Facing up to a new reality
Q. How did you come to be on “Kitchen Nightmares’’?
Frank: I was watching the show one night, and I e-mailed out of curiosity. There were internal family problems, the economy, being in the same restaurant for 20 years. We needed new training, new thinking, to revitalize everything — mostly myself. I never expected it to turn out to what it has. It will be lucky or unlucky. We don’t yet know the outcome.
Anthony: I had been hooked on painkillers, so there was everything that goes with that — money problems, the typical. Nothing out of the ordinary for anyone who’s been in that situation. It put a lot of stress on Frankie. I disappeared, I got in trouble. My father put up the money to buy the restaurant to help us out, and my life didn’t go according to plan. I’m back, and not to toot my own horn, but when I’m sober, I love the business. I like being here in the dining room making people have a good time.
Q. You haven’t seen the episode yet. What do you think it will be like?
Anthony: It’s not going to be “Oh, you’re great guys and you’ve done a great job.’’ It’s going to be “You guys suck and now I’ve fixed everything.’’ It’s staged reality. I think about it, I still get a little traumatized. My wait staff wouldn’t talk for two days. The mikes are on you constantly, and the first couple of days back, we felt like we had to look over our shoulders.
Q. What was filming like? Did Ramsay yell at you?
Frank: No worse than I’ve been yelled at. I’ve been yelling at myself. It wasn’t that he was hard on me. It was truthful. One thing that really caught me off guard was how much character he could read into. He looked around at our wait staff and family, and he called it on the nail like he knew us for years.
Anthony: It’s a show, but it’s still your livelihood, and you still have pride in what you do. After two days, I’m like this sucks, this is [expletive]. They have to find the things that are wrong, not the things that are right. By the third day, I lost it. I started yelling into the mike. They all had smiles on their faces; they knew they got me to a point they wanted me to get. I believe their heart is in the right place, but at the end of the day, they get their show and get the hell out of Dodge.
Q. What changes did you make as a result?
Frank: People just want good food at a nice price and fresh. We made it lighter. The ingredients are more noticeable. What’s going on in a new day and age, everything’s supposed to be fresh and local. It’s cool because I own 11 acres of land and produce vegetables, chickens, quail eggs. I’m like a little gentleman farmer. But his pizza sucks. It sucks! We threw it right out.
Q. Do you think the show is going to be good for business?
Anthony: I’m cautiously optimistic. I don’t think it’s going to hurt us or make us. I’m hoping there’s enough buzz that people want to come in just to see these idiots, these characters. [Laughs] There are so many bigger things in life. Even if the show is demoralizing, things are not as bad as they were. My kids are OK, I’m OK, my wife is OK. I can lay my head down at night and say I tried, I did my best, I took care of my customers.
Interview was condensed and edited. Devra First can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.