Mike and Nellie’s Before Kitchen Nightmares
Founded by father and son pair Mike and Nellie in 1996 at Oakhurst, New Jersey, Mike and Nellie’s steakhouse was once a place of pride for New Jersey residents. Sadly, some years after opening, the father Nellie passed away, and Mike seems to have suffered greatly for it. Despite getting help from other members of his family, the past several years have seen a downturn in quality and finances for Mike and Nellie’s, which has led to even more stress on Mike. It shows in every facet of the establishment, with grimy carpets, cockroaches, and severe damage throughout the building including (what appears to be) punched out ceiling panels, as well as poor food. For Mike’s part, he seems to self-medicate on the job with alcohol. With the legacy of Mike and Nellie on the line, can Ramsay help save this restaurant before the doors are shuttered forever? Let’s find out.
Mike and Nellie’s on Kitchen Nightmares
Before Chef Ramsay drops by the restaurant, he is picked up by Mike’s eldest daughter to give him some pertinent information before arrival. The priority topic is the death of her grandfather who was a great host and partner, and this gives some pretext to what occurs next. Ramsay then walks into Mike and Nellie’s and immediately notices an off smell. He asks to see Mike. The first question is when the last renovation occurred, which happened to be around when it was bought. When brought out a menu, it comes in stained with what appears to be coffee. The mystery smell appears to be moldy carpet, which is a never good sign.
The menu itself is a mix of seafood, steak, and Italian food. He orders a few of each cuisine to see how well the food is made, with the owner being confident, rating himself in the high 9’s out of 10. Sending out the Linguini with Shrimp sauce, the owner again states confidence but the ruling is that is bland and far too watery. Next up is the Chicken Murphy which looks unappetizing. The daughters admit that after Nellie passed, the food went downhill rapidly. It’s sent back with zero compliments and a fear of diarrhea. As this is sent back, Mike seems a bit hurt, and is dedicated to trying to make the last dish work. Sadly, the steak is burned to resemble coal, and Ramsay spits it back out. He then asks the manager to give it a go, who agrees with the statement. Afterwards, Mike doesn’t want to come out to meet Ramsay again, but the two have a sit-down.
Gordon states he’s a bit embarrassed, that the menu needs help as do the dishes. Mike is clearly in denial and believes he’s making excellent food. Viewers get to really judge for themselves when dinner service starts. As usual, a big crowd comes in due to name recognition for Chef Ramsay, and in response, Mike gets to hitting the brews early to handle the rush. Ramsay sets himself into the kitchen to observe and notices Mike is doing all the work himself. To his credit, he is very fast at getting food out, but the food itself looks like death warmed over. When criticized, Mike refuses to see any problems with his foods, despite messes on the plate and steaks literally being set ablaze. Daniel, who is Mike’s cousin and sous chef, notices how broken of a man Mike is, and wants to help though is often not allowed to as Mike has a need to be in full control.
One dinner service and about a 12 pack later, an after dinner meeting is held. Mike is clearly drunk throughout, and Ramsay is worried about his condition, and the mistakes that resulted from it. Mike admits he feels lost, and he doesn’t know what to do next. He states that cooking is his passion, but Ramsay is able to pick up that the passion died along with his father. This has contributed to his drinking as well, and Gordon tries to level with him and plans to get him back up to the standard he once had. On that note, the night is concluded.
The next morning, Chef Ramsay visits Mike and his family at their home. He states that it feels like an impending disaster. He then recounts the previous conversation and states he is worried about the alcohol use. The daughters admit he’s always hurting and trying to cover it with work which isn’t healthy. Ramsay proposes that the kids jump in and help Mike, as he walks into the living room. It’s clear he means a lot to the family, as the daughters have a sit-down with him and the current condition. They ask him to let go a bit and take some breaks. He agrees that being more open may be beneficial and is willing to try to do so, though he is realistic in saying it won’t occur overnight.
The customary inspection is then held, which is filled with the previous nights’ food, raw and cooked cross contamination, dirty ranges, rotting seafood, baked on pans, you name it. The whole crew is called in for a deep clean of the kitchen, and a new policy of nightly cleaning is put up, as well as a cleaning out of beer in the back. When cooking, Chef Ramsay gets a pair of steaks prepared and teaches Mike how it’s done, who was willing to learn and is an observant student, to say the least.
After this change of heart from egoism to a willingness to learn, another big change is inbound for Mike and Nellie’s. There’s an entire renovation, including removal of the nasty carpet and broken fixtures, and replacement of the dreary look to a rustic, clean steakhouse. Even the outdoor sign gets a lovely redesign, which takes it right into the 21st century. The entire family is in tears of joy and disbelief, which gets them very pumped for the relaunch later in the night. A new menu is also presented, which does feature some seafood but is mostly steak, with high-quality cuts and sides. This blows Mike out of the water and gets him excited about trying to make something outside his own recipe. During the relaunch, there’s an even larger crowd than before, and a need to delegate tasks. Mike will handle the grill, and his Sous Chef working as both expeditor and assistant. Despite some significant stress and a need for Mike to regroup and get back on track, teamwork wins the day with very pleased customers. But is this a sign of things to come in 2017, or just a spark of what could be? Let’s see where Mike and Nellie’s is in 2017.
Mike and Nellie’s After Kitchen Nightmares – 2023 Update
Mike and Nellie’s was a family-owned steak and seafood restaurant in Oakhurst, New Jersey. In an attempt to save the struggling business, they sought the help of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and his team. During the episode of Kitchen Nightmares, Ramsay revamped the restaurant’s menu, improved its food quality, and addressed the issues in management.
After they appeared on the show, the restaurant saw a boost in business, with many customers curious to try out the revamped menu and experience firsthand the changes implemented by Chef Ramsay. Unfortunately, however, the positive effects of the show seemed to be short-lived.
Just a few months after their episode aired, the restaurant shut its doors for good. Mike Scarella, one of the co-owners, also passed away in 2012 due to a heart attack, less than a year after they appeared on the show. If anything, the loss of its co-owner was a devastating blow to the restaurant that it could not recover from.
As of 2023, Mike and Nellie’s old location has been taken over by an Italian restaurant.
The tale of Mike and Nellie’s serves as a stark reminder that reality TV shows like Kitchen Nightmares can provide temporary boosts and solutions but aren’t always able to guarantee long-term success. The show can be a lifeline for struggling restaurants, but it’s also no magic potion. The ultimate success or failure of these businesses depends on many other factors beyond just good food and effective management.