Kitchen Nightmares: Finn McCool’s Fact or Fiction? Update

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Here’s a follow up to my previous post about Finn McCool’s.

I just had a very nice conversation with Finn McCool’s owner Buddy Mazzio and chef Brian Mazzio, who were featured on last night’s episode of Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay. They both were genuinely nice people and the banter you saw on the show – that’s totally real. A lot of ribbing back and forth between father and son while they talked to me
They also both thought the experience was totally positive. They had a viewing party last night to a packed house and was also packed when we talked today. They’ve also been getting congratulations from all over the world on the show, including a fax from Ireland.

They got picked for Kitchen Nightmares after Brian was going through the casting process for another Gordon Ramsay show, Hell’s Kitchen. Chef Brian is a single father of a five year old and in order to do Hell’s Kitchen, he would have had to have gone to Los Angeles for six weeks which he says would have been torture. So a producer suggested Kitchen Nightmares and the rest is history.

Business has been booming since Ramsay taped there in late February and Buddy said they are proud that they’ve ‘stuck to the program’, which includes Gordon Ramsay’s belief in fresh, local ingredients. Finn McCool’s got rid of their freezer for almost everything except french fries, buys their seafood locally and even has their own herb garden where they grow everything from arugula and zucchini to rosemary and parsley.

The show worked out well for the Mazzio’s but the show wasn’t completely accurate. It’s too bad that Fox piles on the fake drama, because the truth is more interesting.

For one thing, Brian was a lot less confrontational in real life than on the show. Brian is obviously a huge Ramsay fan and was completely open to Ramsay’s suggestions. And Buddy said Ramsay wasn’t confrontational, either – that he was warm, a great teacher and a good man who really responded when someone tried to bring their game up as Brian did.

In fact, Buddy said it was Brian who insisted that they stick to Ramsay’s menu when some of Finn McCool’s regulars wanted Buddy to bring back the fried ‘bar food’.

Another fabrication – Brian never walked out on the family. That van you saw driving away? That was the plumber. Really. The power of editing.

What actually happened was Ramsay wanted to see Jason (the bartender brother) and Brian to switch places to appreciate each other’s jobs. Then Ramsay put Buddy into the kitchen so he’d see what it was like. I actually would have liked to have seen all of that; it’s a great idea but I guess it wasn’t ‘confrontational’ so they made up the “Brian Storms Out!” part.

Remember that guy who dropped the chicken wing on the floor, then put it in the fryer and then on a plate? He doesn’t work at Finn McCool’s – he was hired to work the days that Kitchen Nightmares was taping at the producer’s suggestion.

Also, the show did overbook the restaurant on purpose in order to create drama. They usually book 50, the producers booked 150.

The Irish Spring Rolls that Ramsay hated? Still on the menu because people love them and Buddy said they are delicious. Buddy said they’ll be selling an Irish Spring Roll T-Shirt online soon because now they’re famous.

And Ramsay’s cooking? Buddy said “Honest to god, the Shepard’s Pie is the best you’ll ever have. Ramsay uses a lot of ingredients that you wouldn’t expect and it tastes really amazing.”

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the follow up Lee! I found this post of yours much more interesting than the show itself last night — but then I’ve always loved knowing about the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff.

  2. Great interview Lee, as always I love hearing about the behind the scenes stuff and how the show really goes on.

  3. Thanks to Hamster and Foxfan – you both have great sites that people should visit if they are Kitchen Nightmares fans…

    Next week’s restaurant is in Pomona, easy driving distance – so you KNOW what I’m doing this weekend!

  4. Which restaurant is it?! I should go too!

  5. Agree, very interesting. Can we assume the financial details were accurate, no editing there?

  6. Bring your camera!

    Lela’s – I’ll be posting about it later but here’s an article…

    http://media.www.thepolypost.com/media/storage/paper1127/news/2007/02/27/Entertainment/Lelas.Gets.A.Fox.Reality.Facelift-2746165.shtml

  7. H – I didn’t feel comfortable asking about the money, but I got the idea that that was exaggerated, too….

    The restaurant had only opened in 2006….I believe he was ‘in debt” because he’d just opened a business and that means debt…

    But, no – they got cast because of Brian, not because the restaurant was on the verge of closing…

    I feel like starting a letter writing campaign, some days.

  8. Oh, it’s right by the train station. I know exactly where that is!

  9. It really is depressing to see how much of the heart and soul of the UK version of this show has been lost in the American version.

    The original version always had depth and great lessons about how to properly run a business not just restaurants (delegating responsibilities, personal work ethic, focusing on your core product etc…). Whenever I watched it I always felt like I walked away having learned something.

