El Cantito Cafe - Kitchen Nightmares Update - Open or Closed?

El Cantito Cafe Kitchen Nightmares

In this Kitchen Nightmares episode, Gordon Ramsay visits El Cantito Cafe in Yonkers, New York.

El Cantito is owned by Julio and Debbie, a brother and sister team.

Julio is the Executive Chef and Debbie is front of house.

They serve their grandmothers recipes from Puerto Rico.

The space became available and they opened the restaurant in 2020.

Debbie funded the opening of the restaurant with her life savings.

Shorty after opening the pandemic struck and they used all their money to stay open.

They were full most services before being forced to close during the pandemic.

The trade has not returned and the footfall has declined dramatically.

They have no staff or a dishwasher.

Julio does cooking and washes dishes, anything that is needed.

Chef E says that the kitchen is mostly broken and the AC system has also broken.

Julio is stressed, especially at the amount of food that is returned.

Debbie can see that Julio is stressed and it frustrates her too.

She can also see that his passion for the business has declined.

Debbie’s daughter Stephanie is a waitress at the restaurant.

She can see that things are tough and her mom had to get another job as money was tight.

Gordon arrives at the restaurant, with high expectations on the food.

Debbie meets Gordon at the door and shows him to a table.

Julio feels under pressure and Gordon notices that the restaurant is warm.

He looks at the menu and reads their story.

Gordon has visited Puerto Rico many times and feels nothing takes him back there.

It is dreary, grey and mostly unfinished.

Gordon orders bacalaitos, shrimp cerviche, empanada and the snapper.

The empanadas arrive in a puddle of grease and is bland.

The bacalaitos is greasy as it has come straight out the fryer.

The shrimp cerviche looks off and the flavour is bad.

The shrimp taste watery as they are clearly frozen.

Gordon thinks that he has fallen out of love with cooking.

Gordon speaks with customers who are not happy with their meals.

One has rice that he is unhappy with and his grandmother is Puerto Rican so he is familiar with the cuisine.

The snapper arrives for Gordon and it has been cooked whole, with no seasoning.

It is overcooked, bland and dry.

One of the customers begins vomiting, shortly after eating his meal in the restaurant.

His chicken dish was raw and bloody.

Gordon orders them to shut down the kitchen before any more customers get sick.

Gordon wants to meet with Julio and Debbie immediately.

He tells them that the lunch was disappointing and made one customer sick.

Julio tells Gordon that he has none of the recipes written down and cooks from memory.

Gordon tells them it was unpleasant and the food was greasy and unseasoned.

Debbie says that if Julio wasn’t her brother then she would fire him.

They tell him that it is due to the lack of money that things have slipped.

Debbie tells Gordon that she has a second job to put money into the business.

Gordon says that love is missing from the food and it is hard to help a chef that has given up.

Gordon returns the next day to see a busy service.

They hold a staff meeting before the service, focusing on communication.

Gordon arrives and goes into the kitchen and is introduced to the staff.

The line is tight as Julio moved the units closer to each other so he didn’t have to go as far.

However it means the chefs can’t pass each other and it makes it more complicated.

Gordon walks behind the unit to reiterate how much space there really is in the kitchen.

The kitchen is silent and Julio has not called out any of the orders.

Chef E has to read the tickets to work out what needs to be done.

Gordon goes to speak to the customers and one finds an unexpected bone in her chicken chunks.

There is also little meat in the dish, almost like she’s been served a carcus.

The customers are dabbing at excess oil on their food with a napkin.

Gordon finds frozen shrimp, soaking in water to quickly defrost.

This ruins the taste of the shrimp immediately.

Julio tells Gordon that he is tired and he knows that what he is doing is sloppy.

Gordon says that he is cooking like a zombie, who doesn’t want to be at the restaurant.

Gordon has invited Next Level Chef season 2 star Omi Hopper to dine undercover at the restaurant.

Puerto Rican chef Omi will be dining in disguise so she is not recognised.

They order some Puerto Rican staples and are bitterly disappointed.

The food is very greasy.

Chef E slips in the kitchen as there is excess oil on the floor.

They admit that they clean the grease traps once every three months.

It should be cleaned once a week.

It is a fire hazard as it is full of grease and leaking onto the floor.

Gordon wants to check out the walkin and goes into the basement.

He finds a tub full of mouldy and rotting lemon.

There is chicken breasts stored on top of plantain and a random pork chop sitting in water.

The standards are well below par.

Gordon takes a tray of frozen ribs into the kitchen, along with the rotten lemons.

Julio says that he lost interest and it is bad.

Gordon tells them to stop taking orders and tell the customers to leave.

Gordon has to keep reminding Julio he is talking about the present and not the past when he did have more passion for the business.

Julio breaks down and says that he wants to make it great again.

Debbie says that she knows his food is good and that is why she invested in the restaurant.

Gordon meets with them and tells Julio that he is not being true to himself.

He introduces Omi to the owners and she takes off her disguise.

She describes the experience as lacking in so many things and the food was so greasy.

Julio says that he loves to cook and Debbie says the fire was there in the first year.

Gordon tells them that there are big changes and invites Omi back the next evening.

The owners have a heart to heart conversation and hug.

Gordons team worked overnight giving the restaurant a revamp.

The dining room has been repainted and is now bright and inviting.

He has installed a new AC system and put up a picture of their mother.

The kitchen has been reorganised and they have been given lots of new kit.

There is a new salad bar and more.

Gordon introduces them to the new menu.

Their original recipes have been written down and updated with a modern flair.

Debbie says that she will quit her second job to focus on the restaurant.

They try the food and love it.

Julio is excited to cook the recipes.

He shows Julio and Chef E how to prepare their new dishes.

On relaunch, the restaurant is busy.

Gordon has invited a number of guests including Omi.

Julio is more enthusiastic and calls out the orders.

Communication is great and the first dishes go out to happy customers.

The customers love the food.

The restaurant starts to fill up and Julio starts to struggle in the kitchen.

One table is missing a dish and Julio starts to lose it.

Gordon tells Julio that he needs to speak with Chef E more.

Julio starts to shut down and clams up.

Gordon calms him down and the service recovers.

The customers love the food and Debbie is elated.

What Happened Next at El Cantito Cafe?

Two months later, Julio’s passion for cooking has returned.

The customers have returned.

El Cantito Cafe is open.

Reviews are mostly positive with praise for the food.

There have been a few complaints about portion sizes and prices.

As usual, there are many fake reviews after the show airs.

They hosted a watch party and also are now providing catering services.

El Cantito Cafe was aired on 20 November 2023, the episode was filmed in June 2023 and is Kitchen Nightmares season 8 episode 7.

Read About More Kitchen Nightmares

Next episode - South Brooklyn Foundry

Previous episode - Love Bites

This post was last updated in November 2023.

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