Well, we made it, folks–at long last, we have been blessed with the season finale of Kitchen Nightmares. What have we learned this season? Well, I for one now know that Philly is no place to open a restaurant with your spouse, not if you’re in any way attached to your marriage and family. After watching last week’s couple pull themselves out of despair, we’re treated to another dysfunctional family mess, this one set in Zocalo, a Mexican joint featuring $20 entrees and loads of strife.
Owners Greg and Mary found each other in the hotbed of romance that is Zocalo, united during a simpler time, when he was a bartender and she a tortilla maker. They married, bought the place together, and proceeded to run it into the ground. Now, the dream that brought them together is wrenching them apart. Because inanimate restaurants have that power, right?
Nah, it seems the people involved are doing most of the wrenching. Greg has no life outside the place. His every waking moment is focused on supporting his family via the restaurant, a task made all the more stressful by the fact that Mary does little more than stand around yelling at him.
Mary’s attitude seems to be a major source of contention in the restaurant as a whole. She works maybe three days a week, and based on what we see, her official job title appears to be New Asshole Distributor, as she does little more than rain grief down on her staff and husband. Cook Jerome confirms this, saying the whole staff knows hard times are coming when Mary’s face appears.
Bartender Gabby, who happens to also be Greg and Mary’s daughter, has a supply of eye rolls at the ready, most of which she reserves for her mother. She says Mary shows up not to work, but to boss people around.
You’re fired. Also, grounded.
People such as Server Maria who, when asked to describe Mary, can’t even muster a family-friendly adjective. You know you’re the problem when your employee’s impression of you isn’t clean enough for broadcast.
Mary spends a lot of time telling Greg to change the way he runs things, and tells Mary that if she wants to see changes happen, she needs to get involved. Mary is having none of that, though, because she doesn’t like to work. Oh neat, I didn’t realize work was optional for business owners. When Greg tries to engage her in a constructive conversation, Mary just shuts down. Hey, conversation can also be hard work.
Daughter Ana laments that the business is ruining her parents’ marriage, and Greg tells us that the relationship isn’t strong enough to withstand losing the restaurant, which I assume they are on the brink of doing, even though nothing has been said so far beyond the whole Mary’s A Bitch issue.
Enter Gordon! After fondling and conversing briefly with the pair of statues flanking the entrance, he ambushes a star struck Mary, who is nothing but smiles, though a bit worried about the double accent barrier. He’s almost rudely impresses by how nice Zocalo is, so I guess he was expecting a shithole. That kind of remark always runs me wrong, like that time I attended a gathering about two months after giving birth, and people made a point of telling me how surprised they were that I’d lost as much weight as I had. It’s supposed to be a compliment, but really it just emphasizes their low expectations.
Mary seats Gordon and drags Greg out of the back to greet him. They all sit down together and they regale him with the tale of their personal history and how it’s entwined with the restaurant. So many happy memories, but now they’re being tainted by slow business and the resulting fallout. Greg says they’re making about half of what they need to make on a weekly basis, and sometimes as low as $300 a day. Yikes. Gordon asks what’s changed between the time they bought it and the present, and you’ll be happy to know we can all mark the Quality Product, Great Menu, and In Denial squares on our Kitchen Nightmares Bingo cards!
Greg says the quality of the food has not changed, and we’ve totally never heard that before. Mary begs to differ, though, and we start to see some tension between them. Gordon asks Greg to walk him through a typical day, and about eight hours and a freaking montage later, Greg finishes talking. Then Gordon asks Mary what she contributes, and it’s nothing but dead air. She gives Greg this glare that promises no good if he makes her look bad in front of Gordon, but he just laughs and drags her under the bus. Her work amounts to part-time at the most, he says, and she counters this with tears, because poor her. Greg tells Gordon that Mary routinely threatens to leave him and move back to Mexico if he doesn’t get it together and support the family. BACK to Mexico? What, for the booming economy, many lucrative employment opportunities, and upscale, family-friendly communities?
She didn’t mean to, but I think Mary said it all here. I mean, I’ve heard Philly can be rough, but damn.
Greg slowly changes colors and breaks down under the pressure of talking about his responsibilities. Let’s ease up on this dude for a few and feed Gordon.
