Have no fear, dear readers. There will be no eight-legged things crawling around in this episode. No flies, no roaches, no moldy food, no filth that will make you swear off eating out for months. This week, we are introduced to The Mixing Bowl, a regular old family-owned restaurant in Bellmore, N.Y. that has lost its spark. What it hasn’t lost, however, is the inept general manager who contributes zip to the business. I’m beginning to wonder if there are any managers who have a clue on this show.
Meet this week’s cast of characters:
Billy - owner and chef, he has lost his passion for this whole mess. He also seems to have lost his voice, as he only speaks about ten words in the whole episode.
Lisa - the beleaguered wife and co-owner, who would just as soon shut the whole joint down than continue wasting their time in a struggling restaurant.
Mike - our manager and putz o’ the week. This dude couldn’t manage the drive-thru at McDonalds, never mind a whole dining room.
Kim - waitress, and one of Mike’s biggest non-fans.
Lynn - waitress, and also Billy’s sister.
The Biggest Loser
The entire staff has lost hope, and it shows in their interviews. Just their gloomy faces could run off any potential customers. Our man Gordon arrives, a giddy Mike greets him, and Gordo immediately snarks on Mike’s appearance. Mike says they serve New American food, which Gordon compares to spa food. Then he asks the pudgy Mike when was the last time he saw a gym? Or ate a salad? Mike uncomfortably laughs off the insults and hightails it to the kitchen. Perusing the bloated menu, Gordon chooses the Maryland crab cakes, zucchini pancakes, and salmon. Mike comes back, then zips off to place the order.
Placing the dishes in front of Gordon, Mike retreats to the counter. And stares. Gordon chews a bit of crab cake (which looks delicious, by the way) and Mike sidles up to the table, wanting to know what Gordon thinks of the dish. Gordon thinks he doesn’t like to be stared at while he’s eating, and tells Mike to get lost. “You’re like a cockroach I just want to shake off my back. I’d like to just sit and enjoy my lunch,” he snarks. Mike the Vulture slithers off, cheesy half-grin intact. Gordon gives the crab cakes a thumbs up, saying that it’s hard to believe you could get something so fresh and tasty in such a dreary, blah kind of place. The zucchini pancakes didn’t fare so well, getting compared to a mouthful of glue, and the salmon entree was soundly trashed as well, with Gordon calling the fish bland and the sauce too overpowering. Never mind the heavy aroma of garlic wafting up from the plate, ruining the entire dish. “Who wants to come out from lunch and stink of garlic?” he asks.
The staff nervously awaits Gordon’s report. Gordon joins Billy in the kitchen and tells him that being pounced on by Mike the depressing manager wasn’t a good start, and the food was just plain bland with the exception of the crab cakes. He wasn’t blown away. Billy takes the news quietly, Lisa is a little miffed on her hubby’s behalf, and Mike takes exception to everything Gordon said. He insists that the customers rave about the food he sampled, and thinks that Gordon is crazy. Yeah, Mike. The guy doesn’t know his food at all, you dip.
Time to observe the dinner service - or what passes for it. There are about five people in the place at 8 pm, and several of them look like they were cold and just wandered for some warmth. As Mike brings one table their check, it becomes apparent why this place doesn’t make any money off the pitiful few customers it does have: they hand out 50% off coupons left and right. Brilliance! Cut your profit in half immediately. Gordon is aghast. Billy reveals that they’ve been using the coupons for eight years, and Gordon utters something bleepable.
Here's Your Sign
And then we come to the signs. Signs that Mike the manager had made up to promote the restaurant. Tacky, large, bright-colored signs that would be better suited to some fast-food dump. Mike tries to explain the thinking behind the signs, but Gordon thinks they’re awful. He asks Mike which sign was the most successful, and Mike admits: none of them.
