On the Season 4 premiere of "Kitchen Nightmares," Chef Ramsay heads to Plainfield, New Jersey. There he hopes to help Shelly Withers transform her soul food restaurant called Blackberry's.
Shelly had run a successful catering company, so she felt it was natural to move to open a restaurant. Her mother, Mary, invested her entire retirement fund into the business and helped make Shelly's dream come true.
Even though Shelly feels that Blackberry's has the perfect location and perfect food, she has no customers. Her Sous Chef Mateen believes that his boss is in denial about the d?cor and the quality of the food. He also thinks that Shelly's a control freak. Yet due to the lack of organization, the kitchen is in total chaos. As a result of all of these problems, Shelly is $200,000 in debt and barely holding on.When Chef Ramsay arrives, he's impressed by the "amazing, buzzy little town," which he feels is a great location for a restaurant. He's greeted by the hostess and immediately asks if the place is decorated for a party - the d?cor is bright yellow and purple with lots of 45 records hanging from the ceiling.
But it's time to focus on the food. Chef Ramsay sits down and takes a look at the menu. He orders collard greens, the smothered pork chop, mac and cheese, chitlins, and red velvet cake. As the kitchen whips up his meal, Shelly is confident that she'll get a phenomenal rating from Gordon.
As the pork chops and mac and cheese are served to Gordon, Portia, the cook, says that "Shelly is delusional about how fabulous her food is." Chef Ramsay seems to agree. He finds the pork dry and the pasta mushy.
Next out are the fried collard greens, which Gordon finds bland. But it's the odor of the chitlins that most concerns Chef Ramsay, who asks the staff to pray for him before he takes a bite. Assured he'll be fine, he samples the food and immediately spits it out. He rushes off to the bathroom to recover.
The only saving grace is dessert. Gordon finishes the meal with a slice of Mother Mary's red velvet cake and declares it delicious.
Chef Ramsay makes his way back to the kitchen, where he informs the staff that he just had "an embarrassing lunch." After giving his assessment, he challenges Mary to show him at dinner service why she thinks she's qualified to be the head chef.
When Gordon returns that evening, he discovers a dead mouse just inside the restaurant's front door. James, the General Manager and Shelly's fianc?e, accuses Chef Ramsay of planting the rodent for TV sake. Shelly, too, suggests that the mouse was put there for effect.
When Chef Ramsay threatens to leave, Shelly strikes first and says that she's leaving. But Mother Mary steps in and begs their guest to stay. James offers an apology, and Gordon agrees to stay.
Not long after, diners begin to fill the restaurant. But in the kitchen, Shelly's cooking methods are being questioned. Chef Ramsay is surprised to see that she's preparing soul food in a wok and pizza oven.
Despite ongoing chaos in the kitchen, dishes somehow manage to make their way to the hungry guests. But when the food arrives, the diners seem less than happy with the quality.
The following day, Chef Ramsay convenes the staff so that they can have a forum to address what's wrong with the business and discuss things they'd like to change. They bring up Shelly's need to be constantly in control. But when Dwayne attempts to share his concerns, Shelly tells him to leave. Gordon calls him back and points to the fragmented communication at the restaurant. Even Mother Mary states that Shelly needs to learn to listen.
But the restaurant owner is reluctant to hear the criticism. When Mother Mary is reduced to tears, her daughter agrees to get out of denial and address the problems.
To help put the restaurant on track, Gordon has arranged for the delivery of brand-new equipment. He also implements a new system, putting Mateen in charge. Then he suggests some modifications to the cooking techniques.
Before Blackberry's relaunches the following evening, Chef Ramsay gives the interior a much needed makeover. The former cafeteria style has been replaced with a more sophisticated atmosphere, which even incorporates broken records in the artwork. Gordon also unveils the updated menu featuring black-eyed pea fritters, barbecued pulled pork sliders, a Southern meatloaf sandwich, and fried chicken and waffles.
At the evening's service, the restaurant quickly fills up. Chef Mateen takes charge of the new system and seems to be working smoothly. On top of that, the customers are thrilled with the food. But Shelly is unable to relinquish control, and she storms out of the kitchen.
As Mateen leads the charge, the final entrees make their way to the hungry diners. With the successful relaunch under their belt, the staff gathers for a post-mortem. But Shelly refuses to even speak with Chef Ramsay, causing Mother Mary to tell her daughter that she's ashamed of her. Despite Shelly's behavior, Gordon congratulates the team and wishes them continued success.
In the weeks that follow, customers react well to the changes to the menu and d?cor. After witnessing the positive reviews, Shelly manages to embrace all that Chef Ramsay has done for Blackberry's.
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