Maria is given the job of serving him, but before he even glances at the menu, he’s digging for the gossip on how much work Mary actually does. Not much, Maria confirms. To top that off, she can’t tell Gordon anything about the menu because she’s never had anything on it–the prices are too high for her to afford to eat there. Yeah, I can see that. If the place does $300 in business a day, and we make the exceedingly optimistic assumption that people are tipping 20 percent across the board, then Maria only sees a fraction of the $60 in gratuity that place hauls in from open to close. Damn. I tell you, if that was all I pulled down per shift, the last thing I’m going to do is turn around and drop a Jackson on enchiladas. Top Ramen it is!
Maria might be the lucky one in the scenario though, because all Greg can do is hope Gordon doesn’t heave up the food before it reaches his intestines. However, it looks like someone already did that, caught it in a bowl, and called it queso fundido. “Chef Ramsay no feel happy,” Mary observes. Indeed, Mary. Indeed. He also no feel happy with the chili relleno, and the un-Mexican cheese gumming up the center of it. The rest of the food goes over about the same, and Mary tells Gordon the food was better when she made it. So why doesn’t she make it still, Gordon wants to know? The kitchen is too small and hot and full of work!
Gordon tells her the food is caca, which is hilarious. I love when he gets all ethnic.
Of course Greg is still convinced they serve quality fare, though even he admits he wouldn’t pay their prices for any of it. “Why did you set the prices so high then?” Gordon asks, catching Mary in a lie. She told him earlier that Greg set the prices, but Greg claims he never had a say in it. They argue about who did what and who raised the prices, and Mary finally admits it was her. Then when Gordon starts in on her, she sasses him and deflects the animosity by flouncing away. I love it when people scream “Let me finish!” then stand there with their eyes closed, not finishing, as if recovering from the interruption. People can be so fucking precious and delicate.
Greg is optimistic about dinner service, and is looking forward to hearing from Gordon what needs fixing. That’s refreshing and odd. The good news is, Gordon can tell him that what needs fixing for starters is half the damn equipment in the kitchen. It’s a disaster back there, and most of the major components of the cooking stations need repairs.
I’ve found your problem: your kitchen is built entirely of caca.
First things first, though, because it’s dinner time! Orders start rolling in and Gordon sneers at their reliance on the microwave. Well their oven is broken, Gordon–what do you want them to do, buy a new one? Jeez. Also, we see that Jerome, through no fault of his own, ends up standing around half the night because Greg wants to do everything himself. That’s noble I guess, and at least he’s not a slacker, but it means things move at a snail’s pace and customers are waiting ages for their food. Mary’s nasal brays resound through the kitchen as Greg and his two hands and two working burners proceed to fuck everything up. The food just isn’t good, and Greg won’t listen to the customer feedback because he’s too busy doing everything to tolerate Mary wailing in his face.
So someone else gets the brunt. Tough break, Gordon.
After service, Gordon pulls Greg aside and tells him his methods are not conducive to running a successful business. Also, his wife is an insane harpy. But Greg knew that. Greg is overwhelmed, knowing that the weight of their livelihood rests on his shoulders. Mary wants him to hire more help, but there’s no money to hire more help, and Greg already underuses Jerome. Gordon apparently has something serious to say, because he kicks the cameramen out of the kitchen for his next words.
Not to worry, though, because there’s plenty of footage of Gordon trashing Mary and basically telling Greg that their marriage is a nightmare. Nothing new to see here. Gordon insists Greg can’t turn things around on his own, but Greg doesn’t want to hear this. His job as a man is to singlehandedly support the family, and accepting a modicum of outside help could very well cause his testicles to turn black and drop off. I guess. Because that’s about how ridiculous it sounds. Running a restaurant is hard work, and not something to be taken on by a single individual, especially when said individual’s wife is full of talk about Mexico being greener pastures.
Gordon gets up early the next day and meets Greg at the restaurant. He’s got his marriage counselor hat on, and wants to open up and discuss feelings. He sees that Greg doesn’t feel like he has the support of his family, so he sets up that hidden camera chat, settling Greg in front of the monitor while he saunters in to discuss the situation with Mary, Ana, and Gabby.
