Gordon Ramsay visits the historic Cambridge Hotel in Upstate New York. The 16-bedroom establishment includes a large restaurant and has been in business for almost 150 years. The hotel now belongs to ex-military man and local lawyer John Imhof, who had persuaded his family to help him buy the hotel in 2007 - but unfortunately John and his wife Tina don't have any previous hospitality experience.
It seems that the hotel's guests frequently complain of shortcomings that range from dirty rooms to missing amenities such as remote controls for the TVs. Rich Wilson, John's executive chef, says his boss is "a control freak." General manager Brittany Thomas says John's overbearing approach leaves her hands tied. In the meantime, they are $750,000 in debt, and Tina is no longer willing to keep putting the family's money into the business.
When Gordon walks up to the Cambridge Hotel, he reads a sign that says "Home of Pie à la Mode," a bit of trivia that is new to him. In the lobby he finds another placard that reads "R.I.P.," and Brittany explains that this refers to the ghost of four-year-old Alice, a girl who died there in 1913 and reportedly haunts the hotel today. As Brittany shows Gordon to his room, he sees that the staircase to the third floor, where Alice "lives," is roped off.
When Gordon arrives in his room, he is not so pleasantly surprised by the floral-on-floral-on-floral décor. He then inspects the rough towels in the bath and hole-filled linens on the bed. Next he meets with the owners and tells them their hotel is stunning - until you get inside.
Gordon is dumbfounded to discover that John and Tina's parents have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into the hotel, and even the couple's children have lent them money. In desperation, they are also planning to sell their home and move into the third floor.
Next Gordon takes some time to observe the owners in action. He sees that while John constantly keeps himself busy, he is doing all of the wrong things. As Gordon notes, "His fussing-and-fidgeting is killing the hotel's atmosphere."
Gordon then sits down to sample the food in the restaurant but finds it is no better than the hotel's atmosphere. Prep cook Scooter Telford says he's disappointed that they use frozen food instead of cooking fresh. Gordon hopes that at least the apple pie à la mode will be an improvement, but he is once again disappointed.
When Gordon takes Tina aside, she admits that John is a great lawyer but a horrible hotel owner, and she also mentions that her suggestions always get pushed aside. Rich and Brittany confirm that John controls everything. Gordon decides to confront John, telling him, "It's not ghosts that are scaring the regulars away - it's you."
The next morning Gordon brings John and Tina to his room, where all of the guests have gathered to voice their complaints about the hotel. Their issues range from hairs in the towels to uncomfortable beds to broken door locks.
Then Gordon points out to the owners and the guests the most serious problem he has encountered: At night the main entrance door is not locked, there is no front desk staff and a key to every room hangs visibly on the wall along with personal details on every guest. He is appalled by the lack of security.
But Gordon still has one part of the hotel to inspect - the haunted third floor. When he arrives in the abandoned rooms, he discovers that a mannequin has been placed by the window to give the illusion of Alice the ghost.
Gordon then unleashes his plan of action. He asks Brittany to plan a ladies' night party in the hotel and requests that Rich prepare food with all fresh ingredients. While visiting the kitchen, Gordon discovers that Scooter is going to culinary school. He tells Gordon that he was encouraged to try cooking because his physical disabilities kept him from taking part in other activities, and he hopes someday to become an executive pastry chef.
Brittany has gotten the word out that she's in charge, and people are now flocking to the hotel. When John tries to help, Tina and Brittany kick him out. Gordon locks John in a room on the third floor and asks him to ponder a future living there.
When John and Tina's daughter Shea arrives, Gordon asks her to go speak to her dad and see if he's ready to change. Shea finally talks some sense into John, who seems ready to commit to doing things differently. After a successful night at the hotel under Brittany and Rich's control, John finally admits he needs to trust his employees.
Gordon's design team works around the clock to bring the hotel into the 21st century. When the transformation is complete, he unlocks the main door to reveals a revamped room, complete with wood floors, new furniture and white drapes to minimize the floral wallpaper. He also has given the hotel $75,000 worth of brand-new linens and towels.
Gordon then moves downstairs to the newly dubbed A La Mode Room. Here the establishment will serve their signature dish, with a new recipe that they own and can sell to their guests. Scooter cries at the thought of serving homemade pie.
Guests are beginning to arrive at the new hotel and are enjoying the home-cooked menu. In his final chat with Tina and John, Gordon takes down the "R.I.P." sign in the hallway and says, "Long live the Cambridge."
But Gordon has one last stop to make before he leaves. In the kitchen he tells Scooter that he wants to finance his culinary schooling and help him get on track to open his bakery. All Gordon wants in return is a fresh loaf of bread.