In 2005 Abby and her best friend Rico bought a restaurant called DownCity in the heart of vibrant Providence, Rhode Island, a city that's home to seven colleges. While Rico has another full-time day job, Abby - who's been in the restaurant business for 33 years - spends all her time tending to DownCity. Rico may be the checkbook behind the eatery, but he's put his trust in Abby to run things properly ... and get customers in. She insists that the restaurant is beautiful, the menu is creative, and the food is good, but she can't figure out what's gone wrong.
The servers have less than glowing things to say about Abby's tough personality, and they believe that she's part of DownCity's problem. Waiter Will thinks Abby often doesn't take customer complaints about the food to heart, explaining, "Just Abby saying it's great does not make it great."
Since Abby designed the menu, she simply won't accept criticism. Now, with Rico facing serious financial troubles and possibly bankruptcy if the business fails, he's hoping Chef Ramsay can help.
Chef Ramsay arrives and is greeted by Abby, who tells him that DownCity's food is a 10 out of 10. He says he's starving because the room service he had at the hotel next door was awful. But wait - DownCity is in charge of the room service! He says the soup and "ball of mush" crab cakes he tried were cold and disgusting. Abby responds by telling him not only is that impossible, but Chef Ramsay is one of those customers she would "fire" immediately.
As Chef Ramsay sits down to lunch, Abby is dying to make some menu suggestions, but he's wary of her opinion since she thought the room service was so spectacular. He says that he can't help her unless she's going to be honest with him, telling her, "I've been here five minutes and already you're in denial." He orders crispy calamari, "three-way" nachos, and DownCity's signature meatloaf. Then he chats a bit with head waiter Jason, who describes the food as "below par."
When the calamari arrives, Chef Ramsay hates the fact that it's soaking wet from being tossed in sauce. He spits out the first soggy and chewy piece he tries. Next come the nachos, which he says look dreadful. He declares the dish more like a funeral in his mouth than the "party in your mouth" the menu touts. Finally, he finds the restaurant's "award-winning" meatloaf lukewarm and gross.
After lunch, Chef Ramsay calls the staff together and asks who is the head chef. It turns out there really isn't one. Abby takes full responsibility for putting the menu together, which Chef Ramsay says is ridiculous, because she has no cooking background. The two argue a bit more about Abby's state of denial before Chef Ramsay steps out for some fresh air.
Abby tells her staff that she doesn't care what Chef Ramsay says; he's wrong, and the meatloaf is great. All of the staffers admit that they don't like the menu or the food. Abby says that she feels like she's been stabbed in the back.
Rico arrives shortly before dinner service and has a private chat with Chef Ramsay, letting him know that he has $1 million at stake in the restaurant. If it goes bankrupt, he could lose his day job in the mortgage business because he advises people on their finances.
With dinner service underway, Chef Ramsay heads back to the kitchen and is disgusted by how messy it is. When he explores the walk-in refrigerator, he finds even more of a mess, including chicken carcasses and moldy old lamb bones. He calls Rico and Abby (who are dealing with lots of unhappy customers sending back their meals) down to take a look at the improperly stored food, disorganization, and old ingredients.
Abby insists that the refrigerator wasn't like that before and goes off on a swear-laced tirade. The two quickly get into a yelling match during which Abby orders Chef Ramsay to leave. He screams back that she's in denial and needs therapy, and then he storms out.
Rico follows him out to the street, where Chef Ramsay explains that he's simply not going to take that kind of attitude from someone who is so in denial. Rico wants him to stay, but Chef Ramsay says that he's going to need his help. Chef Ramsay goes back inside and explains to Abby that while he's had failure in his life, he's not in denial and can admit when he makes a mistake. Tomorrow, she needs to start being honest so he can start rebuilding. She concedes that she's ready for his help.
The next day Chef Ramsay sits down with the entire staff to let them talk freely for once. They each write down a question they want answered. When questions come up about menu size and food quality, chef Jimmy explains that keeping up quality standards is difficult when there are so many items on the menu. During the exercise, the staffers explain that they really care about the restaurant, and Abby admits that she's way too defensive. She's ready to embrace change.
For that night's dinner service, Chef Ramsay takes half the items off the menu and introduces a roasted chicken special. Orders start rolling in, and the kitchen is sending out food that looks better than usual. Abby is calm and under control as well, which means that the dinner service is off to a good start. But things quickly take a bad turn when the kitchen starts to get swamped, Abby gets stressed, customers are left waiting, and complaints start rolling in.
Abby says that Jimmy has no excuses for falling behind since, this time, he can't blame a big menu. After the final entrees make it out, Abby and Rico tell Jimmy that the kitchen's slow speed was unacceptable, and Abby wonders if they can ever improve. Later, Abby admits to Chef Ramsay that the kitchen's collapse under the weight of so many orders happens all the time and that she's losing confidence. Chef Ramsay explains that he's called in a new consulting chef who will arrive tomorrow to whip the kitchen crew into shape.
The next morning, with new consulting chef James working with the kitchen staff, Chef Ramsay introduces a new menu to Abby, Rico, and the servers. Appetizers include a goat cheese truffle dip and meatball sliders, while the new entrée list features lobster mac and cheese, as well as bacon-wrapped Angus meatloaf. A teary Abby exclaims that this truly is creative comfort food and she had no idea DownCity's menu could get this good.
That night, after dinner service kicks off, a very important customer walks in - an influential local food blogger who previously wrote a scathing review of DownCity.
As Jimmy gets into a groove in the kitchen, the customers are embracing the new menu in the dining room, pleased with everything that's come out. But things come to a screeching to a halt as Abby and Jimmy have a communication breakdown with each other. Many diners are left waiting - including the writer who looks as if she's blogging live from the table. Chef Ramsay calls Abby aside and encourages her to find her voice and get control of the kitchen. Finally, the blogger's appetizers get to the table - albeit a bit late - and she gives the truffle dip a glowing accolade on Twitter. Jimmy climbs back into the driver's seat in the kitchen and manages to get entrees out at a good pace. The customers, including the blogger, are thrilled with everything they try.
After dinner Chef Ramsay commends the owners and staff members on pulling off a great service. Abby and Chef Ramsay - who started out as enemies - give each other a hug. After he leaves, Chef Ramsay says that the restaurant's biggest transformation was Abby, and if she can keep her cool, DownCity will be a huge success.
After Chef Ramsay left, Chef James stayed on to train Jimmy and the rest of the kitchen staff. Abby rewarded Jimmy with a promotion to head chef. Abby and Rico came up with some grassroots marketing strategies and were able to keep the momentum going.
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