Kitchen Nightmares - Zocalo - CLOSED

Zocalo Kitchen Nightmares

In this Kitchen Nightmares episode, Chef Gordon Ramsay visits Zocalo in University city, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Zocalo is a Mexican restaurant owned by husband Greg Russell and wife Mary Russel.

The couple bought the restaurant in 2008 after they met through working in the restaurant.

Greg was a bartender and Mary ran the tortilla bar.

They thought running the restaurant would be walk in the park, but it hasn’t been.

Greg works in the kitchen 7 days a week, while Mary only comes in 3 days a week and is critical of everyone’s jobs.

The bickering of the couple is distracting to staff and Greg feels the stress of running the place is affecting their relationship.

Their daughters are servers and are upset by witnessing the poor state of their parents relationship at the restaurant.

Gordon arrives and is impressed with the authentic Mexican decor of the restaurant.

He sits down with Greg and Mary and discusses the history of the restaurant.

Sitting with Gordon, Greg tells him how he started working at the restaurant when his sister was a sous chef and told him of the opening.

He has a sentimental attachment to Zocalo because he has had some major family events there.

The first six months of ownership were great but now they are barely making $7,000 – $8,000 in sales weekly.

Greg tells Gordon about his typical day and he does a lot at home and at the restaurant.

Every day he wakes at 5 am and gets into bed at midnight and has taken no breaks or vacations in over a year.

Mary can’t say what exactly she does to help at the restaurant.

They tearfully tell Gordon they are in $750,000 of debt, it is stressful and they argue constantly.

Gordon meets Maria, the server and comments on the number of dishes on the menu and the high prices.

He asks Maria to recommend a dish but she reveals that has never eaten at the restaurant because it is too expensive for her.

He orders three dishes and finds out from Mary that Greg is the one that set the prices.

First to arrive is the queso fundido with flour wraps. He finds it greasy, full of oil and suspects it is microwaved.

Next is the chile relleno, which is weird looking and he thinks it tastes spongy, rubbery and salty.

Mary finds out Greg substituted the cheese for a gouda cheese that isn’t suitable for the dish.

Third to arrive is the cochinita pibil with corn tortillas but it is bland with no seasoning and it is also dry.

Mary agrees it is bland and Gordon suggests she needs to get in the kitchen to help but she says she doesn’t like the kitchen because it too small and hot.

Last is the molcajete, that arrives bubbling in a hot pot. He describes it as something out of Harry Potter and compares it with eating the inside of a golf ball.

Gordon and Mary taste the cactus in the dish and they both hate it.

Greg is devastated about the feedback. Gordon meets them in the kitchen and gives them a more detailed feedback.

Greg admits he isn't the best cook and that he knows his prices are on the high side.

He then reveals Mary is the one who hiked up the prices from what he had set them at, exposing her earlier lie that he was responsible.

Gordon tells her the prices would end up chasing customers away, but she is in denial and walks away.

Gordon comes back to observe the dinner service and Greg shows him around the kitchen.

The stove isn’t working properly and other pieces of equipment aren’t working properly.

Orders come in fast and Greg is doing everything himself refusing Jerome’s help and most of the food is microwaved.

The servers have to stand and wait in the kitchen for their tables food.

This makes food service really slow with customers waiting more than an hour for their food.

Mary comes in to bicker with Greg and distracts him from cooking.

When the food arrives, the customers have complaints and some are sent back.

When Greg is given feedback, he doesn’t want to listen and is also rushing to finish his dinner service.

Gordon tells Greg that Mary is not supportive of him but rather a destructive force when she is around him.

Gordon asks the camera crew to leave and they have a semi-private discussion that they don’t act like husband and wife and he needs to get her to stop nagging him in the kitchen.

Gordon comes in the next day ready to tackle Greg and Mary’s relationship.

Gordon asks Greg to watch on a monitor while he chats with Mary and his two daughters.

They say Greg shuts down, is not expressive and the couple used to be happy before they owned the restaurant.

They think he is struggling and Zocalo is sucking the life out of him but he is too stubborn to take a step back.

If Greg falls ill, Mary says she will run the business but her daughters don’t believe she can do it.

