Back in May of 2009, Kitchen Nightmares – one of my favorite shows – filmed an episode in my neighborhood, at local Cuban restaurant Mojito. It’s never a good sign for a restaurant to make it onto the show, and I felt glad that I had never eaten there before. I’ve seen plenty of episodes with rotting food and bug-covered kitchens, and I’d told myself more than once that if I ever found out I’d eaten at one of the Kitchen Nightmares restaurants, I would promptly make myself throw up just for good measure, no matter how long ago the meal had been. Seriously people, kitchens crawling with bugs; food older than my kids; staff members that act so cringe-worthy on camera I can’t even imagine how much worse they are off camera.
But my love for my websites was apparently greater than my fear of food poisoning, because I managed to snag a reservation one of the nights they were shooting and convinced The Ass to go with me. I was hoping to write it all up for Filming In Brooklyn, but of course the production made me sign so many papers I decided in the end it wouldn’t be worth the headache and kept quiet (online, anyway) about our little adventure. So, basically, we paid a babysitter to watch our kids while we paid to go eat in a restaurant that we knew to be so incredibly bad it had made it onto Kitchen Nightmares. We did this willingly, enthusiastically even.
If you ever get a chance to eat during the filming of one of these shows, you want to do it on the last night – after Chef Gordon Ramsay has worked his magic and brought the restaurant around. We were definitely not there after the make-over. The food was pretty bad. But of course, we weren’t there for the food. We were there to see the show get produced, maybe hear a few expletives straight from Ramsay’s mouth, and perhaps even get on TV.
We were seated against the back wall of the restaurant, which gave me a good view of everything that was going on, and gave The Ass a great view of the back wall and the giant boom mic that would occasionally hover over my head. I would know it was there because we’d be talking about something personal – the kids, gossip, it was a date after all! – and all of a sudden The Ass would ask me how my food was, out of nowhere. That was the only way I knew we were on camera – the cameras were zooming in on us from across the room.
The cameras got close to us only when I sent something back. Sending something back is something that I hardly ever do. I mean, something has to be just downright awful, or simply the wrong order, for me to send it back. I’m more likely to leave hungry and never ever return. But we had been told on the way in that if we didn’t like something, we should let a producer know. I let the producer know that my rice and beans were pretty gross (come on, how do you mess up rice and beans?), and I would absolutely not say that I was pushed to send them back, but I was encouraged. Or rather, the producer looked so hopeful that I would send it back that I just couldn’t let her down. So I sent it back, and got something new, and that was that. The rest of the meal wasn’t great, but wasn’t worth sending back either.
The whole time we were there, we didn’t hear any shouting, didn’t see any drama, didn’t get to watch Chef Ramsay foam at the mouth. No staff members fled in tears. All in all, kind-of a let down. Chef Ramsay did wander through the dining room a couple of times but never came to our table. This was his night to observe, to see how the staff and owners do on their own before getting his help. No fireworks.
The episode finally aired this week (you can watch the Mojito episode of Kitchen Nightmares here) and while we don’t appear in it for even a split second, it’s a good episode, you should watch. It’s fun seeing how shows are made (and I really wish I could find a way to resurrect Filming in Brooklyn without giving up on sleep entirely), so if the show comes to your town you should try to get in. But remember, if you actually want good food, try to get a reservation for the last day!