Kitchen Nightmares - Jack's Waterfront - CLOSED

Kitchen Nightmares Jack's Waterfront

In this Kitchen Nightmares episode, Chef Gordon Ramsay visits Jack's Waterfront in St Clair Shores, Michigan.

Jack's Waterfront is a lakeside seafood restaurant owned by three body builders Bill, Tammer and Scott.

St Clair Shores is a popular summer resort community not far from Detroit.

Jack’s is known for entertainment for the young holiday crowd but is empty during winter when only the locals remain.

They believe their reputation for bad food is what is killing their business.

Tammer's father, A.J, was brought in to hopefully improve the kitchen but it didn’t work and he was made General Manager so they wouldn’t have to fire him.

He has become problematic, flirting with female customers and getting drunk to the annoyance of Bill and Scott.

Scott is also terrifying the customers with his presence and due to the amount of complaints, Tammer and Bill had to make him a silent partner.

Aaron is the new Chef brought in to replace A.J. in the kitchen but he isn’t given enough space or freedom with the menu.

They are currently pumping more money in than they are getting out and Scott has put the most money in with $500,000 invested.

They owe different taxes and are currently in over $500,000 of debt.

Gordon arrives during winter and snowmobiles across the frozen lake to Jack’s.

A.J greets Gordon and he later meets Scott and Bill and talks to them individually.

Bill is first and tells Gordon he puts in 65 hours a week, while Scott was pushed out because he intimidated staff and customers.

A.J. mirrors Bill's response but Scott says he wants to be more involved in the restaurant.

Bill believes the problem with the restaurant is the food, A.J. thinks the food is good while Scott lays the blame on A.J. who is drinking right in front of them at the bar.

Gordon sits in the restaurant to try the food they serve and orders a ‘Krab’ Omelette, Pecan Salmon and Fish and Chips.

Scott stares at Gordon whilst he is ordering and eating, making him feel uncomfortable.

The Krab Omelette comes and the server finds out from the chef crab is spelt with a K because the meal is made with artificial crab meat and he didn’t want to mislead people.

Gordon is baffled that a seafood restaurant located beside the water would serve canned artificial seafood.

The Krab Omelette is rubbery and horrible.

A.J. says he has no idea the crab meat was fake and he is allergic to shellfish so he never tasted the dish.

Next, the Fish and Chips are rubbery, greasy and very obviously made with frozen fish.

The Salmon is too sweet and he says it is one of the worst salmon dishes he has ever eaten.

Gordon enters the kitchen to speak with staff, Aaron tells him the fake crab meat is inventory the restaurant had before he got there.

He says that he is not in charge of the food and has no control over shopping for produce or the menu.

A.J. deflects blame, as well as Scott, for the menu management.

Gordon observes the night’s dinner service and Tammer after working a full day comes in and meets with Gordon.

He informs Gordon, A.J. is supposed to be in charge.

Gordon begins the kitchen inspection and watches Aaron work; it takes 45 minutes before the first orders of the night leave the kitchen.

Chef Aaron is struggling to control the staff, they ignore him when he is calling orders and go out to smoke whenever they please.

Customers start complaining almost immediately about the food.

The complains about the food are that it is too chewy, too raw and basically bad food.

While all this is going on, A.J. is smoking and socializing with the guests rather than dealing with issues.

Bill is comping meals and drinks and lots of food is being thrown away.

The biggest issue with the restaurant is that there is no clear leader and no one is in charge.

Gordon tells Tammer that he has to separate family from business for them to be able to turn the restaurant around.

A.J. had 44 years of restaurant experience but it doesn’t show, and he is the only one getting paid an astounding $100,000 a year.

Gordon inspects the kitchen early in the morning to see salmon marinating in Italian spices, tuna dyed pink and solid mushroom risotto stuck to a pan.

When the staff come in, he takes them on a tour of the fridge and they see spoiled condiments and fresh food.

There is beef sat in a tray of blood and old, grey chicken.

A.J. says he is not at fault; Scott is angry, and they all come together to deep clean the kitchen.

Gordon meets with a local fisherman and catches a fish himself.

The fisherman says he hates the food at Jack’s as their fish is buried in sauces.

Gordon gets a promise from the fisherman to come by to taste a chowder made with their catch of the day.