Now maybe I’m giving them too much credit, but I assume that the people featured on this show must also watch the show at some point. So why is everyone surprised by the hidden camera thing every time? If I was on a show with Gordon Ramsay and he sat me down to chat without my business partner/boss/spouse/what have you, I’d immediately assume that person was watching me on a monitor and I wouldn’t say a goddam word about them I wouldn’t say to their face. Gordon Ramsay is a crafty bastard, and you can’t be too careful when he starts in on the Dr. Drew stuff.
Mary and Co. either aren’t thinking, or just don’t care, because the daughters have no trouble expressing their opinions, and inform Gordon that Greg is clearly miserable but doesn’t talk about it. The two of them see a clear difference between Before Dad, who tended bar and was happy, and After Dad, the stressed out, workaholic shell watching them on hidden camera. They prefer Before Dad.
You can’t blame him though, Gordon says, because he’s forced to do everything himself. He asks what would happen if Greg was unable to work, and Mary immediately says she’d take over the business. Ha! Since she has trouble working full time hours as it is, I’m inclined to believe that’s bullshit, and Gabby flat calls her on it.
Points to Gabby for the stealth bird. Nicely done, Gabby.
Gordon wants to know how she plans on doing that, and it all involves hiring people they can’t afford. And then the truth comes out: Mary doesn’t want to do more work because she doesn’t like work, full stop. Let me just cry her the Suwannee, folks. Gordon tells her that this was their project, their dream, and she can’t just leave it up to him and do nothing but nag and bitch and moan all the time.
And then. Gordon asks where the love went…and Mary says she doesn’t know. She doesn’t love him like she used to. This is in front of her kids, in front of the cameras, in front of the world. Is she really about to confess that she doesn’t love her husband at all? Greg, who is unable to hold back the tears, watches this unfold.
Damn. This is a rough episode. But it’s okay! No, it is, she still does love him a lot. Gordon calls Greg in and they all chat about support and Greg’s inability to ask for help. Mary does a total 180 and tells him he’s not alone and she is there to help. Well, as long as that doesn’t involve work, right?
Now that we’ve fixed your marriage, let’s have a snack!
Gordon does the remodel proud with a new menu and a new oven and range on which to cook it. Even Greg is excited about the new food. Now all he needs to do is let Jerome help him every now and again.
But Gordon’s not done yet. He’s gone and gotten them a new tablet-based ordering system, which keeps track of inventory and takes credit cards. Mary is moved to tears. He also set up an internship system with a local culinary program, trading free line labor for extra credit. These folks will help drag the kitchen out of the doldrums for low price of nothing. Between this and the reduced menu items, they hope to bring in a bit more profit.
Someone put Mary in charge of expediting on reopening night though, and server Brielle informs us that all she’s doing is harassing the kitchen staff and giving me a headache. Of course their communication issues cause a backup, and things get all logjammed. The interns are losing focus, the servers are bickering with Mary, and things are coming apart at the seams.
Gordon finally drags Mary out of the kitchen and tells her to clam up. All they need to hear from her is some constructive criticism, and if she can’t open her mouth without unloading a world of misery, she needs to keep it shut. Poor Jerome, not used to being asked for help, is on things, though, and once Mary stops with the negativity, he, Greg, and the interns pull it together.
Gordon reiterates the importance of everyone working together, and what a marvelous difference communication and a constructive relationship made. He assures them that the restaurant can be a success if they keep up the efforts he saw during the relaunch. The family hugs it out and seems genuinely happy. There’s some random teenage boy in the mix, so they apparently adopted a son somewhere on the way. Good for them.
Zocalo, with the help of unpaid interns and the new truce with Greg and Mary, actually does well in the following weeks. I peeked at their online menu, and it looks like the prices have come way down, which probably brings in more business, because hell if I’m paying more than around $12 tops for an enchilada platter.
So there you have it! A finale, at long last. Thanks for hanging in there with me, and for commenting. I know it was kind of a ghost town in here some weeks, and I’ve decided to blame the screwy airing schedule. I’ll be recapping Nurse Jackie starting April 8, so if you’re a fan, join me as I catch up with her crazed junkie ass and spend some time with Thor and Zoe and Hot Sam and the rest of the wildly dysfunctional yet somehow lovable bunch. Love to all!
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