Hot Potato Cafe Before Kitchen Nightmares
A small family-owned cafe tucked away in Philadelphia, Hot Potato Cafe offered a variety of dishes from crab cakes to filet mignon. Founded in 2007 by three sisters, Kathryn, Claire, and Erin Keller, it served as a “little lunch place” for those working, or living in the area.
Assisted by their niece Danielle in the kitchen, they expected business to boom; this, unfortunately, was not the case. To the owners’ devastation, a bad review in the local newspaper soon drove their remaining customers away. Desperate to save the reputation of the cafe, they invite celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay for a chance to turn things around.
Hot Potato Cafe on Kitchen Nightmares
Unsurprisingly, Gordan Ramsay is already familiar with Hot Potato Cafe even prior to stepping foot into the restaurant- or more specifically, the cafe’s reputation of being “Spuddy Hell”, according to the local paper. Making his grand arrival, he is soon greeted by the three sisters, who are obviously more than happy to receive his help.
Sitting down, the group goes on to talk about the recent review that the restaurant has received. Confronting the owners about “what is wrong with the restaurant”, the women are silent.
It isn’t until after a while that one of them manages to speak up, stating that the food is not the issue. In fact, the sisters all agree that they have no idea what’s wrong and that they are at “a complete loss.”
From there, Gordan soon learns who’s in control in the kitchen- their twenty-one-year-old niece, Danielle. With that, things slowly make sense for the celebrity chef; in his words, she’s so young that it’s likely that “she hasn’t even had the time to learn anything.”
Going on to inquire about their special dishes, the owners tell Gordan some of their specialty foods- shepherd pie, crab cakes, and perogies. With that, he immediately questions the name of the restaurant- surely, a Hot Potato Cafe would serve some novel potato dishes?
Seating himself at a table, he is eventually greeted by his server Brian, who takes his order. Looking at the menu, he then orders a hot potato soup, a hot potato, and a shepherd’s pie. Quickly, the first dish arrives. “A mess”, Gordan describes the soup as being like “a lump of goo.” Unimpressed, he soon sends it back to the kitchen, but not before learning that it’s actually made every other day.
The next dishes to arrive are the Baked Potatoes. Almost immediately, he confirms his suspicions with one of the sisters that they indeed come, frozen. Taking a bite, he states that “it tastes dreadful.” To make matters worse, he soon learns that the potatoes were baked three weeks ago, as opposed to being made fresh to order. Disappointed, Gordan once again sends it back to the kitchen, of course, much to the disappointment of the sisters.
Finally, Shepard’s pie arrives at Gordan’s table. “One-third mash and one-third greasy minced lamb”, he tells Brian to take the dish away, for the owners to try the dish themselves. Within minutes, their dissatisfaction with the food is obvious; in fact, one of them even describes it as being “something you’d get at the cafeteria at college.” Restless, Gordan soon takes himself to the kitchen, where he is introduced to the head chef, Danielle.
Not only is he amazed to learn the fact that she is not a trained chef, but he is also surprised to learn that she’s simply been following the recipes over and over. With that, Gordan leaves Hot Potato Cafe to cool his head; it isn’t until the following day that he returns to the restaurant. Sitting down once again with the owners, he gives them one last chance to prove themselves during dinner service, which is to happen in a few hours.
As news of the celebrity chef spread in Philadelphia, the restaurant quickly filled up. Unfortunately, the staff quickly becomes overwhelmed with the abundance of orders. With an obvious lack of standard and control, the dishes eventually make their way to the tables- the customers’ reactions are anything but positive.
Rounding up everything as soon as dinner is over, Gordan expresses his disappointment to the owners, who have an obvious “lack of passion for the restaurant. With a lack of “fight” from the owners, Gordan simply shakes his head. Done with Hot Potato Cafe, he makes his way out the door.
It wasn’t until another heart-to-heart talk that he returned to Hot Potato Cafe. Unhappy with their current dishes, Gordan challenges them to put together the “best potato dish”, during which he is the most impressed with Danielle’s plate.
Continuing with a second dinner service, it didn’t take long for the chef to realize that her portions are too big; the cafe’s profits were going out the door in takeaway boxes! In attempt to remedy the problem, he destroys all of the restaurant’s large plates.
But it doesn’t stop there, Gordan Ramsay also decided to personally invite one of his chefs, Richard, to mentor Danielle over the period of a month. In addition to that, he also pulled some strings which allowed the restaurant to receive a free potato supply for three months, from a local farmer. With the changes in place, he eventually invites the local paper’s food critic back to Hot Potato Cafe for their “new” opening night. To the owner’s surprise, he seemingly enjoys the food.
Hot Potato Cafe Now in 2023 – The After Kitchen Nightmares Update
During the show, Ramsay introduced new menu items, trained the staff, and renovated the restaurant’s decor to give it a fresh and inviting look. The most notable change was in the menu, where Ramsay ditched their frozen food dependency for fresh homemade dishes.
This revamp showed immediate results as customers started pouring in again. People were intrigued by the restaurant’s newfound fame from the show and were keen to try these new dishes.
However, this improved phase for Hot Potato Cafe was short-lived. Despite the initial surge of interest, it soon started to dwindle.
At the end of the day, the cafe failed to maintain the high standards set during their time on Kitchen Nightmares, and before long, customers began leaving negative reviews about food quality and service. They also complained that the cafe had reverted to its old ways, serving frozen food instead of fresh.
Within a year post their appearance on Kitchen Nightmares, Hot Potato Cafe closed its doors permanently in 2010. It seems that despite Ramsay’s best efforts, the restaurant was unable to sustain its improved operation and reputation for a long time. The reasons behind the closure remain unclear, but it’s speculated that poor management and inability to adapt were major contributing factors.
As of 2023, their old Philly location is occupied by the Lloyd Whiskey Bar.
If anything, the story of Hot Potato Cafe serves as a cautionary tale for many other struggling restaurants out there. Despite their short-lived success post Kitchen Nightmares, Hot Potato Cafe is now just another name in the list of restaurants that couldn’t survive after their appearance on the show.