Gordon shows Aaron and A.J. how to make a chowder served in a bread bun and poached salmon that's simple enough not to put too much pressure on the kitchen staff.

Scott is made to work a section: take orders and serve for the evening with a challenge not to stare at customers.

He flounders but Gordon gives him a pep talk.

Aaron tries to give instructions but his staff are not listening to him and customers are left waiting 45 minutes to 1 hour for their meals.

The kitchen staff don’t respect him and Gordon had to give them all a pep talk to get them to listen to Aaron.

The specials are going down well but everything else is being sent back and A.J. is lost and waddles around.

The evening service is a disaster.

There is a staff meeting afterwards and Gordon tells Aaron he has to command respect in the kitchen.

He also says that A.J. is at fault for creating that culture and he is being overpaid.

Gordon’s design team works overnight for the relaunch.

The new Jack’s has an aquarium and fish tanks on the walls, corrugated iron is used as accents to brighten up and modernise the place.

There are ropes on the tables for customers to occupy themselves, practicing tying knots from the backs of the menus while waiting for their food.

The menu is changed to incorporate fresh seafood and fresh produce.

On relaunch night, there is a snowstorm but customers still turn up for the service.

Scott is pleasant to customers and Aaron tries to take control of the kitchen but loses soon after the restaurant is at capacity.

A.J. is not doing enough to help in the kitchen and makes it worse.

Scott is forced to speak up in support of Aaron and restores order in the kitchen.

Food then goes out faster and customers enjoy the new food and Aaron holds his kitchen staff accountable.

The relaunch night overall is a success and customers are happy.

Gordon has a final meeting with the owners and they are happy and pleased except for A.J. who is made to cut back on hours and pay.



What Happened Next at Jack's Waterfront?

In the weeks that followed, Aaron was given full control over the kitchen menu and staffing, two cooks were fired and two new experienced sous chefs were hired.

A.J. was eventually fired, making space for a new General Manager.

Jack's Waterfront closed in December 2010.

Yelp reviews after the episode filmed were mostly positive, the handful of negative comments were on service.

Jack's reopened as Dockside Jack's in March 2011, Yelp reviews were good but it closed after just a month.

They sold the restaurant back to the previous owners and it became Brownies on the Lake in April 2011 and Yelp reviews are mixed.

Jack's Waterfront aired on November 06 2008, the episode was filmed in March 2008 and is Kitchen Nightmares season 2 episode 7.


Read About More Kitchen Nightmares

Previous episode - Hannah & Mason's

Next episode - Sabatiello's

This post was last updated in January 2021.

24 comments:

  1. They are now called Brownies and they aren't doing any better; if Chef Ramsey comes back to this place I can hear the statement now "same place and new name".

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  2. They DID turn it around you mop. The question is, have they kept it up since his departure? Or were they just in too deep with the debts that they had no choice but to close it down? Assuming wont get you anywhere..

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    1. Seems like you are a previous owner or friend of the owner. I have been there several times under all the names and ownership. It was HORRIBLE!

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  3. I just watched this episode and Im sad for these guys. I was hoping they would pull through after getting rid of the manager and replacing some kitchen staff.

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  4. The old owners of Jack's now own Mikes 2 driveways north on Jefferson

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    1. Actually Mikes is the same owner of the original Jack's not these former muscle head meatballs that had no business owning a restaurant. The guy Mike, I've met him, he knows what he is doing. You shouldn't be saying things you don't know.

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  5. Most of the restaurants featured on Kitchen Nightmares seem to be horrifically deep in debt. When someone says that they have 2-6 months to turn their business completely around or they will go out of business, then they are deep in the umm, stuff.

    It's usually recommended that a business have at least 1 year's worth of operating capital in reserve when opening. Ideally that should start to expand as the business grows. When a business is down to a couple months worth of operating capital, that means that their margin for error is gone. One problem, like an equipment breakdown can finish them off. They are already on the brink, so it's not a surprise that many of these restaurants fail, even if they do everything right after the show.

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    1. This is good advice for people, too. Too many citizens of the US are operating with no margin for error at all--one illness, one bit of bad luck, one car failure, and they're done for. We're supposed to have a year's income free-and-clear in the bank just in case, but who does that anymore? No wonder restaurants don't know this rule--their owners probably don't either. Thanks for pointing it out.

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    2. Best, most worthy comment here!

