Season 2 of the FOX hit Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back premiered tonight, and his first stop was The Big Easy: The Trolley Stop Cafe in New Orleans.
We first meet the restaurant owner, Ragnar, who bought the restaurant from his grandfather to keep it a family-owned establishment, draining his savings account in the process.
According to Darren, the kitchen manager, Ragnar doesn’t have the experience to run a restaurant (he was previously an energy consultant), and he’s hardly ever there. Ragnar admits to working from home a lot since he feels his job is mostly paperwork.
Darren thinks poorly of Ragnar, and since Ragnar’s never around, he doesn’t seem to notice. But he is aware enough that he knows sales are declining, and something has to give.
“If I don’t make this restaurant work, I know that the family legacy will end with me.”
Keeping in line with the show format, Gordon’s team comes in to hide cameras around the restaurant. And since Gordon knows businesses tend to be on their best behavior when he’s around, he’s got to go undercover … as a cop!
Gordon meets up with actual deputies and they all ride over to The Trolley Stop Cafe together. He finds out that deputies eat at a discount at The Trolley Stop, but that’s not enough to motivate law enforcement from going there. Once they sit down the eat, the three order nachos, fried oysters, a seafood omelet, and a pecan waffle.
Gordon notices there’s no manager in sight. More than half an hour later, their food is ready.
Gordon notices the nacho cheese is rancid, possibly spoiled. He spits out his food immediately and pleads with the officers not to eat the food.
“This is some of the most disgusting food I’ve ever seen,” he pronounced. And he’s seen more than his fair share of disgusting food.
(Viewer discretion advised. Those with weak or sensitive stomachs, don’t even click.)
Enough’s enough. The gauntlet napkin has been thrown down and the deputy outfit is off. Gordon emerges from what appears to be a supply closet as himself, in full WTF mode. First things first: Time to announce to the patrons that they are eating utter garbage!
Gordon asks for the restaurant staff to come out and show themselves and notices someone is missing.
“The owner’s not here? Why?” demands Gordon.
“He’s a sheltered boy who lives with his parents and manages us through cell phones,” answers Darren.
Gordon tells patrons to stop eating, leave the restaurant (group dine and dash!), and join him in the parking lot for some hard truths. Time to watch the video footage!
Cameras unveil staff snapping at each other, a beyond-disgusting kitchen, open containers, flies on food, and finished food sitting on dirty grills. The staff is horrified and the patrons look nauseous (and rightfully so). “I’ll never come here again,” one woman declares.
Meanwhile, Ragnar shows up in a cop car, for some reason, and Gordon lays into him. Gordon finds out that Ragnar is a former energy consultant and demands, “What energy do you put into your restaurant?” Ragnar confesses he’s never helped out in the kitchen, hosting, etc.
Gordon asks the sickened customers to give him 24 hours to give The Trolley Stop Cafe a serious overhaul and asks them to return the next day. Despite what they’ve just seen, they agree. He tells employees to call their loved ones and tell them they’re pulling an all-nighter.
Gordon asks the employees who they think is the biggest problem. Surprise! Darren suggests Ragnar. But he thinks many of his coworkers are afraid to confront him because, at the end of the day, a paycheck is a paycheck. Ragnar seems unfazed by the hate and genuinely surprised by how unhappy the customers are.
As miserable as everyone seems, they’re willing to do what it takes to save The Trolley Stop Cafe. Time for Gordon’s crew to step in and take over!
First up: the decor. “This restaurant is like an ugly stepchild,” declares Gordon. The restaurant needs a new, clean look. He then goes into the kitchen to analyze the damage.
The kitchen isn’t cleaned regularly. Obviously. Darren thinks the kitchen hasn’t been cleaned since old management was still running the place. Stoves, ovens, and burners haven’t been cleaned in a shockingly long time.
Gordon opens the fridge and discovers moldy food, including the cheese he was served on his nachos earlier. He is livid that Darren voluntarily served him moldy food.
