PJ's Steakhouse is located in the very populated Queens enclave of Forest Hills, but the restaurant itself is empty. Spouses Joe and Madalyn opened the eatery in honor of Joe's deceased brother, PJ, who once owned a bar in the same building. These days, the restaurant is suffering from a slew of problems. Joe and Madalyn come from a construction background and know little about restaurant management. Cocky chef Eric thinks his food is wonderful, despite the fact that the customers don't agree. The troubled restaurant has cost Joe and Madalyn everything - their house, their cars, and the nice life they once enjoyed, prompting Joe to drown his sorrows by constantly drinking at the restaurant's bar.
When Chef Ramsay arrives, there's no one out front to greet him, and he finally finds owner Joe at (where else?) the bar. He also meets Madalyn and Eric. Chef Ramsay says that he was truly impressed by how beautiful the restaurant is, so he wonders what's wrong with it. Joe admits that he thought running a restaurant would be easier and that they've run into trouble.
When Chef Ramsay sits down and takes a look at the menu he's shocked to find only two types of steak, since a good steakhouse should offer eight to ten kinds. He orders several items, and chef Eric, as usual, is feeling confident. When the first course, a crab cake with coolie mango sauce, arrives, Chef Ramsay thinks it looks like a modern art painting; he says it tastes disgusting, and then he even finds pieces of plastic in it. Gross!
Next he digs into the filet mignon, which he finds tough. Finally, he tries a plate of lobster raviolis, which also gets a failing grade. Chef Ramsay heads back to the kitchen to tell Eric his food is pretty embarrassing. Eric says that he's the one running the place, but Madalyn takes issue with that statement, angrily explaining that she's here every day - and Joe should be overseeing everything too and should get his butt off the barstool. When Joe admits that he's given up, Chef Ramsay says that attitudes are going to have to change in order for PJ's to succeed.
Later, Chef Ramsay sits down with Madalyn, who tells him about Joe's brother's death and how they've spent a whopping $1.2 million on the restaurant. They need to make between $17,000 and $18,000 a week to break even, but they're only taking in about $4,000 a week right now. They've gotten rid of everything, including Madalyn's dream house, to keep this restaurant, but it brought Joe out of the depression he was in after his brother died, so to Madalyn, it's been worth it.
That evening, Chef Ramsay observes a dinner service - one that's busier than usual since word has spread in the community about the celebrity chef's visit. Chef Ramsay soon realizes that Eric doesn't communicate well - or at all - with his kitchen staff. The kitchen is taking quite a while to get food out to increasingly hungry customers. Madalyn matter-of-factly states that eating at PJ's is usually a two-hour endeavor.
Plates finally start arriving at tables, but for most diners, it wasn't worth the wait. As many patrons start sending food back, Madalyn gets argumentative and proves that she doesn't exactly have the best people skills. Having seen enough of the dinner service, Chef Ramsay heads downstairs to the walk-in refrigerator where he finds moldy lemons, rotten tomatoes, and lettuce that's turned black.
After the restaurant closes up for the evening, he brings Joe, Madalyn, and Eric downstairs to show them the awful things he's found and says that it shows him that no one cares. Madalyn says that it's Eric job to continually check on what's in the fridge, and it's their job to make sure he does it.
The next day, armed with a video camera, Chef Ramsay interviews locals on the street about their thoughts on PJ's and then shows the video to PJ's owners and staff members. No surprise here: The videotaped comments are all negative. Chef Ramsay says it's time to turn things around. After the "screening," Chef Ramsay sits down with Madalyn and Joe and explains that the restaurant can't go any further if they continue to be so tolerant of Eric's incompetence. Chef Ramsay says he'll give him one last chance to save his job Just prior to the night's dinner service, Chef Ramsay introduces a few menu specials, including a mixed grill platter. He explains to Eric that he's going to have to show him spot-on timing and tells Joe he doesn't want to see him anywhere near the bar. Madalyn will be running the restaurant tonight, while Joe will be on the salad station.
Food starts leaving the kitchen quickly - maybe too quickly since the first mixed grill platter gets sent back for being too cold. Still, the dish is super popular and 21 tables order it. Unfortunately, nearly every customer who tries it is unhappy with Eric's preparation. Chef Ramsay says that he's never seen anything this bad, and Eric walks out, which prompts PJ's to shut down for the night. Chef Ramsay says that he's willing to bring a new chef in and pay him personally for the first month to help turn the business around. Joe and Madalyn decide to let Eric go.
The next day, Chef Ramsay introduces the restaurant's new name - PJ's Grill - and shows Joe and Madalyn an area of the restaurant he's decorated with family photos as a tribute to PJ. Then it's time for the biggest introductions of all: PJ's new casual menu and the restaurant's new chef, Mark. The new menu includes steak frites, chicken scallopini, and Irish stew.
Before they open, Chef Ramsay takes Madalyn aside and says that he needs to see her show a little warmth to the customers. To help, he's brought in Enda, the general manager of Gordon Ramsay at the London.
Shortly after dinner service kicks off, Madalyn is surprised to see one of the gentlemen from the criticism video walk in with a guest for dinner. They've got another chance to turn him into a happy customer.
The kitchen gets off to a strong start, but it's Madalyn who seems to be slacking. Enda finds her sitting on the couch chatting with a friend and encourages her to get back to work. She soon discovers that the critical customer from the video has yet to be served. When she inquires about the missing meal to the kitchen staff, she learns that their dinners were sent to the wrong table. Luckily, Madalyn manages to quickly remedy the situation and the once-unhappy customer is now thrilled - which means Madalyn is too. The night ends on a high note as PJ's successfully serves a total of 90 customers, all of whom leave happy. Chef Ramsay says he finally saw two passionate owners. An emotional Joe reveals that it's the first time in many years he feels his brother is watching over him.
"Kitchen Nightmares" checked back in with Joe and Madalyn after Chef Ramsay left. And while the business did improve, the couple made the difficult decision to close PJ's Grill and return to the construction business.
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