Thursday, November 04, 2010

Lights! Camera!

E and I had dinner at the latest restaurant to get the Gordon Ramsey treatment last night. That's right folks, we got to sit in on a Kitchen Nightmares shoot. Sa-weet. We love the show (although I do enjoy the British version best!) and there have been quite a few episodes shot in our area. They are shooting two different re-dos here in the next few weeks. This week it's Spanish Pavillion in Harrison. We were curious and thought it would be fun to check it out, so I made a reservation and off we went.

Let's begin with a disclosure. E and I both worked as waiters for a long time (though he admits he hated it and was super lazy, while I was lame-o Server of the Year. Gold Star!). We are also big time food lovers. That makes us a bit on the picky side when it comes to dining out, and we can be a little critical, especially of servers. However, we never complain, and we have maybe sent back two or three dishes ever. It's just not our style, and while we bitch to each other at the table, we keep our criticisms to ourselves. We did not walk into this to be whiny food snobs.

We arrived at the Spanish Pavillion, which is in a rather shady part of town, with no idea what to expect. We had to sign disclosures and have pictures taken before being seated. The restaurant was insanely bright, since they removed ceiling tiles and set studio lights inside. It works for TV, but wasn't workin' for the ambiance of the place. Wait til you see it. Just wait. While we waited for our server to bring drinks, a producer came over for a little chat. We were instructed to keep an eye out for cameras, and when they came close, we were to direct our conversation to the food, service, and the restaurant in general. Um, ok then.

We had a ton of fun people watching and gossiping when our starters came. Mine was a bed of iceberg, a few spinach leaves, a pink tomato, and dressing that tasted like bottled Catalina. It was so cloying I couldn't eat it, so I overloaded on bread. Oops. Eric's soup was served tableside from a big silver bowl and ladle straight from the high school cafeteria. Classy. Then we had calimari (I know, you guys are like, WTF is it with the calimari!) and it had great flavor, lots of garlic, lemon, and hot peppers, just the way we like it. It was a little overcooked, but we didn't care, because very few places do it right anyway. Then we sat. And sat. And sat.

The producer came and asked us how long we had waited for our dinners. E wasn't wearing a watch, and we weren't allowed cell phones, so we had to guess. The table next to us had appetizers, dinners, sent one dish back to the kitchen, got a remake, sent a second plate back to the kitchen, got a second remake, and then wrapped their leftovers and were sitting with the check, all while we sat there. It was a long time, but the server was nice and told us he was checking it out. Then the producer asked us to talk about the wait. Suddenly a boom mic was hovering over my head. Awkward much? As we talked, E would occasionally get this deer in the headlights look and say something random to me, like, "so are we ordering dessert?" This was my signal that a camera was behind me. It was totally weird.

Finally a guy came and slid a portion of Spanish rice onto my plate, gave E his steak, and said my shrimp would be right out. I looked right at E and said, "What the hell is up with that?" and started laughing. Then the cameras were hovering again. E's steak (ordered medium rare) was well done with a few medium well spots. WTF. I could not even believe we had to send it back. It felt like such a set up. But he did, and the waiter whisked away my cold plate of rice, too, presenting us with new food within ten minutes. E's steak was perfect that time, luckily, since I ate half of it. My shrimp and wine sauce (the house specialty) was pretty sad. The rice had no flavor, and the sauce was one of those awful sauces thickened with corn starch that just screamed old people food. The shrimp was well cooked, but it was just dated. That's actually the best word to describe the whole place: decor, food, servers even. It was straight out of 1981. The server asked how it was and I told him it was ok. He was super nice and wanted to get me something else, but I told him it was fine (since I was eating off E's plate anyway!). Seriously, if I just don't like a dish, I don't think it's anyone's fault. People have differing tastes. Hair in my food? Sure I'll bitch, but otherwise, I'm fine.

Then the owner's mom showed up. She wanted to know what I didn't like, told me other people like it, it's a very popular dish. I felt terrible! This show instantly makes everyone defensive, so I just told her I didn't care for it, but it was fine. I had plenty to eat, and E would take it for lunch tomorrow anyway. He'll eat just about anything leftover. So we wrapped it up, and now its sitting in the fridge, making me feel bad. I know that poor woman thinks we're evil, and I won't forget her pinched, pained look. Ugh.

Now we get to sit and wait a million months to see if we turn up on the show. I hope we don't now, since we all know how editing works. I could end up looking like the whory Wife of Bath since I had on more makeup than I wear ever. I could also end up looking like a huge asshole and so could my beloved husband. His response to that idea? "And? Who gives a fuck?" Nicely put.

p.s. Since I know you'll ask... Yes, Gordon was there. He floated around and whispered things to servers and not a curse was heard. He looks younger in person. And cuter when he's not screaming his fool head off.


~Chris said...

Wow! Sorry to hear the food wasn't great, but it sounds like an interesting night out! Do you know if you were there for the post-change dinner or that was their first night? You know how they go about business as usual for the first service, then he changes everything... As for his age, I was shocked to read we're the same age. I thought for sure he was older than me, so glad to hear he looks younger in person. LOL :)

Pierce said...

That is so cool! I would love to see Gordon Ramsey in person - wow. Hey, I hope you are on the show - PLEASE let us know if you find out when that airs. Too cool. Except I agree about the microphones coming up behind you...that would be mighty strange.

Joanna said...

Chris - It was the "before" shoot, so we got to experience the restaurant the way it has been for years. I can't wait to see how they revamp the interior and the menu! They are doing the redecorating now, while they film the "before" days at another local restaurant. Apparently they work in twos. It was interesting to see it all behind the scenes!

Jennifer said...

I love that show! I'm going to have to keep an eye out for that episode...

Sweet and Savory said...

It must have been fun or at least interesting. I am sure, all that goes on, behind the scenes is more interesting than what is shown.

Karen Harris said...

What an interesting experience! It has been awhile since I have visited your blog and I'm sorry as I'm always entertained.