Gordon dishes out some of said moldy food and instructs Aaron, Ragnar, and Darren to eat it. And they actually do. None of them looked like they enjoyed it at all.
“You should thank yourselves you haven’t killed anybody,” screams Gordon, throwing rancid meat right at them.
While Gordon’s team and The Trolley Stop Cafe team work together to revamp the restaurant, Gordon pulls Darren aside for a quick cooking lesson. He shows how to make traditional Southern fare – fried green tomato BLT, fried chicken and waffles, pork chops, etc.
We learn Darren lost his father young and his dad was a criminal. Darren doesn’t want to end up like him. Darren, for his part, takes to the lesson eagerly, admitting that he looks up to Ramsay.
“Can you do this? Do you want it?” Gordon asks Darren.
“I want to be proud of The Trolley. I want to be happy at work again,” says Darren, fighting back tears. Gordon can see that. These two have missed a good hugging opportunity.
The feel-good moment is over, and it’s back to work with 18 hours to spare. Darren steps in to train the kitchen staff on what he’s learned, and Gordon decides it’s time to hone in on Ragnar.
“Why did you even contemplate leaving the energy business?” Gordon wants to know. Ragnar said he wanted to continue the family legacy. He doesn’t want to let his family down, but he knows he’s in over his head. Now he’s crying.
“If you want to run a restaurant, you need to work in it,” says Gordon. Ragnar needs to be in the thick of it, day in and day out. He tells Ragnar to “lead like a boss.” No hug for these two, either, but Gordon’s words are definitely sinking in with Ragnar.
Back to the renovations we go! Gordon unveils the new kitchen.
A Vitamix! Griddle pans! No grime or grease anywhere! A refrigerator with windows! (I want one!) The kitchen staff is super excited for their shiny new toys.
And all of a sudden, Aaron Sanchez shows up! It turns out Gordon’s Masterchef co-judge lives two blocks from the cafe.
“You represent our city and food culture,” Aaron informs the staff.
Gordon commands the staff to make everything on the menu for him and Aaron. The food looks decent, with one major faux pas – someone plated raw fried chicken. With five minutes left to the grand reopening. Not good.
Gordon’s managed to wrangle up a second line outside for the reopening – the small parade included a trolley, live jazz music, even cheerleaders! Even the cops have reported for duty. Gordon comes out to greet the crowd and introduce them to the new-and-improved cafe.
Patrons are immediately greeted by Ragnar! They venture farther into the restaurant and see brighter, better decor, with matching tables. The bar, meanwhile, has been transformed into a ticket booth.
“I feel like I’m riding in a streetcar,” says one customer.
Retired Saints Player Tracy Porter is there, as is a country singer. Guest appearances everywhere! Everyone’s excited to try out the new eats. The kitchen staff starts making orders immediately.
Ragnar is going around and greeting the guests at each table. He’s a bit awkward, but he’s learning, and he’s making quite the effort.
Moment of truth: What do the guests think of the food? Well, at one table, the chicken and waffles are a bust. The chicken is still coming out undercooked, as is the pork chop. Double whammy: The undercooked meats happen to have arrived at a local food blogger’s table.
Gordon sends the dishes back. Take two on the food: Still a miss with the chicken. Uh-oh. Gordon’s getting mad now, and beckons to Darren to demand what’s going on and to get it together, which he does. The third time’s the charm, and the blogger is pleased and salmonella is avoided.
At the end of the night, customers leave with full, happy bellies, and vow to return. Gordon saves the day! Ragnar shakes Gordon’s hand and thanks him for everything.
“Welcome to our world,” says Gordon. Let’s hope Ragnar sticks with it and brings his energy consultant skills into the restaurant his family has worked so hard to build.
“If I can get through the last 24 hours, I can get through anything,” says Ragnar. And then Darren and Ragnar hug. They hug!
Three months later, the team checks in. Darren’s still loving his job, Ragnar’s a regular, and Aaron, Darren, and Ragnar are all working together well. Customers are enjoying the new look and delicious food. The South has risen once again!
Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back airs on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on FOX.