Kitchen Nightmares Episode Recaps

Zocalo

Zocalo

Aired: 3/30/12

On this episode of "Kitchen Nightmares," Chef Gordon Ramsay visits University City, Pennsylvania, in the heart of West Philadelphia. The thriving neighborhood houses Zocalo, an authentic Mexican restaurant run by longtime employees-turned-owners Greg and Mary Russell.

Mary worked as a tortilla maker in a station across from the bar that Greg tended at Zocalo. They eventually got married and purchased the eatery in 2008.

Greg says that when they bought the restaurant it seemed like a dream come true. But their storybook ending has turned into a nightmare. Greg says that he thought he and Mary would be partners, but he works all the time and she only comes in three days a week. And when she's at Zocalo she constantly complains.

Their own daughter Gabby, who is the restaurant's bartender, says her mother wants to tell everyone what to do but not work herself. Their other daughter, Ana, who is a server at Zocalo, says that the restaurant is ruining her parent's marriage.

Upon arrival, Chef Ramsay is impressed with the look of the establishment. But while chatting with Greg and Mary, he discovers that despite a strong start, their sales are now about half of where they need to be.

As Greg runs down his daily schedule, Chef Ramsay realizes that Greg is keeping up an exhausting pace and that Mary doesn't really contribute. Greg confesses that they're $750,000 in debt and on the verge of losing their house. He says that Mary has threatened to move back to her home in Mexico if Greg can't support his family.

In addition to their personal problems, Chef Ramsay also discovers that the prices are high and the food is not up to his standards. Upon tasting the queso fundido he comments that he can feels his "arteries squeezing." He declares that most of the food is just bland.

Chef Ramsay tells Greg that his food is subpar. He chastises the restaurateur for microwaving cheese and tells him that he's got his head in a noose for charging such high prices. And he tells Mary that they're driving people away because their food is too expensive.

That night at dinner service, it becomes clear that the Zocalo kitchen is not up to snuff. Upon inspection, Chef Ramsay sees that half the oven doesn't work and the pilot lights are broken.

As guests arrive and orders come in, Greg falls behind and gets confused. He won't let Jerome the cook help him, insisting on doing all the work himself. As a result, patrons are left hungry, waiting for their food for up to 90 minutes. On top of that, they are dissatisfied by the quality of the meals when food finally arrives. As if things weren't tense enough, Mary spends the night nagging Greg about his cooking.

With dinner service complete, Chef Ramsay calls Greg aside for a reality check: this is not the way to run a business. In a surprising move, the chef asks the camera crew to step outside so he can talk to Greg. With everyone gone, Greg tells Chef Ramsay that he just can't let the restaurant fail because he doesn't want to lose his family.

The next day, Chef Ramsay meets Greg at Zocalo and asks him to watch a monitor while he goes into another room to have a hidden-camera chat with Mary and their daughters. The girls wish their dad would walk away from the business, but Chef Ramsay tells them that if their father quits, the family will lose everything. While Mary initially refuses to pitch in, she ultimately admits that she still loves Greg.

Greg joins his family members, who finally realize that they need to support him. He promises them that he'll ask for help. Mary vows to do her part.

With the family back on track, Chef Ramsay has another surprise for Greg. He escorts him to the kitchen and shows him his brand-new oven. The chef also reveals a revamped, lower-priced menu. Greg loves the new food and believes that it will appeal to a whole new clientele.

And there's one last surprise: a state-of-the-art ordering system. The servers will take tablet computers to the tables and instantly transmit the orders back to the kitchen. All these updates bring Mary to tears. She says that now she and Greg can truly realize their dreams.

In an attempt to strengthen Greg's kitchen staff, Chef Ramsay brings in two culinary students from Drexel University for support. Greg welcomes the help.

At relaunch that night, there's excitement in the air as Mary and Greg face the challenge as a team for the first time in years. Mary gets off to a good start expediting the orders, but then she starts yelling at Greg, creating chaos in the kitchen. The couple's communication breakdown causes orders to back up, and the service continues to unravel.

When Chef Ramsay pulls Mary aside and reminds her what's at stake, she adjusts her attitude, and the kitchen gets back on track. Greg becomes the leader that his staff always hoped he'd be. And with Mary and Greg on the same page, the dinner service starts running smoothly.

When dinner is complete, the family sits with Chef Ramsay, who tells the couple that when they work together it's magical. The chef urges them all to look after one another going forward.

In the weeks that followed, the dinner services at Zocalo became smoother and smoother. The Drexel students were an integral part of the team. And most importantly, Greg got what he always wanted: his family's support and Mary back as a true partner.

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