Gordon sits down to have his come-to-Jesus meeting with Billy and Lisa after the dinner service. He tells Billy that he’s never seen an owner/cook be so quiet, and says that he looks like he wants to be put out of his misery. “Maybe we should close this place down. Tonight!” exclaims Gordon. Lisa doesn’t want Billy to give up his dream, but...she wants to live a normal life, she says. Billy, who has been sitting back, quietly taking this all in, finally speaks! “I want to turn this around,” he says. Lisa slides down in her chair and sighs. I can’t tell if it was out of frustration or happiness. Gordon lectures Billy that he will have to change his ways or the place will be closed within six months.
On to Mikey. Gordon has brought in a wood chipper (!) and proceeds to shred Mike’s gaudy signs into tiny, ugly bits. Mike calls him a madman, not taking well to having his crappy idea turned into mulch before his eyes. Gordon then goes inside and pulls out a map of the area, showing the staff how many new restaurants have popped up (41) since they’ve opened. He points out all the spas and tanning booths that have been built, and suggests that they target the health-conscious consumers. The staff’s eyes light up.
Salmon, Salmon, Everywhere
Gordon takes Billy back into the kitchen to revise the tired menu. He’s piled up fifteen fresh ingredients and challenges Billy to come up with some new dishes. Gordon does the same alongside Billy, firing up his creativity. They present the new dishes to the others: seared salmon with ginger-balsamic drizzle, and poached salmon with asparagus spears. Both look great, and are well-received by the others.
Time to try out the new dishes on some paying customers! They manage to herd up a hungry crowd, and Mike doesn’t know what to do with a room full of people. He ends up pointing at people in the dining room and Gordon admonishes him, telling him not to point at people, it’s not a zoo. Hee! The salmon orders are piling in, Billy’s got the kitchen rocking, and Mike...well, Mike is being useless. He’s chatting it up with the customers instead of making sure the dining room is being managed properly, and then he has the gall to prod the waitresses to try and get bigger tips. Why? Because he takes half of their tips! Waitress Kim is pissed. Lisa doesn’t like it, either.
After dinner service, Kim rips into Mike for taking tips he didn’t earn. Mike insists that he brings in customers, they come to see him, so he should rightfully get the money. Keep in mind that the place was freakin’ empty before, so I don’t know who he thought was coming in to see him. Gordon says that Mike acts like he owns the place, and blames Billy for being “weak.” Lisa hops on the Mike-bashing train, but Mike spits and sputters and tells them that they need to be positive, refusing to take any blame for anything. Once again, Billy speaks! He tells Mike off, in his polite, quiet way, and Gordon does a double take. Mike doesn’t know what to say, sitting there with a stupid grin on his face. “Billy, that’s the first time you’ve sounded like a boss,” says Gordon.
Enter The Dragons
Next dinner service, and Mike has screwed up big time. He booked too many people’s reservations at the same time, and tries to put the blame on Kim when Gordon asks him what the hell he thought he was doing. If there’s one thing Mike is good at, it’s pointing the finger at other people. They manage to get everyone seated, when in walks a few members of the New York Dragons, a local football team that Gordon went to earlier in hopes of getting the word out about the new cuisine. Of course, since Mike has blown the reservations for the night, there isn’t a table open for the big guys, who are quasi-celebs around town. Lisa blows up at Mike, and Mike plays dumb. Then he yells at Lisa that “I wasn’t told! Not my fault!” Gordon shakes his head in disgust as customers are obviously hearing the moron yelling in the back room. Gordon sends Mike outside for a time-out, telling Billy and Lisa that Mike is dead weight and needs to go.
Unfortunately, Billy decides to give the dork a second chance. Mike breaks down in tears, saying he’s reborn again. Yeah, right. Talk about a quick turn-around. He manages to find a table to seat the football players at, and everything is all good. Customers are loving the food, Mike has gotten off his ass and is actually working. Gordon sponsors a one mile run in honor of the new healthy theme, and we get to see him in shorts. Nice legs! *ahem* Anyway, Gordon gives everyone his goodbye pep talk, and Mike cries some more. After two months, the restaurant is still doing well. Billy and Lisa are happy. The waitresses are happy. And I’m happy that there were no disgusting insects in this episode, Mike excluded.
Join us next week for more nasty food, more bickering and bad management, and hopefully no bugs. Happy eating!