Chef Gordon Ramsay visits Mama Rita's, Newbury Park, CA, a Mexican restaurant named after owner Laura's Grandma, she runs the restaurant alongside a catering business. She was successful in the catering business so thought she could succeed in running a restaurant as it is "just adding a dining room". Perla is a cook and not a chef and is "family" to Laura. Head Server Brad says she is not a good boss as there are no set rules and her mother works as a server. The restaurant was busy at first and the customers have dwindled. Laura is in $2.2million debt and at risk of losing her house.
Gordon arrives and says the restaurant is stunning. Laura recommends the tamales and Gordon sits down to order some food. Brad advices a long list of dishes for Gordon to avoid as they are dry. Gordon orders the tamales, chimichanga and a burrito. The tamales are like soaking wet newspaper but dry. Laura tells him that they make them in big batches and steam them. The chimichanga are microwaved then fried, the chicken is dry. The steak burrito is like a diaper and like eating wet cardboard. Gordon enters the kitchen to meet the staff and they reveal the food in the restaurant is the same food as they use for catering.
Gordon arrives to witness a dinner service and the restaurant is packed. The food goes out very fast to the customers but they are not happy with the food they receive and Gordon compares it to fast food. Gordon suspects they are taking short cuts, he looks in a small freezer and pulls out a lot of frozen food from 2 months ago... He enters the walk in freezer and finds a lot more frozen food. All Laura continues to say throughout is that "This is what we did for catering". He describes them as a factory processing plant that defrosts and serves. Gordon empties the fridges and freezers and puts all the food on display in the restaurant, the amount is huge ad some of it is disgusting. Some of the food is from as far back as last year!
Gordon invites some ex customers to talk to Laura about the restaurant and what went wrong. They says the food isn't creative and they got sick with stomach problems, probably due to defrosting frozen food. Gordon challenges Laura and Perla to each cook a new dish for the menu with fresh ingredients. Perla struggles to come up with a dish, she comes up with "garlic breast" with garlic and salt, which is bland and uncreative compared to Gordon's steak and Laura's blackened shrimp tacos. For the evening service, the specials are popular but they struggle to cook the fresh fish and steak. Perla struggles to run the kitchen and the large team of cooks are struggling too. Gordon tells Laura that Perla is not a Head Chef. Gordon invites Chef Naris Mardirosian to help in the kitchen as a consultant and the menu is revamped with fresh, seasonal ingredients, the staff taste the food and love it.
For relaunch night, Naris is overseeing but Perla is not working with Naris and is struggling. The cooks stand there doing nothing while the customers face a long wait for food. Food is sent back with burnt chips, missing beans and cheese, more raw steak. Even Chef Naris struggles with the chaos of the kitchen caused by Perla, there are tears from both Chefs. Gordon makes it clear to Laura that Perla is not capable of running the kitchen and Laura should consider getting rid of her. Laura and Perla have a weird, inappropriate, touchy feely heart to heart conversation but Laura refuses to sack Perla. Naris is forced to step up and the service finishes well with her help and the customers love the food.
What Happened Next?
After Gordon left Naris stayed for a few weeks to help get the restaurant off the ground, Perla was removed as Head Chef and to continue working in the catering side. Laura reverted back to her old menu from Gordon's menu and portion sizes to mixed reviews. The Restaurant has closed but the catering business is still in business. Laura is running a restaurant called Mission Oaks Cafe in Camarillo, CA.
Mama Rita's Authentic Mexican Cantina Yelp Reviews
Blog review from the guy who had the burnt chips with no cheese at the relaunch and Laura's Comments
Burnt Chips Guy Revisits
Mama Rita's in Dos Vientos Ranch (Newbury Park) is Closing Its Doors in 2011
Mission Oaks Cafe Yelp Reviews
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