Café Hon Before Kitchen Nightmares
Starting out in Baltimore in 1992, Café Hon was built on the premise of being a “quirky” family friendly and Baltimore centric establishment. In the first few years, the reputation of the restaurant would soar, though it quickly lost any wind beneath its sails when the owner, Denise, would trademark the words Café Hon and the term Hon itself, which may as well have been her trademarking the term “dear” or “buddy”. This was only made worse when she claimed she would legally peruse anyone using the term, which made her and her establishment persona non grata in the city, which included a widespread boycott of the café. Seen as the community villain, and a money-grubbing owner who takes out stress on staff, Gordon Ramsey appears, hopefully in time to turn this place around.
Café Hon on Kitchen Nightmares
The episode begins with Chef Ramsay showing up at a radio show that spoke of the Café quite frequently to find out what the community thinks about the café. The first thing that is brought up is that the food isn’t the issue, the owner, Denise Whiting, is. Her attempt to own the term “Hon” had clearly soured the location, especially when she passed out cease and desist orders where she was dubbed the “anti-Hon”. After this information, the good Chef heads to the café with a gigantic pink flamingo.
Needless to say, the tacky design of it stops him dead in his tracks for a moment while he collects his thoughts. He’s met inside with Debra, the manager, who shook his hand with whipped cream still on hers. She then transfers Gordon over to Denise. Almost immediately, Denise starts tearing up and talks about how her business has now slowed down to 50% capacity. She recognizes the term Hon was the cause of some of her issues, however, she does not accept the idea she is to blame for it, instead blaming media and claiming death threats were made against her. Ramsay seems to be suspicious of this and calls her out almost immediately as she lies about not using legal powers to enforce her trademark.
After the quick discussion, he takes a quick view of the menu and gets into a pronunciation fiasco with the waitress over some “Bawlmer” fish and chips. When he does get the food, he very much appreciates the crab on the sandwich but despises the cold shrimp which appears to be far too old to serve. Denise fails to get how bad it actually tastes, even when trying it. Sadly the soiree continues about as poorly, with the fries being soggy, and the “English style” fish being about as soggy batter wise as an English morning, and the fish itself is far too dry. The “better than mom’s” meatloaf is likewise disappointing. These comments have Denise on edge of kicking him out due to her own ego. While Ramsay is in the kitchen, the front staff take bets on if she’ll even listen. The chefs seem to recognize everything he’s saying, despite death glares from Denise.
After returning from break, Ramsay ensures that the Café Hon is running at full capacity to see the results of a stress test. Denise very clearly can’t handle it and causes backups. Those dishes that do make it out are about as good as a cafeteria as some customers stated. In a shocking move, Denise throws out all the food types that her customers reorder, from turkey to steaks, throwing all the fresh ingredients out in the trash in what can only be seen as a fit of madness. This causes a breakdown in the patience of customers, and the ability for servers to handle the stress. Ramsay steps out with the main chef and tries to level with him about Denise’s madness, also hearing the store lost $750 that night alone.
Denise obviously fails to see the problem, claiming she should rework the menu, to which Ramsay states she needs to reworks about the basics. Chef then walks out the door in pure confusion about how it could all go so far. The following morning, he sets up a staff meeting without Denise. He asks the staff to state what they see as problems. The staff state that without her, things go rather well, but with her, it’s always a total mess. The staff is afraid of being fired if they so much as criticize her. As Denise walks in, everyone immediately assumes they’re all going to be fired.
Gordon then asks Denise to sit down and has the staff clear the air. Very quickly, the staff opens up about how she is the true negative of the establishment. One of the employees comes flat out with it that “People… Don’t like [her].” This makes her break down and comes as close to apologizing as one could expect. The staff is doubtful of any potential of any real change she offers. Next, Ramsay decides to work a focus group of the community to try and work out her issues with Baltimore. Clearly, the “Hon” term is the focal point and makes the community despise her as they see her as a bully and a money grubber. Ramsay asks what she needs to do to make up, and they all agree she needs to give up the trademark. She ends up following this advice and freeing the term for use.
After this, Ramsay feels more confident about Denise and Café Hon and redesigns it for her, much makes it much cleaner and homier, with a touch of eccentric. There is also a revamped menu which accentuates what was done right while improving that which was done wrong. The staff is over the moon, as to be expected. Showing that it doesn’t always need to be “Denise’s” way, the staff have a new chance at making food excellent again, and Denise also agrees to walk into a radio studio and announce some key information, including a full apology for trademarking the term “Hon”, and plans to remove it. With this apology and revamped image, can Café Hon stay open and become a better establishment now? Let’s find out.
Café Hon After Kitchen Nightmares – 2018 Update
After the episode, things seem to be on the uptick for Café Hon, especially after taking down the trademark status. Where they were hovering near a 1-star rating in most sites, currently they are running between 2.5 and 4 depending o the publication, with the average of around 3.5 stars out of five. According to the menu on Café Hon’s website, the prices certainly appear to be fair and most of the food is simple Americana, nothing too flashy, but certainly not trash either. Comments seem to be about 50/50 in terms of positive and negative notes, with the main complaints being about service issues and excuses being made as opposed to apologies given on issues such as missed reservations. All in all, it appears that Gordon Ramsay’s team and tutoring gave this once sinking establishment a life preserver, but it’s still up to Café Hon to swim to shore and really make it.