I had hoped that the season finale of Kitchen Nightmares would be some sort of holiday themed episode, six moldy geese a-laying, that kind of thing. This was not to be. Instead, Michel, the chef and owner of The Secret Garden, proved to be the sort of hard-headed stubborn man that this entire season specialized in. Up until an eleventh hour change of heart, Michel steadfastly refused to listen to anything Gordon had to say to him.
Also sticking to the script, the kitchen inspection, the best part of the show, proved no exception tonight. There was a plethora of mold to be seen as well as some wonderful maggots, and Gordon running to the bathroom to throw up. One of the desserts, which was on a huge cookie sheet, had some fantastic looking finger marks going through it where someone had clearly scraped up bits of the deliciousness and, I hope, eaten it directly from their fingers.
At the tail end of the kitchen inspection, when Gordon was yelling at Michel over the state of the walk-in refrigerator, Michel said that The Secret Garden wasn’t doing that badly, that he was making decent money. This statement flew in the face of Michel’s earlier claim (to the camera) that he was down over $300,000 with the restaurant. Wisely, Gordon pushed Michel for a number, asking how much the place had made. Michel seemed to fail to understand the question, looking at Gordon as though we were from the moon. It was as though Gordon’s question caused Michel’s English comprehension to go from fluent to nonexistent.
Later in the episode, during the first dinner service, Gordon watched as meals took forever to be prepared. He suggested to Michel that everything was overly complicated. Michel stated that in France people like to take two and three hours to eat, the implication being that he was trying to instill such an attitude at his restaurant. Michel was wise enough to know that in the United States people feel differently about the amount of time they routinely spend out at a meal in a restaurant, but the man wasn’t swift enough to realize that he should alter his approach at all.
In an effort to get through to Michel, to convince the man that he had to change his ways, the next day Gordon had the entire restaurant boarded up. The place was covered with "closed for business" signs. Gordon’s notion was that doing this would be "shock therapy" for Michel. Sure enough, Michel was shocked. He was also hugely perturbed. Michel believed that by having those signs up on the restaurant people might get the wrong idea and think the place was, you know, closed forever. Word of mouth about the "closing" could have spread, making Michel’s life that much harder.
Clearly Michel wasn’t a stupid man, Gordon’s stunt very well could have cost Michel some business. As our chef/owner wasn’t stupid, it makes one wonder all the more why exactly Michel couldn’t figure out that giving Gordon’s suggestions a chance might actually help Michel succeed. Michel’s employees indicated that the man had something of an ego problem. Almost without question it was said ego that caused him to repeatedly ignore Gordon.
Following the redesign of the dining room, which made place look "younger," Michel complained yet again. He was terrified that the customers that the place did have would feel completely alienated. It seems as though the "help" Michel wanted was much more advertising based than substantive. Michel wanted the menu to stay the same, the design of the restaurant stay the same, and just to make more money off the place. Unquestionably Kitchen Nightmares does provide some free advertising, and if, for some reason, the restaurant didn’t change at all, it might still see a momentary uptick in profits following the airing of the episode. However, I can’t imagine that the 7 year-old restaurant would be saved solely through some free advertising.
Michel, still distressed over Gordon’s changes, reverted back to his old menu during the middle of the relaunch. After he accidentally over-salted a food critic’s meal, Michel offered to make her one of his signature dishes (by which he meant an item from his old menu). Gordon was perturbed enough by Michel’s actions to change back to his street clothes, yell at Michel, and head out of the restaurant in the middle of the service.
The truly odd and disturbing thing about this scene is that Gordon changed from his chef’s shirt to his street clothes, then yelled at Michel, and walked outside. Yet, upon exiting the restaurant, Gordon was wearing a third shirt, not the one he was wearing when he yelled at Michel. Clearly the timeline here was fudged and I am quite curious to know what exactly happened versus what aired. Eventually, Gordon returned and Michel’s attitude finally changed.
Michel altered his opinions after going into the dining room towards the end of the relaunch and asking the customers what they thought of the new Secret Garden. To a person, everyone shown on the episode loved the new design and menu. That was enough to convince Michel that Gordon’s changes may have been the right way to go. Frankly, whether or not Michel pushed too hard against Gordon’s changes, the fact that Michel recognized that he should keep the changes if the customers liked them augurs well for the future of the place.
One parting quote from tonight’s episode:
Gordon to Michel after Gordon’s first meal at The Secret Garden – "don’t take this personally… I thought your food was crap. Tasteless. Bizarre. Your food was long-winded, boring, and just, you know, badly done." You know what they say though, if it were done when ’tis done then ’twere well it were done quickly.
And, for now anyway, I’m done, but you can always see what else I have to say over at The TV and Film Guy’s Reviews.