The 16th episode of Kitchen Nightmares was heartbreaking. Chiarella’s restaurant is located in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, but there is no heart in this kitchen. The food was predictably bad, but the owner, Tommy is the center of all the problems. He was suffering for years with undiagnosed depression. Looking up reviews for when the restaurant opened five years ago, the cuisine was fantastic. People loved their homemade tomato sauces and the selection of veal. As Tommy became more and more debilitated with his illness, the quality of the cooking followed.
It was a difficult episode to watch. Tommy and his wife, Dina, were having major marital problems. Dina was in denial about how seriously ill Tommy was, and had trouble coming to grips with the diagnosis. Tommy took all the issues of the restaurant and the failing marriage personally, and self perpetuated the nature of his unhappiness. Perhaps most telling is the secret room in the restaurants basement, where Tommy would take his frustrations out by lifting weights and punching holes into the walls.
Gordon’s task was three fold: to have Tommy admit he had depression and seek help, to awaken the passion in the rest of the staff, and to have Dina allow the chefs to cook good food. Gordon Ramsay spent intensive time with Tommy, on and off the cameras. In an interview, Tommy said that Gordon really cared about him as a person and wanted to make sure he had professional help.
After loosing up the stranglehold Dina had on the cooks, and reigniting Tommy’s passion for the business, the restaurant was ready to get back on its feet.
Chiarella’s has been getting progressively better reviews since Gordon’s intervention. One reviewer pointed out that the cost of $24 for a special menu item was too expensive, however, Gordon would have set those prices in accordance to the cost of importing the food. The same reviewer mentioned that overeager service would in future stop them from returning. The passion they now have is miles above where they started and is a great sign. Unfortunately for recovering businesses, these overly critical reviews can hinder the success they are striving for. It should be taken as an excellent sign that the staff have newfound passion and Tommy’s happiness is returning.
It was a hard episode to watch, but the signs are all there for a happy recovery to Tommy and Chiarella’s.