Gordon tells them they are not supporting him enough and that is contributing to his pressure.

Mary nags him a lot but she says she still loves him. Greg is called in to hear it for himself.

He then talks to his family and says he finds it hard to ask for help, that he wants to be the one to provide but they pledge to help and support him.

Gordon then calls them into the kitchen to see their brand new 10-ring gas stove and oven from Southbend.

Gordon reveals a new menu for the restaurant with fun, colourful and delicious meals that are decently priced.

They have also gotten a new POS system from Zephyr Hardware and POS Lavu to send orders straight to the kitchen.

It also tracks inventory and sales with credit card payment options.

For the restaurant to be properly staffed he has created a programme with Drexel University for Culinary students to get on-the-job training at the restaurant.

For the relaunch, Mary will be expediting and Greg will be overseeing the kitchen.

Customers pack the restaurant, orders come in fast and Greg is nervous but it starts well with support from the family.

Soon Mary is back to her old ways and starts nagging Greg, not listening to him and talking over him.

Meals get backed up and Mary gets impatient with staff and is rude to them.

Gordon has to pull Mary aside to get her to be more constructive and slow down.

There is a turnaround and communication gets better and with that food starts coming out.

The customers love the meals and it ends successfully.

Gordon is happy that they found their rhythm at the end, Greg and Mary work well together.



What Happened Next at Zocalo?

In the weeks after the show, the dinner services got smoother, the students became part of the team and the relationship between Greg and Mary was improved.

They kept Gordon's menu and the food on their website looked delicious with reduced prices.

Yelp reviews after the show seemed to be mostly average to poor with complaints on poor food, poor service but the cheap cocktails were a hit.

Zocalo closed January 2013, it is reported that it closed for the holidays and did not re-open.

According to Phillymag,
"The Russells did not respond to a call and email seeking comment, and it’s unclear exactly when the restaurant closed.

But as of this week, most of Zocalo’s contents appear to have been removed. The website is still up, but the phone number is not working.

A quick review of court records reveals some major problems: a Philadelphia tax lien for $40,000; federal tax liens totalling over $28,000; and a “confession of judgement” relating to the business against Greg Russell for $39,000.

And that’s without peeking into the restaurant’s revolving debt, which, at this point, is likely massive."

After Zocalo closed, Greg and Mary divorced and he married Maria, a waitress featured in the episode.

Greg is currently Manager at The Walrus Oyster and Ale House.

Zocalo was aired on March 30 2012, the episode was filmed in November 2011 and is Kitchen Nightmares season 5 episode 15.


Read About More Kitchen Nightmares

Previous episode - Chiarella's

Next episode - La Galleria 33


This post was last updated in February 2021.

28 comments:

  1. Poor Greg. I hope Mary DID move back to Mexico as she threatened - he deserved someone who could at least make some attempt to take some of the burden off his shoulders.

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    1. What a horrible woman. He is better off

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    2. I completely agree, she is a horrible woman and not anything like a real wife. He deserves so much more. I hope that wit h went back to Mexico where she belongs. Greg, you are the sweetest most caring and loving man. You deserve a real woman who will honor and cherish you. Good luck to you Sir.

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    3. After doing some research Greg moved to Baltimore and is now the General Manager of Joe Squared. He has split from Mary and is dating someone.

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    4. I feel sorry for anyone who marries someone who is incredibly lazy. He should've left her years before the show was featured.

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    5. It was plain to see that Mary had a Lover as she only worked 3 days a week and how she treated Greg was disgusting, she spoke to him like dirt! Only Greg could not see what she really was. Mary, you are a terrible woman and will have to face God, as we all do eventually...Greg, God bless You.

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

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    7. Most of the episodes, by the time they finally break down and ask Gordon for help, it is far too late. He turns the restaurants around into profitable ventures but their debt situations would need the successful business, a Brinks car tipping over outside and a winning lottery ticket or two to save them. They should be asking for Gordon's help within 1-2 months of poor business instead of a year or more.

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  2. Husband: "I've had no days off in over a year"
    Wife: "I don't wanna do something I don't like"

    How did this guy get himself in this situation. One of the saddest situations in this series.

