Kitchen Nightmares - Cafe Hon - OPEN

Cafe Hon Kitchen Nightmares

In this Kitchen Nightmares episode, Chef Gordon Ramsay visits Cafe Hon in Baltimore, Maryland.

Cafe Hon opened by entrepreneur Denise Whiting in 1992.

The vibrant Cafe features a giant flamingo on the front and has a colourful frontage.

The restaurant was named Hon as a term of endearment as the locals use it to signify friendliness between each other.

In 2010, Denise decided to trademark not only the name of the cafe ‘Café Hon’ but she also trademarked the word ‘Hon’ and this alienated the local people.

Denise had Baltimore behind her when she first opened but trademarking the word ‘Hon’ so she could sell merchandise backfired.

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

Gordon stops by a local radio station to gain more knowledge about the reason the community decided to turn his back on the restaurant.

He discovers that the term Hon is extremely important to the town.

The word is a cultural icon in Baltimore and it has been part of their vocabulary long before cafe Hon existed.

Denise took the name for herself and even announced in the newspaper that the word was now trademarked by her.

She had also threatened legal action against any business that uses the word without her permission.

The problem is not the name of the cafe but with her trademarking the Hon name.

Gordon arrives at Cafe Hon and is greeted by Debbie, the manager of 13 years, who calls in Denise to meet with him.

Gordon has a private talk with Denise and a few moments into the talk she breaks down.

She tells him that business has decreased by 50% and she has sold basically all she has and put it into the business.

She doesn’t know what to do anymore or how to turn things around.

Denise knows that the trademark was an issue as the people believed she has stolen something from the city of Baltimore but doesn't take the blame for that.

She instead blames the local media for the reaction as they inflamed the situation.

Denise tries to evade the truth of threatening to sue someone for using the Hon word but Gordon’s tells her that he has done his research.

He tells her it would be difficult for him to help her out if she’s not entirely truthful to him.

Gordon sits down to eat and orders the Big Bay Club, English style Fish and Chips and the "Much Better Than Mom's" Meatloaf.

Gordon tries to eat the big bay club but it was too big to eat at once.

He breaks it down, the layer of crab is delicious but the shrimps are stone cold and they taste like they are a week old.

Greg, the head chef says that most of the menu items are Denise’s recipes and they are crap.

Denise tastes the food and believes the food is perfect.

Server Amanda says Denise’s biggest downfall is her believe that she’s never wrong.

The English style Fish and Chips is next but the fish and chips is greasy, the fish is dry and the batter is soggy.

Gordon calls the dish a big disappointment.

Gordon tastes the meatloaf and it is dreadful with no flavor, raw broccoli, cold mashed potatoes and the gravy over the top swamps the dish.

Denise can’t believe that Gordon could have an issue with all of her dishes.

She says that she now doubts if Gordon is the answer to their problems.

Gordon meets with the kitchen staff who accept Gordon's criticism but Denise looks furious.

Greg tells Gordon that Denise doesn’t like it when they try to change things on the menu.

Gordon returns to observe the evening service as the place is packed for the first time in a year, upon hearing the news that Gordon is in town.

The kitchen is swamped with orders but Denise keeps barking orders and giving lessons on making asparagus, which slows things down.

The dishes that manage to be sent out is sent back for many reasons so Denise decides to stop serving the turkey.

More complaints lead to her 86ing the steaks, pot pie, catfish, french fries and sweet fries leaving them with next to nothing to serve.

Amanda says instead of trying to fix things Denise usually stops serving things altogether.

The customers become frustrated as the menu items keeps dwindling and they leave.

Gordon asks Amanda to find out the total amount lost and he finds out that $800 worth of food was thrown away.

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

Gordon calls a staff meeting the next morning without Denise and asks them what bothers them about the way Denise runs the restaurant.

The staff says they 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 behavior and the staff say she is negative.

Denise also talks down to them and it is better when she is not there as everything goes on smoothly in her absence.

They are afraid to tell anything to her face because they can be fired.

Denise meets them during their meeting and Gordon asks the staff to tell her what they feel.

A lot of negative things were said against Denise but the main focus is the way she screams and tries to control everyone.

A member of staff comments on how nobody likes her makes Denise burst into tears.

She says that she is grateful that they manage to stay with her after all she has put them through.

Denise tells them how much she appreciates them and apologizes for her behavior.

She promise to change her behavior and it is a teary moment among the staff.

Gordon calls a meeting with local residents with Denise listening to their conversations through a set of headphones.

They are angry about the 'Hon' trademarking and think she is just after money.

One local called her a bully as anyone could be issued a cease-and-desist order just for using the word ‘Hon’.

He got one himself when he created a website having the word ‘Hon’ in the name.

The Maryland State Government had to go to her to approve the 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'.

The meeting was an eye opener for Denise and she tells Gordon she realizes she has made a mistake and she agrees to take responsibility.

Gordon revamps the restaurant and as the staff enters the restaurant, they were very excited as they love the new design.

Denise hugs Gordon and bursts into tears.

Gordon shows them the revamped menu and when the sample they love the new delicious food.

Gordon knows that it is important to reach out to the community and makes arrangements for him and Denise go to a local radio station.

She apologizes to the people and asks for forgiveness for the trademark.

Denise tells the locals that she would give the trademark back to them by giving up ownership.

On relaunch night, the restaurant is packed with locals and they love both the new decor and food.



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 March 2021.

23 comments:

  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.....

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

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

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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    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.

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    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.

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  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.

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  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.

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

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    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.

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

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

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  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.

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    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.

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    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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  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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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

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    2. I agree with you wholeheartedly!

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  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.!!!

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  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. :(

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  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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