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  6. Damn, I really liked these guys. I wish they were STILL open...

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    1. They would probably still be open if only they had just put some concrete galoshes on that old, desiccated, useless breather waste of space AJ, then tossed him into Lake Michigan.

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  7. By giving Chef Aaron the right to craft the menu as he saw fit, does anyone know if he kept the menu mostly as Chef Ramsay had it, or did they revert back to serving frozen foods?

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  8. Chef Aaron was a sweetie. I hope he found another place. He just needed confidence and the authority to do what he knew was right. It's sad that these restaurants seem so deep in trouble by the time they get onto the show; had Ramsay come much earlier, I've no doubt they'd have made it, but there's only so much repair work someone can do with a business already teetering on the brink.

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  9. I just finished watching this episode on Netflix, and I am sadden by the news of its closing. I really liked the guys and they seemed like they were going to make it. The owner's father salary of $100,000 annually did not help them througout their time of need. All this money to have him drink like a fish and "entertain" the old ladies...shesh I could do that with my eyes closed. Too bad for his son. I bet the old man must be laughing at them, of course all the way to the bank. Sorry guys, hope you find another venue. Good luck!

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  10. What happened to the head chef aaron? Did he give up? He looked like he had the right idea...

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  11. I visited here with my family before it closed for good. I had a steak that was extremely overcooked (I ordered medium rare and very nearly got charcoal), and my dad got the all-you-can-eat perch. Our waitress was decent for about three minutes, and when I had her send back my steak and my dad was through his first plate of perch, she allegedly went to put in our order. She didn't, she completely forgot to, and she sat down two tables away from us and started talking to some guys that we presumed she knew. Ten minutes later, she realizes my dad and I are staring at her, so she jumps up, puts in the order, and comes back and says she has no idea what's taking so long. My dad immediately told her that we saw her slacking off and not doing her job, and he demanded to speak to the manager. Not only did my mom and sister get free dinner because of how epically horrible the service was, but the owner/manager gave us gift certificates for if we ever came back. Needless to say, we did not.

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  12. So much hate here for AJ... although yes, he did take quite a few liberties in his position as GM, and he was pretty terrible at his job, the /real/ problem with AJ wasn't AJ himself. It was the son's fault for hiring a family member, and treating the person as family rather than as an employee.

    That, as well as something else that seems to be a common trend in this series: owners not acting like owners. The first time you, or one/both of your co-owners, witness an employee drinking alcohol on their shift, you fire them on the spot. GM's job isn't to drink w/ the customers, it's to make sure the customers are happy, make sure the front of house is running smoothly, the kitchen is performing its duties efficiently and accurately, and to make sure there is adequate communication between the front of house and kitchen. Consuming alcohol can interfere with your performance in those duties, and should be expressly forbidden.

    Really, it should be common sense that drinking on the job isn't allowed, but that's not how the USA works... this is the land of explicitly telling people that redbull does not actually give you wings, that the hot coffee you just ordered is actually *hot* and you shouldn't spill it on yourself, and that hand sanitizer shouldn't be ingested.

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    1. Wow - it's the first time that I've heard than a grown adult's behaviour isn't their own fault What a cop out.

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    2. Wow, so you admit AJ was culpable for taking liberties and was terrible at his job as a GM.

      However you said the real problem were his son (who sympathetically employed him) & the other owners.

      Where to begin?

      You continued by stating that anyone drinking on the job should be fired.... The person drinking on the job was AJ.

      I do not accept that the son offering his father a position in his restaurant is a get of jail free card for all the Bs that happened in this restaurant.

      Aj should be ashamed for corrupting a viable business which has cost his son dearly.

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  13. They should have fired that entire kitchen when the new chef got there.

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  14. 2 clear problems here and neither of them are AJ.

    Firstly: the son. His reaction that a pay cut for AJ would have been "a huge problem" for him speaks volumes.

    Secondly: the young bald owner who had clearly been siding with the son in supporting AJ and as a result, his swing vote had allowed the business to go down the drain.

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  15. I have never seen such brain dead staff in my life. Those blank stares made me nervous

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  16. The entire kitchen aside from Aaron needed to be fired.
    I'm surprised Ramsay didn't suggest that upon the watching them serve before the major relaunch.

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  17. They used fish from the lake near Detroit? ughhh..

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