    Ana, very cute daughter.

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  3. Damn, feel so bad for Greg, hope you're doing OK buddy..

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  4. I personally knew them because I became a regular at Zocalo (their daughter is seriously an AWESOME bartender), both before and after GR's update. They were both very nice people in a tough situation, and it's sad to see how some people interpreted their relationship-- eh, that's TV though.
    If anyone is interested, Zocalo was bought out by Samer A., a local pizza-shop owner and Philly favorite. The space was turned into a Lebanese restaurant, bar, and hookah lounge and has been doing WONDERFULLY. Unfortunately, Samer A. passed away suddenly shortly after the new restaurant, Aloosh, was opened. His nephew runs Aloosh and it is still very successful.
    I've seen Greg walking in the area in a chef's apron over the past year, so whatever he's doing, perhaps he's still cooking... Best luck to you, man!

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  5. My god he had statutory payment problem. This is too much a nice hard working guy like him should not be suffered like this. He is a chef and he also takes all the complaints of ramsay seriously and quitely. This is the only episode where Ramsay didnt shout or yells anybody. He even compliment the Greg the one of the nicest chef. He should get a second chance.

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  6. My friend actually ate there a few weeks after the episode aired, and apparently they went back to their old ways. Maybe it was the novelty of it being on KN that spawned its ratings on Yelp, but either way, they didn't seem to have much improvement before Ramsay's help.

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  7. So sad ��. It seems like 90% of the restaurants that. Chef Ramsay goes to have closed. What huge waste of time! As Chef would say, "What a bunch of DONKEYS!!"

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    1. Actually 60%....Around 40% still going is quite impressive!!

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    2. That's actually completely inaccurate about 70% of the restaurants he's visited are now closed

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  8. Looks like Greg is the manager at Joe Squared Power Plant Live in Baltimore (never been, but I live in the area and have friends who go there!) and him and Mary are either separated or divorced. He has a new girlfriend.

    https://www.facebook.com/gregory.s.russell.3

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    1. Good to hear. That ex-wife of his was toxic! Ugh, what a lazy woman. I could understand it if she had another career -- but what was she doing with the other four days out of every week? If she didn't want to cook, fine -- how about shopping, bookkeeping and cleaning then? Horrible.

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  9. ppl often forget there's always 2 sides to every story. it's always sad to see ppl in such debt. The wife had a petulantat attitude. She had this idea of an exit plan for Mexico which in it self was a stinking way of giving up. Some people have a careless way of going about things and she proves it. I hope things have worked out for him and he is in a better place in life.

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  10. It looks the marriage ended. As others have pointed out, Gregory now lives and works in Baltimore while Mary apparently is now in acting if her twitter bio and photos of a Law and Order SVU set are to be believed.

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  11. She's doesn't cares of those food who feed it to customers but she wants theirs moneys worth from customers. Shameful on her!

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  12. after binging season after season of KN, this is the first one that Gordon didn't turn into a cuss machine. I really enjoyed this and that man is seriously humble and listens to every bit of word that Gordon said. It really is unfortunate that the restaurant closed.

    Am I only one that noticed the two beautiful servers in the show?

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  13. Just saw this.(Apr.2017)We planned on going as its not that far away.So sad to hear they are no longer there.The food looked great! Hard to find a good Mexican restaurant in that town.So sad it closed before we got to try it.

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  14. Mmm...seems like debt was a big thing in this situation. Sad to see how that happened. :(

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  15. Why do these restaurants wait so long to get help? If they get help sooner they could probably come out of their slump.

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    1. Do you have the courage to have your life aired on TV? Those contracts bind you to be filmed in any situation, any time. As you can see, it can mean being filmed without your awareness, and the footage being shown to anyone. It allows them in your home, it allows them to interview your neighbours, enemies and former staff. It is completely invasive.

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  16. Maybe they do ask for help sooner, but between them applying to get on the show, being accepted and checked out by producers and finally getting to filming.....all of that could easily take 6 months or more.

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  17. The woman had no idea........putting the prices up........so it was a losing battle for the poor chef who was run ragged trying to keep it going.

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