Kitchen Nightmares

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Kitchen Nightmares Episode Recaps

Mama Maria's

11/9/12

Chef Ramsay heads to Brooklyn, New York, to tackle the problems of a 55-year-old restaurant. The owner, John Esposito, left high school at the age of 14 and has been working at his parents' business, Sal's Pizzeria, ever since. The shop became so successful that in the 1990s the family purchased the space next door and named it Mama Maria's after John's mom, who passed in 2002. But when he also lost his dad, John became overwhelmed with running the two establishments, and business began to slide.

John spends most of his time making pizza in Sal's, while his staff runs Maria's. His employees say he is stubborn and not keeping up with the times. The owner knows that most people would have shut the doors, but to him shuttering the business would be like losing his parents all over again.

When Chef Ramsay arrives, he immediately notices the ripped awning out front. Gordon is baffled and goes to find the owner at the pizzeria. John tells Gordon the number one problem is that they aren't busy, and he doesn't know why. Chef Ramsay intends to find out.

He starts by ordering some food. Chef Joe knows the quality isn't good but says he has no control over it. He thinks Chef Ramsay will "have a heart attack" when he tries it.

As he waits for his meal, waitress Fran comes to his table to display the desserts. Gordon finds mold and is flabbergasted that Fabio thinks it's okay since it's not going to be eaten.

Gordon describes the food as bland, dry and disgusting and says that the pizza is greasy. And despite claims the pasta is cooked fresh daily, he says it tastes frozen. The chef admits the pasta is made fresh and then frozen.

Chef Ramsay heads to the kitchen looking for an explanation. When John offers the excuse that it takes too long to make meatballs fresh, Joe disagrees, telling him it is only ten minutes of work, and says he's embarrassed to be preparing the items on the menu Joe created years ago.

That night at dinner service, Gordon observes that John stays in the pizza shop all night and never goes into the kitchen at Mama Maria's. The kitchen puts out food at a steady pace, but the fast-arriving dishes are not pleasing the customers.

When a vegetarian customer finds a pork bone in her pasta, John admits there's meat in the sauce. When he hears of another patron in the bathroom getting sick, Gordon inspects the lobster and discovers it is bad. He tells John that this could kill someone.

They call an ambulance to attend to the ill patron, and Gordon shuts the place down. The staff must walk table to table informing the diners that they need to stop eating and leave immediately.

Chef Ramsay asks John why he is acting like a staff member instead of an owner. John cries, saying he stays in business for his family but is emotionally drained and not sure he can do it anymore. Gordon begs him to take a break, get some rest and come back ready to listen so they can succeed for the sake of John's four kids.

The next day, Chef Ramsay inspects several freezers and finds buckets of improperly frozen pasta, meats and sauces that are ruined, moldy and unusable. Horrified by the amount of frozen food, Chef Ramsay is determined to give John and his staff a much-needed wake-up call. He first informs them that last night's sick patron, who was taken to the emergency room, is fine and they dodged a big bullet.

Then he brings them into the dining room, where he has laid out all of the frozen food he discovered. Gordon tells John that there is enough there to serve for the next 12 months and still not run out.

John admits to knowing about the situation and takes responsibility for letting it get out of hand. Gordon also discovers that John has not changed the specials board since his parents passed away.

Gordon pleads with him to let go of the past so he can move on. John breaks down, quoting his child who said, "Ramsay's going to fix everything and we can spend more time together." Gordon demands a commitment that he will step away from the pizza oven and become a manager.

The following day, Chef Ramsay reveals the first important change - the awning is gone and a new sign hangs over the door. The interior has also been redesigned to be brighter and more vibrant and includes a photo tribute to John's parents on the walls. The owner can now let go of the past but retain his memories.

Mama Maria's relaunches that night with a new menu and dining room full of food critics and bloggers ready to spread the word. John may be very nervous as he seats writers from The New York Observer, but the kitchen is off to a good start.

Chef Joe pushes dishes out in a timely manner, but John seems to forget he is supposed to be overseeing his employees. When Gordon finds him hanging out at the bar with two customers, he reminds him that he needs to be everywhere. John steps up and circulates, talking to the diners and leading his staff.

John ultimately promises Gordon that he will come out of his shell and honor his parent's memories. After Chef Ramsay leaves, he keeps his word. Mama Maria's generates positive feedback from critics, and the 55-year-old restaurant is on its way back.

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