The wrath of Ramsay strikes again in New Jersey

A little birdie (thanks, Chuck!) whispered in my ear that none other than Michelin-starred chef and reality show star Gordon Ramsay has dropped into the bucolic setting of Hunterdon County, New Jersey, this week to film an episode of “Kitchen Nightmares.”

Flamangos Roadhouse is on Main Street in Whitehouse Station./Ava Gacser

Flamangos Roadhouse is on Main Street in Whitehouse Station. Note the black plastic bags over the windows./Photos by Ava Gacser

The establishment in question is Flamangos Roadhouse (yes, that’s Flamangos, not Flamingos or Flamencos) on Main Street in Whitehouse Station. The restaurant – which is located adjacent to the Whitehouse train station (the train lumbered by while I was there) – offers a plethora of entrees, according to this site, including American, BBQ, Cajun and Creole, Caribbean, French, International, Italian, New American, Tropicali and Vegeterian.

flamangos1

In other words, it’s everything under the sun – and exactly the thing that Ramsay has pointed out time and time again on “Kitchen Nightmares” not to do.

The restaurant, from what I can determine, is owned by the Csepi family. The Csepis have evidently been looking into ways to improve their business, which is evidenced by a testimonial on The Restaurant Doctor Bill Marvin’s website.

flamangos sign

What does Ramsay have in mind for Flamangos? Your guess is as good as mine, but I would assume he’s going to suggest playing up its history and charm: The building dates back to 1845, according to a bio on http://www.RestaurantPassion.com, and was once the Union Hotel, which housed railroad employees.

It’s my guess that you can expect to see Flamangos featured on an episode of Fox’s “Kitchen Nightmares” sometime this fall.

I hope the Csepi family has a good experience working with Ramsay, and that their restaurant fares better than some of the other establishments that have received a “Kitchen Nightmares” makeover.

One such place – Hannah & Mason’s in Cranbury – was featured on an episode of the program in November and is now permanently closed (thanks for the tip, Helen Siswein!). I interviewed the two owners – Christopher Posner and Brian Kelly – of Hannah & Mason’s last fall, just before their episode aired, and I can promise you that they were not happy with the changes Ramsay had implemented and had no intentions of keeping them. (You can read the full story here or watch the full episode here.)

Posner and Kelly told me that on the whole they did not find working with Ramsay to be a pleasant experience, and that they had already determined they would not adhere to his menu changes.

“We just found that it was not sound advice,” Posner told me at the time. “We know our customer base, we know our area, we know our demographic, and he didn’t.”

Sadly, Hannah & Mason’s fate is not all that uncommon once Chef Ramsay has come calling. According to an article in The Herald, more than half of the restaurants featured on “Kitchen Nightmares” and its British counterpart, “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares,” have closed or been sold. The Herald says that half of the 20 U.S. establishments taken on by Ramsay have closed.

“The website for restaurant reviewers Eating Long Island, based in Garden City, New York, dubbed Ramsay ‘the new Black Widow’ after three restaurants he gave the treatment to in the area all closed,” the article states. Here’s one of the actual posts:

R.I.P. – Peter’s in Babylon

Through our comments section on East of NYC tonight, we learned that Peter’s, the Italian joint in Babylon which rose to fame on Fox’s Kitchen Nightmare’s has closed down. Long Island doesn’t have a very good track record with that show as The Mixing Bowl, Trobiano’sPeter’s (and there was one more that I can’t remember offhand) have all shuttered their doors. Some have closed as a result of better opportunities and other were just poorly run. I guess we can consider Gordon Ramsay the new Black Widow.

The Herald points out that perhaps Ramsay’s makeovers are too expensive given today’s economy. For example, it says that he changed the menu of J Willy’s Barbeque House in South Bend, Ind., from pizza to sandwiches and ribs. Ramsay visited in February, the article states, and the restaurant was shuttered by spring.

The Herald quotes  J Willy’s owner, John Ittenbach, as saying, “Gordon Ramsay has had a profound effect on my management style, which included making everything we serve fresh, each and every day, and to never lower our standards, no matter what.

“Although this approach is generally considered to be the gold standard of restaurant operations, this approach to management gets called into question when operating in survival mode, as we were.

“With food prices increasing and customer counts decreasing in record numbers over the past several months, we were put in the unenviable position of cutting our standards below which we were comfortable, or else ceasing operations altogether.”

“Recognising my passion to offer customers the best dining experience possible and, at the same time, vowing never to cut corners again, the decision to quit operations was inevitable.”

The article does make brief mention of Cranbury’s Hannah & Mason’s, too, saying that the restaurant was “also unavailable to take orders after its website was shut down and phone lines cut.”

Other restaurants touched by Ramsay that are no longer in existence include:  Seascape in Islip, N.Y., Sebastian’s of Burbank, Calif., and Lela’s of Pomona, Calif.

