Kitchen Nightmares Episode Recaps

El Greco

El Greco

Aired: 1/20/12

Chef Ramsay takes a trip to Austin, Texas, to visit an authentic Greek restaurant opened in 2007 by Jake and his mother, Athena. While business was booming in the first six months, things have taken a turn for the worse. Jake spends only a few hours a day at the establishment; he says he can't deal with his mother's nagging. In turn, he responds to her yelling by screaming right back at her. The employees complain that both the food quality and morale are really low. Athena has put all her money into El Greco, and she says that if it fails she will be out on the streets.

When Chef Ramsay arrives, he meets Jake and Athena. They explain that Jake, who went to culinary school because his mother wanted to open a restaurant, is the head chef, but that Athena and her sister, Kiki, cook as well. In fact, Athena and Kiki do all the prep work because Jake doesn't arrive until five-and-a-half hours after his mother and aunt do. When he does show up, a fight usually erupts over how late he is. Athena, who has put $800,000 into the business, says, "I am not only losing all my money. I'm losing my son, too. . . . I'd rather be dead than have a son like you now."

After his gloomy introduction to the family, Chef Ramsay hopes that his lunch at El Greco will be a little more cheerful. He speaks with some of the staff, including kitchen manager Anthony, who reinforces what Chef Ramsay learned while talking to Athena. According to the employees, the problem starts with Jake and the fact that he spends only three hours a day at the restaurant.

Chef Ramsay then orders several items off the menu to get a taste of what they have to offer. He comments that the stuffed zucchini looks like "something out of an alien movie." The lamb shank and moussaka garner similar reviews. Dustin, the server, reveals to Chef Ramsay that his meal was prepared by "Chef Mike," as in the microwave, which does the majority of the cooking in the kitchen.

Despite Chef Ramsay's criticism of the quality of the food, Jake stands by what he serves as a "high-end, quality product." Chef Ramsay comes to the conclusion that Jake doesn't care anymore, a feeling that Athena agrees with. Chef Ramsay tells Athena, "The hardest restaurants to fix are the ones where the passion is gone." But he vows to try his best to help her.

That evening Chef Ramsay returns to observe service and see how El Greco operates with a full dining room. He is astounded that with 12 gas burners in the kitchen, all the cooks rely on "Chef Mike." But when the chef slams Jake for relying on the microwave, Jake makes a subtle distinction: he argues that he's not using it to cook; he's reheating with it. He claims that it "doesn't compromise the food." Chef Ramsay is appalled by this statement and stresses that Jake needs to have some respect for the what he is preparing.

As another day begins, Athena and Kiki arrive early as usual to start prepping for lunch and dinner. Jake is nowhere to be found. When he does get to the restaurant, the shouting immediately begins. Chef Ramsay arrives, ready to put some changes into effect, and he walks into the middle of a very typical family fight.

Chef Ramsay pleads with all three of them that this arguing has got to stop. He insists that Jake needs to arrive earlier every day and that Athena and Kiki need to "stop beating him with a stick." They all promise to wipe the slate clean and start fresh.

Now that the family has made a commitment to work together, Chef Ramsay has a surprise for the staff. He gathers them out back in the parking lot and then tosses the microwave out of the third story window, proclaiming, "Chef Mike has left the building."

Jake finally admits that by losing his passion he has hurt the business; he vows to get back to the basics. Then Chef Ramsay gives him a crash course in preparing fresh Greek food. Later that night, Chef Ramsay's team gives El Greco a renovation so that the restaurant will have its own unique identity.

Athena, Jake, and the staff arrive the following day to see a bright white-and-blue Mediterranean-style dining room. Then Chef Ramsay presents them with the new menu, which does not include any microwaved dishes. Athena and Jake are excited for their fresh start.

That evening is relaunch night at El Greco, and for the first time in years everything will be cooked to order. Jake starts out the evening with enthusiasm, but he takes on too much in the kitchen and delegates nothing to his employees. With Jake unwilling to accept help from anyone, the kitchen is completely stalled, and the relaunch is in jeopardy. Chef Ramsay demands that Jake ask his staff for help, and things finally get back on track.

When the restaurant closes, Chef Ramsay remarks, "In a matter of days we've come a very long way." Before leaving he offers one more piece of advice to Jake, asking him to show respect to his team and to his mother. Jake replies, "We're going to move forward and make something of it."

In the months that follow, El Greco receives positive feedback from the community, but Jake and Athena's insurmountable debt was too much to overcome. Despite their remarkable progress with the restaurant and their relationship, the mother and son are forced to close El Greco for good.

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