Happened on this show with Bobby Flay and it is not only reminiscent of Kitchen Nightmares, it is directly derivative of it with some typical American feel good touches and some FN smarminess.
They listed it as a FN Special.
First off, I am not a huge fan of Flay's, but I don't jump up and turn off the TV if he is on, he has grown on me these last few years. Plus he is one fo the few people left on the schedule that is a chef.
The premise is that Superstar Cheff Bobby Flay comes in to save a failing restaurant. The one I saw was Lucas Lounge in New York. First response is that at least Gordon ramsey goes out to the provinces and tries to shake loose some of his London sensibilities and try to save the local restaurants for the local clientèle.
The place is kind of a corner Italian place making simple Italian comfort foods. The food looked good as it is. i don't think that anyone really complained about the food, which is different from KN. The servers seemed to be pretty clueless, about the wines, the cuisine, and were kind of rude.
So anyways, Flay comes in and decides on a three pronged attack and get the family who owns the place to revamp the menu, retrain the wait staff, redecorate, and then relaunch. This was all well and good and the footage was pretty interesting when Flay took the restaurant owners to different places to sample their fares. I personally can't believe that the owner of the specialty pizza gave away his claim to fame pizza recipe. But whatever.
In the end everything turned out OK and everyone lived happily ever after.
Some thoughts though:
1) I much prefer GR because he gets down to the nitty gritty of helping these people streamline their menuis, service, kitchen what ever.
2) I don't think the kitchen or the cooking needed much work to start with, which may explain why Flay never got into the kitchen a la Ramsey. He was in their to kind of coax them along to his way of thinking, which I felt like was justified.
3) The whole presentation had the homogenized, all omniscient feel to it. the transition seemed to natural, Flay talked about, and the owners talked about how hard it is to change a menu that they have had for seven years, but you didn't see any discussions about it, nor all that much angst.
4) You really don't get an idea of how the staff attitude nor how the service had improved. You just saw the staff drink a lot of wine at a sommelier's place where they were supposed to learn about wine and then voila! They were perfect little Stepford hostess and waitresses.
It wasn't terrible, I still prefer the BBC's version of Gordon ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. Much more hands on and the situations were seemingly more dire for those restaurant owners. But i would look in on this show though.
I turned it off early. What a snoozefest. But the basic formula is almost exactly the same as a Japanese program from several years ago, only much kinder, gentler, and little or no conflict. They both focus on choosing three areas to work on, usually drawn from culinary and business advice. And same thing to send them to remedial training or some expert with a dish to recommend. However, the drama is much better when there is more on the line, like say, bankruptcy or foreclosure. Kitchen Nightmares does this well and the confrontations sweeten the deal for compelling viewers to watch.
Here's what I posted on the Japanese program in '06 -
"There's a food related show I used to enjoy, though it was reality-based not a fictional drama. The name in Japanese was "愛の貧乏脱出大作戦" (Ai no Binbou Dashuttsu Daisakusen) which translates something like "The Great Battle to Escape Poverty"...err, something like that. It was kind of a cross between restaurant makeover, Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmare thing on BBC, and of course a little bit of Gachinko.
Basically they took a poor, debt-ridden small restaurant owner- almost always a man- and profiled how bad his restaurant was. Inevitably, his shop was dirty, old, out of fashion, his technique was poor and his food was bad. His monthly balance sheet was shown and as well as a sad family aspect, usually presented by the wife. After this profile, the studio host presented 3 techniques to improve things and "Save the poor". The main part of the show was that they took the poor guy and sent him to a restaurant in Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka to learn from a master. If the guy ran a ramen shop, they sent him to a top ramen shop, or if the guy ran a Chinese or Youshoku place, they sent him there. He had like four days to get his act together. Meanwhile the program producers renovated his shop.
As with most Japanese reality television, the show relied heavily on public humiliation - mostly of the poor guy enduring brow-beating, loss of confidence, exposure of his lack of skills, etc. But there was also an interesting educational and technique element to it all as well. Since they only had 4 days, the guy wasn't going to learn a whole menu. So they usually focused on one feature dish. For example, there were a few episodes that focused on "chahan" or fried rice. The guy would struggle for hours learning to properly stir, fry, and flip the rice in a large wok. Or a guy would crimp gyoza dumplings until he got it right. This was interesting as you could learn fascinating tips and secrets behind the dishes that they made.
The show culminated with him learning lessons and thanking and bowing deeply to the master, then returning to his shop to find the renovation. They filmed his re-opening- almost always a packed house, and then the show finished back in the studio, where the guy presented his feature food for 3 celebrity guest commentators. The show ended with the announcement of the reopening day reciepts, followed by an emotional reading of a letter from the poor participant to his wife- sometimes kids if he was a widower.
The show was hosted by Mino Monta, a kind of infamous noisy, know-it-all type of unctous guy who usually hosts an afternoon call-in show for mother-in-laws complaining about daughter-in-laws."
Original link- http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/336956
Hmm I saw this on in the last nighttime slot over the weekend and was surprised I didn't hear about it either through advertising or just by watching Food Network. I checked the DirecTV info and I believe it said 2005 was the year it was aired. Was this a one episode deal for Bobby or were there multiple shows? Does anyone remember it from back in 2005?
Bunson, I too just came across the show and was wondering if I had completely missed a FN series. Checking the FN website it looks like this was a one shot deal; it is listed as a Food Network Special. My guess would be it was something they were testing as a possible addition to their lineup.
Also, while most seem to be comparing it to Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares I thought it was much more along the lines of "Restuarant Makeover", right down to the very similar name.
The focus of the show, Luca Lounge, is still in business so maybe Bobby helped, but I don't see any of the new dishes Bobby added still on their menu. Specifically I don't see any seafood on the menu beyond smoked salmon and tuna panini. They give brief mention to being featured on the Food Network with Bobby Flay on their web page. They also have two more operations, Luca Bar (very close to Luca Lounge in the East Village) and Masso out in Long Island City. I can't honestly say whether or not these other operations existed at the time of filming the original show (2005). They never mentioned them but that may have been to keep the focus on Luca Lounge.
I'm with you, I like GR better. It's not so much what he accomplishes as it is the dramatics. Flay's show is way too laid back. Too buddy buddy. I will say that he emphasizes ingredients more than GR. I'm also very interested in trying "Cheero Verde"(?) double focaccia pizza (?). Does anyone have more info? Is it as good as DiFara or is it apple and oranges. Which also brings me to a related subject: How come Anthony Bourdain is the only celebrity chef to recognize Dom (in his book)? Is Dom an outcast? Looked down upon? What's the skinny?