Chef Gordon Ramsay visits Cafe Hon in Baltimore, Maryland, owned by entrepreneur Denise Whiting based on the word Hon. She trademarked the word Hon and it alienated the local people. She threatened to go after anyone who used the word and there are anti hon stickers. Since the "Hon controversy", business has been down and she takes it out on the staff. Gordon stops by a local radio station and discovers that the term hon is extremely important to the culture of the town and that she had threatened legal action against others.
Gordon arrives and is greeted by Debbie, the manager and Denise. They sit down for a chat, she breaks down and says business is half of the previous year and she has invested the last of her money. She recognises that the problem is the trademarking of the word 'Hon' as the media got involved. Gordon sits down to try the food, he orders the Big Bay Club, English style Fish and Chips and the "Much Better Than Mom's" Meatloaf. On the club, the crab is delicious but the shrimps are stone cold and taste old. The fish and chips is greasy, the fish is dry and the soggy batter is coming away. The meatloaf is dreadful, with no flavour, the broccoli is raw, the mash cold and the gravy over the top swamps the dish. Gordon discovers they are told by Denise that they can't season the fries.
Gordon watches an evening service and Denise comes in and shouts at them all. The food backs up as she insists on showing them how to cook and plate asparagus. Food is sent back for many reasons so she stops serving turkey, steaks, pot pie, catfish, french fries and sweet fries, leaving them nothing to serve. The customers become frustrated and leave, $800 of food is comped or discounted. Gordon calls a staff meeting, morale is low, they don't like the way they are spoken to and they don't like her management style. They are in fear of being fired if they tell her how they really feel. Manager Debbie calls her a "rude bitch" telling her she treats them like s***, they tell her she is negative, talks down to them and doesn't appreciate or trust them.
Gordon calls a meeting with local residents, they are angry about the 'Hon' trademarking, they think she is just after money and have made a mockery of the citizens. They also think she is a bully as anyone could be issued a cease and desist order and one resident has had a letter. The Maryland State Government had to go to her to approve use of the word hon in their ad campaign and she insisted on creative control! The locals say they will think about returning if she abandons the trademark on 'Hon'. Gordon revamps the restaurant and menu. Gordon makes it clear it is important to reach out to the local area and they go to a local radio station. She apologises and asks for forgiveness, she then gives the trademark back to the people by dropping ownership.
What Happened Next?
Reviews on Yelp are looking mostly negative but it is hard to tell if these ring true due to her bad reputation with the trademark issue, which in 2016 is still mentioned in reviews by locals. Gordon revisited in May 2012 and discovers that residents have began to forgive her as she gave up the trademark on the word Hon. Gordon brands her burger delicious and she is given a commendation for her work in the community. The restaurant was packed with diners but it appears many are not going to forgive her so easily... In May 2013, the restaurant was renovated and redecorated. Reviews throughout 2015 appear to be mostly negative with negative comments on food quality and service.
Dan Rodricks: You don't own me, hon Denise Whiting's crass effort to control use of a Baltimore regionalism