    With the US version I don’t feel anything, it all just boils down to nothing but a mess of melodrama and sloppy editing ( I seriously don’t know how much more I can take of the fake cuts of customers suddenly turning around and looking as if they heard yelling from the kitchen.)

    Well enough venting lol, this is a great blog; I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts!

  10. Very interesting blog post. Thanks.

    Here’s an aspect of the show:

    Caught “Kitchen Nightmares” again this past week. There was seriously nothing else on television (unless you wanted to see the Food Network show you ONCE AGAIN how to prepare a turkey for the THREE THOUSAND AND SIXTY-SECOND TIME IN THREE DAYS. How I despair whenever “Seasons Eatings” comes around again).

    Once more, my feeling was that it was focused more on magical solutions than any real desire to engage in culinary discourse, unlike its British predecessor. (ZAP! Have a newly decorated dining room! POW! Have a magic new Gordon Ramsay menu! BLAM! Solve years worth of dysfunctional family issues OVERNIGHT!)

    But if you take it at its Fox TV Reality Series face value, it’s at least interesting spectacle.

    What irked me this time, though, was the so-called Food Critic for whatever podunk Hamptons newspaper serves this community.

    In a past life, from time to time, I was a restaurant writer for Madison’s morning daily paper. This night, all I could think of was “could this chick give food critics even worse a reputation than they already possess?

    I mean, seriously…any food critic worth their salt (Kosher, naturally; flaked Fleur de Sel, ideally) would:

    (1) Never visit a restaurant on the first night of a new menu or reopening. Wait at least a couple of weeks for things to settle down.

    (2) Never let people know that they were, in fact, a food critic. You go in anonymous, you come out anonymous. The moment you let people know who you are, you probably will receive service and quality that the average patron just wouldn’t, in their wildest dreams.

    (3) Never get pissy and start demanding things (like being seated) while holding the review over the restaurant’s head. Talk about extortion!

    (4) Never judge a bad restaurant on just one trip. Though this wasn’t actually covered here, one got the feeling that if Missy Prissy-Pants-Look-At-Me-I’m-So-Powerful-Pass-The-Croutons reviewer actually had had a bad experience, she’d have eviscerated the place in her very next column. I once gave a restaurant such a poor review that my editor insisted on coming back with me for the second visit before conceding that yes, the place in question was just that dreadful. But any establishment can have an off-night.

    My only wish for the show was for Ramsay to go and just slug her, before throwing her out on her arse.

    Of course, having to have dealt with critics both good and bad, that’s the kind of action any restaurateur with half a mind would never take. But I can dream.

    If he had, though, “Kitchen Nightmares” would have picked up a fan for life… I wrote about on my blog:

  11. Sabrina Mashburn says:

    Dear Critics in Arms,

    I was so sorry to read all of the negative responses to my performance as the “food critic” on the TV series “Kitchen Nightmares.”

    As many of you have pointed out, no real food critic would go on national television to review a restaurant.

    As a new editor at Dan’s Papers, I was sent, along with the rest of the Editorial staff, to have fun, put on a show and get a humorous story for the paper that week.

    Once the cameras were rolling, my job as an actress was to deliver my performance exactly as the producers and director instructed.

    The resulting “review” and the story by my colleague about our experience on “Kitchen Nightmares” was meant to give our readers a taste of what it is like to be on reality TV.

    My review of the food, however, was written in the spirit of my character on the show, as the producers of “Kitchen Nightmares” had requested it for use on the program.

    I apologize if I have become the unlikely poster girl for food criticism; that certainly was not my intent when I agreed to join the cast of the show. Although I am an aspiring environmental and scientific journalist, I am not a food critic and have never written a serious, blind review of any restaurant and do not plan to do so in the future.

    As anyone in the entertainment business will tell you, “reality” TV is simply an exercise in improvisational acting. The “reality” aspect is imparted by using unknown actors and laymen and by creatively editing many hours of footage to look like a seamless whole.

  12. Steve Rahe says:

    I’m not sure if this is a spoiler, since it is easy to find on the Internet…

    I thought that Lela’s in Pomona closed a few months ago. Does anybody know anything more specific?

  13. I’m planning a Lela’s post for this weekend, actually…

  14. Wow, how did you get all this information?
    Even the “food critic” posted here!
    Hi food critic — I thought your performance was fine, you were cute. Cheers.

  15. I like doing research and I interviewed the Mazzios yesterday…

    If you think this is a lot of information, make sure to check out my son’s audio programs about the Writer’s strike – really good stuff and worth a listen.