The question remains whether Ramsay’s efforts had any effect on the viability of these restaurants or if they were already doomed.

26 Comments

  1. Ramsey Fan said,

    July 7, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    Ramsey is a wonderful chef and I believe these restaurants were going to fail no matter how hard Ramsey helped them so don’t lay blame on him.He’s great at what he does.

  2. Anonymous said,

    February 27, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Restaurants that were on kitchen nightmares and closed have the owners and others saying what a crappy job Ramsey did and how his menu was no good so they went back to old menu. They probably closed not because of Ramsey but because they were to far gone to save or the fact that the owners went back to their old ways which is what caused there problem in the first place

  3. Maya said,

    March 19, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    RAW chicken mixed with cooked chicken!!! That place should have been shut down right there and then and those two idiots put out of any kitchen.

  4. Dent said,

    February 24, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    I noticed the daughter Cheryl has a web page that says she is unemployed and has been for 9 months. My guess is that is how long the restaurant has been closed. It is an interesting read. Here is the web site address. http://www.linkedin.com/pub/cheryl-csepi/31/aa3/b36

  5. Rachael said,

    February 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    I think Chef Ramsey ( Gordan) is a blessing to all these disgusting restaurants! They called him remember,these restaurants were already sliding down the hill. They should be happy they had one last hoorah!

  6. Brady Quinn said,

    December 10, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    This blogger is a myopic troglodyte! Gordpn Ramsay is visiting restaurants ON THE BRINK OF COLLAPSE! They are already in debt to where they will have to shut down within 3-6 months in most cases. Those are the places he goes to! So when you consider that half of all restaurants fail to begin with, he is doing an AMAZING job saving half of the worst of the worst ones!

    It’s funny that the blogger uses Hannah and Mason’s as an example, but then acknowledges that the owner refused to implement Gordon’s changes. How can you hold Gordon responsible if he gives the restaurant his expertise, and they refuse to take his advice, and then they fail? To me, that is proof that the owner didn’t know his demographic as he claimed, and that Ramsay was right!

    This blogger should find a day job!

  7. Darryl Mills said,

    December 1, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    I have to agree with most of the posters here. The story is not that half the restaurants Ramsey has gone to have failed. The story is that half were somehow saved! These places were almost all disasters before Ramsey got there. An example was Hannah and Mason’s! One of the laziest owners I’ve ever seen, never open and food storage that thankfully didn’t kill anyone. The writer of this piece definitely missed the point!

  8. CB said,

    August 31, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    As far as Hannah and Masons, Ramsay asked one of the owners why he was asked to come, if he wasn’t going to change, the owner stated that they needed a kick in the ass. Saying that someone is brought in to an already failing business that is financially in the dumps, and the food is piss, betters the place with decor and menu enhancements as well as suggestions that fresh food and clean refrigeration be up kept is asinine, and that person shouldn’t be doing restaurant or current event reviews. More irresponsible journalism in America!

  9. Brian Mouland said,

    May 24, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Most of the people needing Gordon Ramsey are either lazy or simply do
    not care. The co-owner at Peter’s did not do a damm thing for years.A
    week of Gordon Ramsey cannot make for years of bad management.

  10. shank said,

    March 1, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    All these places were circling the drain anyway, you have to expect a few to crash. Overall, Ramsay has saved quite a few. Black widow? thats idiocy.

    These places would ALL be closed if he hadnt visited.

  11. Todd said,

    February 12, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Not a very well written or researched article. One important thing to remember is that even in good times 25% of restaurants fail in the first year, and 60% within 5. I would say that a 50% success rate in places that are already on the brink is pretty good!
    Source for figures:
    http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/apr2007/sb20070416_296932.htm

  12. Rlcapps said,

    February 8, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    There’s no real logic behind this idea that Ramseys killing these businesses. I’m sure if this show had never existed FAR more than half of the businesses that he tried to help would be sunk by now. It’s just survival of the fittest and some people want to blame a guy who yells and doesn’t have the most charming mannerisms because it’s easier than looking at their own faults and taking responsibility. If you have roaches in your kitchen and serve week old food you deserve to not only be closed but be jailed. I notice these owners also blame their customers who just don’t understand the wonderful week old food that is prepared for them. If you blame Ramsey you can blame anyone for your problems and mistakes. I think this is maybe the reason they can’t run a business in the first place.

  13. Anonymous said,

    February 3, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    It makes me mad just watching that cranky old fart (old lady who owns the place)!!!!!

  14. Dara said,

    February 3, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    I am watching this episode now and OMG. That old owner lady is off her rocker!! What does she have stuck up her butt that makes her so grumpy, mean, and negative!! “The Junction” is SOOOOOO much better than Flamangoes. And she was worried about the new “small, small” menu. And said she hated the re-decoration of the place. This woman is crazy!! I’m like ARE YOU SERIOUS??!!

