claims.
Ah, so that’s how he provides the meat—he doesn’t. Glad we cleared that up.
Servers Rebecca and Bill also hate Joe, because…well, because he’s an asshole. That’s just the only word for it. He’s very sarcastic and brusque, and berates everyone in sight. When his employees try to stand up to him, he tells them to get other jobs if they don’t like it. Okay, fair enough; though it doesn’t excuse his behavior, I suppose he has the right to act like a shit if he wants. It’s not acceptable or right, and staff morale will suffer, but that’s really his issue to fix, and if he’s okay with a high turnover rate, that’s neither here nor there. The real problem for the business is that the customers also think he’s a dick, and they’ve stopped showing up.
Joe doesn’t even think he belongs on Kitchen Nightmares, at least not due to problems with the sanitation or food. It’s a nightmare because no one is spending money there, not because of anything he’s done. Mmmmhmmm. I think we all know where this is heading. Anyway, Gordon shows up to the ranch and gets the grand tour. Joe wants Gordon to critique his place and say: “you got something, Joe.” Oh, I’m sure he’ll say that, just not in the way Joe means.
Gordon loves the ranch, and seems receptive to Joe, but the whole “self-taught by Europeans” phrase gives me pause, because it’s pretty contradictory. He wants people to take his restaurant “serious.” Um, I have a suggestion: it might help if you wanted them to take you SERIOUSLY, right Joe? Demonstrating a firm grasp on the English language is the first step toward that little goal. Gordon has some fun with the ranch goat and listens to Joe’s tale of woe, which is bizarrely mixed with ruminations on his relationship with his animals. I’ll give Joe this: at least he has a work ethic. He runs the ranch and the restaurant himself, and never takes a day off.
Even though I bet his employees wish he would.