  16. Sabrina:
    Thank you for addressing the issues surrounding this episode of Kitchen Nightmares. I do have some questions for you, though.

    I did a little searching and found an article on Dan’s archives by Victoria Cooper about your staff’s experience at Fin’s. Nowhere in the article does it mention you were forced to act a part in the episode of the show. It does, however, say this about reality TV:

    “Some critics say that reality television is a misnomer, because in some programs like “Survivor” and “The Real World,” producers manipulate the environment and create a completely fictional world in which the drama plays out. Yet the environment at Fin McCool’s last week was not contrived, and from the likes of the food and the rare dining experience, I am sure the crowds will keep coming.”

    I haven’t read your review, since it’s not archived online, but doesn’t this article from Victoria seem to contradict your statements about you and your co-workers acting for the cameras? And even if your intention with the reality TV piece was to give your readers some fun insight into the process, why then would your paper choose to maintain the facade instead of exposing the truth?

    Victoria even wraps up her article by saying, “To see what really went down at Finn McCool’s, you are just going to have to wait until the episode airs on “Kitchen Nightmares” this summer.” That’s putting an awful lot of faith in the producers of the program to tell it like it is, even though Victoria had just mentioned most people think reality TV is a farce.

    Regardless of the fact that you aren’t a food critic, you are a journalist, as are your colleagues at Dan’s. Where’s your journalistic integrity? Victoria’s article seems to suggest you guys were fibbing to the producers yourselves; not that they were forcing you to act a certain way. Which was it?
    Even if they did have you act, as you say, why were you willing to compromise yourself on national television? They couldn’t “make” you, right? Did you not realize that viewers would be fooled by it? Or your readers? Doesn’t Dan’s owe them an article that cuts through the BS instead of laying more on?

    Wouldn’t a better story have been to expose the filming as fabricated, not defending it as an accurate representation of what happened? That’s what this blog post did, and look at the response it’s received.

  17. yo smelly bitches!!! I like to eat farts for breakfast. yumyum

  18. Those two comments above are the greatest thing I’ve read all week! Awesome!

  19. Look, I know Sabrina, she slept with the producer just to get in the door. She wanted to get on tv just to get seen. The show was what it was, farce. Sabrina is not to blame for her brainless acting. She’s just a victim of her innocent naive “personality”

  20. Absolutely fantastic follow up! I just started watching this show online @ hulu.com and wanted to see a better follow up than what they do on the show. Completely crazy about that walk out part though! I knew they edited stuff but not to that extent!
    Fantastic report. Digg-ed it!

  21. I really like to read that people ‘didn’t and don’t know’ how they get played. It’s not just the ‘reality tv’, most (practically all) tv-programms are manipulated. I’ve been to many tapings of tv-programms & shows….it’s really quite a circus. From hand-clapping/boo-ing audience to guests who are instructed how to play along. Television is nothing else then ‘showbusiness’ even the news is manipulated. Enfin..it turns out to be that another day in televisionworld is just another april fools day.

  22. Sabrina Mashburn is a pathetic excuse for a journalist if there ever was one. Good luck finding a job in Siberia you vapid, good-for-nothing, piece of garbage, because nobody will ever hire your ass here again!!

  23. hey ))
    its very interesting article.
    Nice post.
    realy gj

    thank you ;)

  24. PLEASE REMEMBER EVERYONE. Gordon Ramsey Himself doesn’t do any of the editing, That’s why the BBC version and the FOX version of the same show tells a different story , Ramsey is only there to do the job, its the editors job to put the show together, so its not Gordon Ramsay that edits the show its the producers..

  25. You guys give Sabrina a break. She had the guts and integrity to respond to the accusations and downright mean comments about her appearance on the show. Are you people honestly that upset with her?

    It seems to me that with all of the craziness going on in the world today, Sabrina’s appearance on a scripted (as all are) television show should be the least of your concerns.

    I guess everyone should team up against “Snooky” and bash her online as well…

    Get a life already and leave people’s personal career choices up to them.

  26. Lol@ people blowing up over a casted/ scripted food critic. Life, do you have one?

  27. Guys, I don’t know if you’ve figured this out yet, but I don’t think the person who posted as “Sabrina” is the real one. I’m just saying…

Trackbacks

  1. [...] UPDATE: My must-read interview with the Mazzios is now online. [...]

  2. [...] first got a warning on that site when I posted a link to my article about the interview I did with Buddy and Brian from Finn McCool’s. I only posted the link there because 1) I’d noticed hits from TWoP coming into my site [...]

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