TV Recap: Kitchen Nightmares - Handlebar

After last week’s touchy-feely love fest, this week gets us back to the Kitchen Nightmares we know and love. This week Gordon is traveling to Mt. Sinai, New York to visit The Handlebar. The Handlebar is owned by Billy, a former construction worker, and his beleagured wife.

Despite the fact that the 18-table dining room is empty most nights, and the fact that they’re on Kitchen Nightmares, Billy and his wife are confused as to why Ramsay thinks they have a problem. They think their food is great, their chef is great, and everything is working well. While they have no self-awareness, their chef, Melissa, certainly does.

“I think hiring me wasn’t necessarily the best idea.”

I’m not entirely sure why Melissa is head chef at The Handlebar. She says she never wanted to be a chef, and I may have misheard this, but it sounded like she just took the job to be near a guy she was dating. She realizes that she’s not a creative chef and that the food is generally crap. Of course, with four different menus, you can’t really expect one person to cook all of that well.

“Seafood crepe. Yeah. That’s seafood crap.”

Ramsay comes in and has his introductory lunch and the weirdest thing happens—he brings Billy over to tell him how good the Clam Chowder is. He says it’s well-seasoned and “perfect for a winter’s day.” I couldn’t believe it; I actually had to rewind and make sure I heard it right.

Ramsay, however, hasn’t completely lost his mind. He ordered the seafood crepe, and it included imitation crab meat. I honestly had no idea that imitation crabmeat was even used outside of grocery store sushi, but there you go. Even more confounding was the filet mignon fondue that Ramsay orders. They gave him hot oil in a fondue pot and had him deep fry his filet mignon. None of this made any sense to me, or Ramsay, for that matter.

“We’ll go to bankruptcy court and give it all up.”

Ramsay goes to Billy and gives him his assessment; namely that The Handlebar’s main problem is its food. Billy is absolutely flabbergasted by this remark, saying he’s never gotten complaints about the food before, so he never would have guessed that that’s what their problem was. Really? The food was never on your list of culprits when you thought of reasons your restaurant was failing? Huh. Interesting. Did you know that sometimes when clouds fill up with water it causes rain? Just a tip for future reference.

“We’re opening with a clean fridge and a healthy attitude.”

While the food may be The Handlebar’s biggest problem, the kitchen is its most disgusting one. Like many small restaurants, the previous owners didn’t exactly keep up on the cleaning. The problem is, that when Billy took it over a year ago, neither did he. As a result, there is grease and grime that has been building up since the Reagan administration. That, combined with the more imminent problem of rotting food everywhere, makes it difficult to enjoy your next meal out without imagining what’s lurking in the walk-in.

“There was no part of me that wanted Chef Ramsay here.”

Not only is Billy not self-aware in the slightest, but he butts heads with Ramsay over everything. Even though he keeps on saying how much of an expert Ramsay is and how much he respects him, Billy doesn’t want to hear a single thing he has to say. At one point, he gets so angry that he calls his wife and tells her that they’re selling the place and just going to bankruptcy court. His wife soldiers on anyway, and eventually Billy comes around.

“Can you please stop talking to my parents this way?”

On the first night that they’re open, things do not go well. Ramsay cooks up some specials which sell well, but it’s not quite enough to make a successful evening. Melissa gets completely in the weeds and people wait for hours without being fed, making them testy. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but the customers actually start fighting with each other. It’s completely insane.

“What’s a Gastropub?”

As part of the redesign, Ramsay tells the staff at The Handlebar that they are now going to be Long Island’s first Gastropub. Nobody knows what that means, but Ramsay explains that it’s a pub with an emphasis on quality, reasonably-priced food. It seems to be a good fit.

“Twisted Sister’s Dee Snyder!”

I like to think that Ramsay and Dee Snyder just hang out all of the time. In any case, Ramsay convinced Snyder to come by for the relaunch. He drives a motorcycle into the restaurant, which has to break at least a couple of OSHA and Health Code regulations. He tells the patrons that they can bid on the bike with al proceeds going to The March of Dimes.

“There’s one thing in there that I thought was completely unchangeable: and that was Bill. And we even managed that.”

The relaunch was a success, as it always is, and Ramsay walks away satisfied. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that the changes at The Handlebar may not last. Melissa never wanted to be a chef and you can change the menu all you want, but when the desire isn’t there, success usually isn’t either.