Zeke's - Kitchen Nightmares Update - Open or Closed?

Zeke's Kitchen Nightmares

In this Kitchen Nightmares episode, Gordon Ramsay visits Zeke’s Restaurant in Metairie, New Orleans.

Zeke's was originally owned by a local icon named James Flynn aka Zeke who opened the restaurant in 2002.

In 2005, he sadly died during Hurricane Katrina and Darryl and Ellen Cortello bought the restaurant in an estate sale in 2006.

They decided to keep the name of the restaurant the same because it was popular and had a crowd of regulars.

Darryl immediately made changes and cut staff, reduced the size of the portions, opted for cheaper ingredients and raised the menu prices.

The staff has had their pay cut and hours increased.

Zeke’s regulars hated the changes they made and stopped coming to the restaurant.

Gordon meets with locals to find out how they feel about the restaurant.

The reviews are not good. They say they were regulars before the hurricane but barely go there anymore because the magic of the place is gone and the quality has dropped.

Gordon arrives during lunch service and is greeted by Ellen.

She informs Gordon her husband is the one who made changes and put dishes on the menu without having any training.

Gordon orders the oyster cortello (named after the owners), boiled shrimp, chicken fried steak and traditional bread pudding.

First to come out is the boiled shrimp which he thinks is mushy and nasty and doesn’t think it tastes fresh.

Candace tells him the shrimp is frozen while he notes that fresh shrimp available less than 10 minutes away.

Gordon notices the swamp wall decor and Candance proudly says it was one of their additions even though it was a bad one.

Next, the oysters arrive and he finds it dreadful, depressing and thinks that no one should put their name on it.

The fried chicken steak is bland with no seasoning.

He is however impressed with the taste of the bread pudding, made by Chef Emil although the presentation didn't look good.

Gordon comes into the kitchen and meets Darryl and all the kitchen staff.

He gives them feedback on the meals and Emilio reveals he isn’t proud of the meals but Darryl oversees the buying of the produce.

Darryl is defensive saying that they have no time to shop fresh from the fish market and that customers are okay with the food.

Darryl claims Gordon knows nothing about New Orleans food as he has no food returned.

Just before dinner service, Gordon meets with the kitchen staff except Darryl.

They tell him Darryl was warned once he started buying lower quality that the food was going to be affected.

Gordon speaks with Emil and another cook who tell him that the owners only care about money and cut corners to cut costs.

Gordon arrives to observe a dinner service and discovers that the shrimp is bagged into portions and he is not impressed.

Darryl likes to expedite food but he delays the service and food is left sitting on the pass until it is served cold and sent back.

Gordon sees Lasagne that was made a week ago and portioned. It is frozen and reheated to serve to the diners.

Darryl claims it is okay for this to be served to customers as a special.

Ellen insists the lasagne is still okay, it is a safe practice to serve this and customers would be okay with it.

Gordon tests that theory and lets the whole dining room know how and when the lasagne was prepared and they are all shocked and start leaving in droves.

After dinner service, Gordon speaks to the owners again and they are as defensive as ever insisting on portion control, counting costs, frozen and microwaved food.

Gordon calls a staff meeting without the owners the next morning, asking for their thoughts on the work environment.

The staff say that they are are overworked and underpaid, they are not respected or allowed lunch breaks and are talked down to.

Once the owners are allowed back in, they reluctantly air their grievances with the owners and it is clear staff morale is very low.

Jason tells them they are more concerned with customer numbers than quality food, customer service, respecting the staff and paying a decent wage.

Ellen defends it by saying they have had to use their own funds to pay the wages and Darryl angrily tells them "If you don't want to be here, don't be here".

Ellen and Darryl are shocked saying they are struggling to keep the business afloat even though it is pointed out by the staff that they go on vacation often.

Gordon decides to show Darryl how talented and passionate his kitchen staff are by asking them to buy fresh seafood from the grocery store and make any two dishes they want.

Whilst they are making their dishes, Gordon makes a chicken fried steak meal.

Gordon offers the three dishes to the owners saying it was all him and they love everything especially the seafood dishes.

After the owners sing praises, he tells them it is Emil and Jason that made the seafood meals and they are shocked.

They say the meals taste like the new Zeke.

Overnight, Gordon’s team work to renovate the restaurant. The reveal begins with the interior and the swamp is gone.

A wall is covered with reclaimed doors as a feature piece, the chairs have been changed and there is a seafood boil house on display to the dining area.

It is hoped this feature will double seafood orders and sales.

Gordon also updates the menu with classic New Orleans meals, full of fresh shellfish and alligator.

It is soon time for the relaunch and the restaurant is packed.

In a bid to lighten the pressure on the kitchen servers are asked to push boiled seafood.

Customers listen to the servers and are loving the buckets of seafood.

On the regular orders, Darryl calls out orders rapidly overwhelming the cooks who must work faster, sacrificing quality and a half raw fish dish is sent out and then returned to the kitchen.