  15. Kevin said,

    February 3, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Donny,

    “Never have I seen such irresponsible and lazy journalism.” You got to be kidding Donny. This type of journalism is the norm. It is not like the best and the brightest are found in journalism schools or their “profession”.

    Wouldn’t it be fun to see a Gordon Ramsay Nightmare sort of show except to insert failing newspapers and reporters in need of a survival overhaul? Talk about restaurants being clueless and not in touch with their customers. No business tops the old media in this area. Now that would be entertainment.

  16. Mbitt said,

    February 3, 2010 at 12:58 am

    Let’s not forget people that the restaurants mentioned in the above article were on the very brink of closing the doors in the first place! Why does everyone forget that? Chef Ramsey is NOT the Black Widow of failing businesses! If you (the reader) would go back and watch episodes of Kitchen Nightmares, you would be reminded of how filthy and disgusting most of those restaurants were. And, in almost every case, the owners & staff DIDN’T have a clue as to WHY the (their) business was losing money. Dah! Let’s see…rotting food in the freezer, head chefs that have “lost” the passion to cook, bad attitudes among business owners and staff, no one willing to accept responcibility for their part in driving the restaurant to the ground, and most importantly people — owners in particular — that are EAGER to EMBRACE change!! Most of them usually end up backsliding to their old ways and habits, and then when the business fails, Chef Ramsey is to be blamed for it. G-I-V-E ME-A-B-R-E-A-K!! The FOOD speaks for itself. The rest is up to the owners.

  17. Willie said,

    February 2, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    Come on…stop blaming Chef Ramsey. I’ve seen episode after episode. Most of these people are clueless. They believe they know what people want. If that were true then why are their tables empty? Why no repeat business? And it is a fact that well over 50% of new restaurants close within the first two years even with the greatest owners. So doesn’t surprise me in the least that the poorly run ones would close.

  18. January 31, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    [...] up is one I first reported on last spring. Flamango’s Roadhouse in Whitehouse Station will be the “Kitchen [...]

  19. Brett said,

    January 30, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    Hmmm…restaurants poorly run and desperate for help have a succesful chef come calling after years of mediocrity. They ignore his advice or adhere to his advce but don’t ever learn to manage their property’s assets. Restaurants have a larger failure rate than most other industries. If your place us in survival mode, frozen or fresh won’t matter. Plus, the guy in Cranbury “knew@ his customer base, but couldn’t make it. Sounds like sour grapes instead of pointing the finger a himself for the failure.

  20. Anonymous said,

    January 29, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    I ate at Hannah & Mason’s after their episode aired and it was clear the owners had no idea what they were doing. Every single thing was terrible. They closed because they were terrible and thought they knew more than Ramsay.

  21. Donny Hardy said,

    December 3, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Ava,
    Never have I seen such irresponsible and lazy journalism. Im going to take a huge guess and say you’ve never actually watched the show. It’s called “KITCHEN NIGHTMARES”. These places are going down! Gordon Ramsay is try to save each one. I’ve see n every episode you have referenced and I can tell you they all were horribly grim. In your case of “Hannah & Masons”, they closed because every local in Cranbury i’m sure tuned in and saw the horrific state of their kitchen. THe place was crawling with rotting seafood and 2 week old desserts. Would you eat somewhere that you knew could kill you? No. In fact, once Gordon left, I cant see why anyone would go in there…haha especiallly after those two boneheads called his advice “unsound”….seriously he Ramsay did the state a favor.

    A bit of advice: Do some homework before you write articles.

  22. Timmye said,

    May 19, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    I’ve also eaten a few times at Flamango’s. I think the Kitchen Nightmares producers picked a great storyline here. The menu always had me shaking my head as to what style of food they really served (i.e., seafood, Italian, creole, etc.). Even better for a storyline, it’s my understanding that the mother and father recently retired from their small nearby kitchenette but was convinced to go back into business to help their son and daughter start this restaurant. Eventually, the son and daughter took a step back and now the parents are stuck doing most of the work for the business.

  23. mmmmmm... said,

    May 19, 2009 at 11:44 am

    I’ve eaten at Flamago’s a few times, had a few drinks and enjoyed the atmosphere. I wish them the best of luck!

  24. MC Hammer said,

    May 17, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    “A retaurant is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get until you take a bite.”

    The Sun :o)

  25. charlespaolino said,

    May 16, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Some of the furniture from Flamango’s was burned last night in a bonfire behind the nearby firehouse. The ritual has the feel of “no going back.”
    Actually, we have eaten in Flamango’s several times and thoroughly enjoyed it, so we wish the Csepi family well with this venture.

  26. The Professor said,

    May 16, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Seems to me that a restaurant going down the tubes and bad word of mouth is a tough thing to come back from to begin with. I doubt seriously that Chef Ramsey could or should be blamed for these restaurant failures…especially if the owners are so resistant ot changing (as many seem to be).
    It’s a tough biz to begin with. Even some good restaurants are having a tough time of it right now.


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