Kitchen Nightmares - Cafe Hon - OPEN

Cafe Hon Kitchen Nightmares

Chef Gordon Ramsay visits Cafe Hon in Baltimore, Maryland, owned by entrepreneur Denise Whiting.

Opened in 1992, the vibrant Cafe Hon features a giant flamingo on the front of the restaurant and was named after a popular term of endearment.

In 2010, it was revealed that Denise had trademarked the word Hon and this alienated the local people.

Business has been down due to a local boycott and she takes her frustrations out on the staff.

Gordon stops by a local radio station and discovers that the term hon is extremely important to the town and that she had threatened legal action against others for using it.

Gordon arrives and Denise breaks down and says business has decreased by 50% and she has invested the last of her money.

She knows that the trademark was an issue but doesn't take the blame for that instead blaming local media for the reaction.

Gordon 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 he thinks they are old.

The fish and chips is greasy, the fish is dry and the batter soggy.

The meatloaf is dreadful, with no flavour, the broccoli is raw, the mashed potatoes are cold and the gravy over the top swamps the dish.

Gordon talks to the kitchen staff who accept Gordon's criticism but Denise looks furious.

Gordon returns to observe an evening service and Denise comes in and shouts at everyone.

The food backs up as she insists on showing them how to cook and plate asparagus.

Food is sent back for many reasons so Denise stops serving turkey, steaks, pot pie, catfish, french fries and sweet fries, leaving them nothing to serve.

She throws away fresh produce, the customers become frustrated and leave and $800 of food is given away.

Denise fails to see where the service went wrong and believes she needs to change the menu.

Gordon calls a staff meeting and morale is low, staff don't like the way they are spoken to and they don't like her management style.

Manager Debbie calls her out on her bad behaviour, the staff tell her she is negative, talks down to them and it is better when she is not there.

Gordon calls a meeting with local residents, they are angry about the 'Hon' trademarking and think she is just after money.

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 to Cafe Hon if she abandons the trademark on 'Hon'.

Gordon revamps the restaurant and menu and 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 at Cafe Hon?

Yelp Reviews are very mixed with some negative comments on both food and service and the trademark issue is still mentioned in reviews by locals.

She made changes to a number of Gordon's menu items including the crab cakes.

Gordon revisited in May 2012 and discovers that some locals have began to forgive her especially after 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 but it appears many are not going to forgive her so easily.

In May 2013, the restaurant was renovated and redecorated. Planning a visit to the restaurant? Visit the website for opening hours and more info.

Cafe Hon was aired on February 24 2012, the episode was filmed in November 2011 and is Kitchen Nightmares season 5 episode 13.

Read About More Kitchen Nightmares

Previous episode - Charlie's

Next episode - Chiarella's

This post was last updated in August 2019.


  1. I'm not sure when or where "hon" first started... did it start in Baltimore? Correct me if I'm wrong but I feel like "hon" is just part of the English colloquial language.....

    1. It's used as a term of endearment in a lot of places but it's especially used in Baltimore.

    2. And even then, only in one specific neighborhood of Baltimore.

  2. If she'd tried to copyright the phrase Cafe Hon I could understand that because it was her cafe's name but trying to copyright Hon is like trying to copyright G'day , or Y'all oe something else that is part of the general language , it just doesn';t make sense.

  3. She would have never been able to maintain such a trademark in court if anyone had just taken her up on her offer to go to trial. Instead everyone just caved in to her lawyer's silly threats.

    She really got herself into that tricky situation by trademarking "hon" rather than "Cafe Hon", since you are required to send out take down notices if you want to hold on to the trademark. If you don't do what she did and then you went to court over a serious infraction that was genuinely challenging/competing with your business, then they could just argue that you had never defended the trademark in the past and so cannot do so now. This is, unfortunately, how trademark law works. Her lawyers were right for advising her to send out the take down notices in so far as it is their job to protect her trademarks, but they should have recognized and alerted her to the fact that a trademark on a word like "hon" would never hold up for a moment if it went to court.

  4. Lol all the ones you want to see Closed on always are open Lol what a shame, didn't like the owner one bit, seemed fake the whole time the way she acted.

    1. I got the same vibe from her. After the staff told her their opinions it looked like she was acting, fake tears. I hope the staff all found better jobs, cuz I'm sure she fired them later on our at least went psycho on them. She should have given the trademark to the city of Baltimore.
      I agree with another comment also that the places I want to stay in business are the ones that ultimately closed, like Sushi Ko etc.

    2. She's only still open because Hampden is a big thing. Hampden is the neighborhood Café Hon is located in. I have lived here my entire life. Ever heard of 34th Street in Maryland? It's a huge Christmas thing here...and the Avenue where Café Hon Is located is just a blaze right now...lots of shops and restaurants. She also thinks she started "HON FEST" but if you grew up here like I did you would know it was a kiddie festival in late May/Early June....she just rebranded it her way and now there's nothing for kids...just lots of people getting drunk.

  5. She was one of the few owners/people on KN that were so very repugnant and false that I really was disappointed in Chef Ramsey for taking the time trouble and expense to give her a second chance. She didn't deserve it, especially when there are so many good hearted people trying to make a restaurant work that genuinely deserve help, rather than this ego driven tyrant.

  6. I agree with other posters. Her apology on the radio show rang false. She was sorry for all the hate (she meant directed AT HER, for instance.) A non-apology apology. Yuck. I would never patronize this place. I feel bad for the long-time employees, but they can and should seek employment elsewhere if they're unhappy.

  7. Who cares its just a word. Get over it.

    1. That kind of just proves you're either under the age of 15 or have very little education. Saying 'Who cares its just a word.' Not only is incorrect with your spelling of it's, but it also showed a general lack of knowledge when it comes to business, trademarks, or the importance of culturally significant words.

  8. I used to live within walking distance from there went there once, but there were much better places to go on that strip.

  9. Typical: whenever the owner is extremely vile, their business somehow survives. Proof that the Universe hates us.

  10. I don't understand this "hon" thing, does the city really define itself by the fact they use that word a lot? Is there no other places that say it? Also, who cares!? Where I'm from in England, we're know for saying the word "bab" and the phrase "alright bab", but we don't try to make it our one unique defining characteristic lmao. 'Hon' also seems like it wouldn't really be rare or unique to one specific place tbh but what do i know.

    1. "Hon" is actually not widely said in Baltimore at all, just the neighborhood that Cafe Hon is located in. It's in north Baltimore, which is foreign compared to Baltimore's main tourist areas.

    2. Not the point. The problem was for people using the word in their business and such, like the "welcome to baltimore, hon" site one guy mentioned in the episode.

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    1. Exactly!! That was the worst and most fake apology ever! I was thinking the same thing the whole time.
      Oh, and the way she caressed Gordon's face at the end of the radio interview....eww

    2. I agree with you wholeheartedly!

  12. everyone deserves a second chance but those ppl really its hard to forgive her if the only thing they've seen is her badside and still focusing into it. theres no point all of this honestly.!!!

  13. I'm going to sound like really bad person but I really hoped she would close. There were so many episodes with great people who were genuine and they didn't make it. And she does. :(

  14. I'm happy her restaurant is still open. If she can take Ramsey's advice, admit she hurt her standing within the community, and stay open many years later, she must have learned something....even if she does still have the silly flamingo facade.

    Copywriting "hon" sounds rediculous to begin with. It is used in every state in the South. What a silly gimmick to try to earn an extra buck, but her community did set her straight.


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