Gordon is upset and shuts the kitchen down to get Darryl to slow down and focus on sending out quality food.

A news team comes by to interview Gordon and Ellen putting a spotlight on the restaurant.

The relaunch was a success and Gordon reminds Darryl and Ellen they have huge potential with the place and if they keep the right standards and processes they will go far.

What Happened Next at Zeke's?

In the following weeks, customer numbers are up and morale has improved.

Yelp reviews were mostly positive after Gordon visited with compliments to the food and service.

The average comments critique the portion sizes and suggest service could be hit and miss.

They hired a new Executive Chef Michelle Matlock, who had plenty of experience and some vegan specials for the menu.

Zeke's closed in October 2012 and was sold to new owners.

A sign stating the closure was taped the door of the restaurant.

It appears that they may have closed as Ellen was diagnosed with cancer according to the LUCA Eats website.

Daryll and Ellen opened LUCA Eats in New Orleans in 2016 and reviews are excellent.

Porter and Luke’s opened in the former Zeke's in January 2013 and reviews are good.

Zeke's was aired on May 13 2011, the episode was filmed in January 2011 and is Kitchen Nightmares season 4 episode 11.

Read About More Kitchen Nightmares

Previous episode - Capri

Next episode - Oceana

This post was last updated in March 2023.


  1. Are the 2 young chefs still there?

  2. where are the 2 young chefs? They seem so talented.

    1. Jason is a head chef right now, but I don't know what happened to Emil! I hope they are both doing great though, they seemed like they really loved cooking!

  3. No wonder the place failed with two ignorant, arrogant owners.

  4. fresh frozen shrimp, portions, wtf , eventually the standards fell again

  5. I think I want to chime in with the same question others have asked... what happened to Emil and Jason, the young chefs that seemed to have the acts together??? I sure hope some success came their way.

  6. Darryl is now a life couch. A quote from his linkedin page I found interesting: "I have made the transition from businessman to life coach. As a business owner for over 25 years, my true pleasure was realized in coaching my employees, specifically, working with them to unlock their capabilities."

    1. Oh the irony

    2. Lol!!! This dude telling people how to live their lives? What an absolute joke! This is why I have a hard time trusting industries like 'Life Coaching'. Go get coached by the guy who sells week old lasagna as fresh daily special. I'm sure that'll work out. Rofl, this whole story just gets better and better.

    3. Wow, that guy is a life couch now?! I would have pegged Darryl as more of a sectional or rocking chair kind of guy.

    4. He's a robot. Bleep bloop product -> profit bleep bloop.

  7. Lol "Some things are good frozen"

    1. Ice cream is good frozen!

    2. Frozen food can be decent... for eating at home. That's the thing though. What's good at home isn't good for running a restaurant.

  8. Watching an old episode of KN, and wondering what happened to this restaurant. I'm sorry to see that they have closed. The chefs seemed truly talented, and I hope they were able to get new, better, jobs.

    The owners didn't seem like they had taken much about respecting and paying their staff to heart, and I know from experience how that can ruin morale, and how bad morale can tank a company. It's such a shame, but a happy staff counts for so much.

  9. These two owners of Zeke's were very rude to their staff. These employee's were like family to each other due to their long career at Zeke's when the original owners opened it. I felt sad when I saw some of the staff tear up while owners listened with Gordon that they didnt want to leave each other. Then owner said don't want to be here ,leave, how selfish these owners were to employees that wemere dedicated and put up with owners crap so they could stay a family. Owners fate in the business was inevible and I hope best wishes to the staff employee's of this Kitchen Nightmare. I hope they all were blessed with rewarding careers. The chefs obviously new how to cook, I would like to eat wherever they are cooking now.
    RJ Yarbrough

  10. Watching it now. I know, I'm late but I'm sure they tried to sell it for profit with Gordon Ramsey's name on it. Jerks!

    1. Less debt they pass on to the taxpayers when they declare bankruptcy.

    2. Taxpayers don't take the hit on debt in bankruptcy, creditors do. Now back-taxes, on the other hand...

  11. This is what happens when they owners only care about money. You care about a food and have a passion for quality. The money will then come. -ShaneH

  12. I am curious on who owns the building now and what happened to it.

    1. Appears to be called Porter and lukes restaurant now and totally redesigned

    2. Itc called porter and lukes now

  13. They had great staff staying for them for so long. Can't pay them but they went on vacation 5 times a year.

    1. Wish I could go on vacation even TWICE a year, let alone five times. The fact they could even do that speaks volumes. That, and selling the place.

  14. Ramsay: “When was this lasagna cooked?”

    Cook: “Last Thursday”

    Ramsay: “Today’s Thursday” LOL

  15. The owner came off like a robot. The fact that they went on numerous vacations per year and had the audacity to ask staff to take pay cuts was truly outrageous to me.


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