In the debut episode of Hotel Hell, Chef Gordon Ramsay visits the historic Juniper Hill Inn, which sits on a hilltop in the quaint village of Windsor, Vermont. Built in 1902, the country mansion boasts 28 luxurious bedrooms and two grand dining rooms. The inn's owners, antiques dealer Robert Dean II and his boyfriend, Ari Nikki, have filled the hotel with artworks and collectibles. Robert hoped to make Juniper Hill an elite country estate destination, but now it's barely functioning.
The initial problem stems from the fact that Robert has no hotel or restaurant experience. As a result, the eatery prices are too steep for the locals, and rooms run $350 a night with a two-night minimum stay. There's also a lack of communication between the boss and the staff. With bookings at an all-time low, the hotel is in serious financial trouble.
Yet Robert is living a millionaire's dream. He treats the inn like it's a playground for himself and his friends - comping their meals and rooms, while the servers go without tips. They owners are even having a hard time paying their employees, including estate manager Ryan Rediker.
Before he goes to the inn, Chef Ramsay stops in town to see what the locals have to say. One business proprietor tells him that the hotel is beautiful but on the high end for the area. She adds that she feels as if she'd be intruding if she were to visit Juniper Hill.
Gordon is immediately impressed by the beauty of the hotel but is surprised that the front door is locked. After traipsing around the property, he discovers that he has to enter through a backdoor.
His initial take on the common area is that it could be a beautiful room, but it's difficult to tell because it looks like the "aftermath of an antiques fair." Gordon doesn't feel comfortable there; he feels like he's in a museum.
Robert tells Gordon that they're lucky if they take in $15,000 a month, while the hotel costs $30,000 monthly to operate. They are losing roughly $200,000 a year. To top it off, they've already sunk $1 million into the business. Although they're in trouble, Gordon says the property looks more like "Buckingham Palace than Skid Row."
When he goes to his room, Gordon finds that it smells like sewage and asks to be moved. After unpacking, he prepares to go down to the kitchen for lunch. He's stunned to learn that the inn only serves a daytime meal upon request.
When Gordon realizes that there are no prices on the menu, he calls in Robert to explain what he is charging for the food. The inn's prix fixe menu runs a minimum of $59 per person for three courses. However, the proprietor doesn't seem to care that the locals don't want to pay that much, because he doesn't deem them "appropriate people" to patronize his establishment.
Upon sampling the crab cakes, Gordon finds them to be small and soapy tasting. The lamb, which costs an extra $15 per plate, is raw and too sweet. His server, Barbara Walker, explains that their former chef recently left because she wasn't getting reimbursed for produce she bought on her own credit card. Gordon does like the dessert, only to find out that it wasn't made on the premises.
Gordon is in for another shock when he learns that Robert and Ari live in a $100,000 motor coach that they've parked outside the inn. Executive Chef Giulian Jones, who makes only $400 a week before taxes, says that the staff sees the RV as a symbol that they are surrounded by wealth while reminded of their own relative poverty.
Frustrated following the battle between the chef and the owner, Gordon leaves the hotel to visit with Ida, the former chef of Juniper Hill. She explains that two years into her tenure, Robert just stopped answering the phone and lost focus on maintaining his own business. Gordon extends an invitation for her to return to the inn at the end of the week to see the progress, but she graciously declines.
Upon returning to Juniper Hill, Gordon talks with the rest of the staff. They all confirm that they are not being paid on time. Ryan guides him to the root of the problem: a basement and storage units overflowing with furniture, antiques, and a myriad of personal items. Robert's office is a hoarder's heaven.
Gordon finally sits with Ari for a chat. Ari admits that he's sunk his entire life savings into the inn. It's time for him to face the fact that the hotel's biggest problem is Robert.
As guests arrive for dinner, David and Ari seat everyone at once, and there is chaos in the kitchen. The situation is no better at the bar, where they've misplaced 30 drinks. When burnt foie gras goes to the pass, Chef Ramsay demands that Robert take charge and communicate; he pushes Giulian to step up his game as well.
After dinner service is completed, Chef Ramsay gathers everyone in a room. The staff asks for structure and order in the kitchen. They point out that no one has been taught standards, and there is no guidance from the owners. Ari finally asserts himself, saying he's the boss. However, Gordon tells him that he has no right to call himself the boss if he isn't paying his employees. When Robert counters that they don't have to work there, Gordon loses his temper and calls him a "disrespectful, disgusting man."
Chef Ramsay challenges the proprietor to start from the bottom and begin running the inn as a business. The drama is to be continued on the next episode of Hotel Hell.