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It's Kitchen Nightmares... WITH ROBERT IRVINE! On Food Network!

Really, it pretty much is. There are a few differences... Robert has a much tighter time constraint, being about two days, versus the week Gordon Ramsay would typically spend at a restaurant. Robert also has a strict budget of $10,000 as opposed to Gordon spending either no money at all or as much money as the show's producers would allow him to. Robert also doesn't get quite as into helping the staff with their personal problems, apparently figuring if the restaurant starts doing well the rest will sort itself out. Otherwise, the formula is almost identical: the celebrity British chef shows up to a failing restaurant, remarking on the terrible decor when he does. He tries the food, and with near-certainty finds that absolutely everything is terrible. Upon checking the kitchen, he will almost invariably find it filthy and staffed by people who have either never cooked well, been strangled by incompetent managing, or simply lost their passion and drive. Robert tackles the problems, freaking out along the way. (As opposed to Gordon's swearing a blue streak, Robert generally prefers to freak out by throwing up his hands and letting out an exasperated yell.) Now has its own imitator following it directly on the same network, Restaurant Stakeout.

Like the UK version and later seasons of the U.S. Kitchen Nightmares, each episode ends with a short epilogue of how the restaurant was doing after the episode. These are usually rather vague, though, often merely saying that business is "on the mend" or somesuch, or that the restaurant closed (but not why). The honesty of these is somewhat questionable. One example is the Sweet Tea Restaurant, which according to online reviews went back to having bad service and jacked up their prices the day after Robert left, soon went to a buffet, and eventually closed, none of which is mentioned in the original ending blurb or edited in reruns.


Provides examples of:

  • Adored by the Network: if you turn on Food Network and the show currently airing isn't a competition show or Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, chances are it's this show (especially on weekends). Given the $10,000 budget Robert has to work with (presuming it represents the largest single-item production expense for the show besides the salaries for crew and Robert himself, it represents a very paltry episode budget), it's not hard to guess why this show might be so frequently aired.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Robert will invariably do everything possible to yank open everyone at the restaurant's skulls and brand three things on their brain: consistency of food, good service, and immaculate cleanliness. Now go and look up any restaurant he's been to on a review site. Chances are near 100% that they will have forgotten the importance of at least one of these, if not all three.
  • Berserk Button: Robert has several.
    • Canned or frozen food. It's cost ineffective, not good quality and frequently used as a crutch by chefs who either don't know how or are unwilling to make things themselves. He looked like he was going to have a stroke when he realized that one chef's "family recipe" barbecue sauce mostly came from a bottle.
    • Oversized menus as well. He always seems to cut the menu to one page or maybe two. One establishment had 400 (!) items on its menu.
    • Filthy kitchens. "YOU'RE GONNA KILL SOMEONE!"
  • Blatant Lies: Like Kitchen Nightmares, when someone says the kitchen's cleaned regularly or that lots of people come in for some dish Robert's just slagged. Robert actually calls one of the owners on this when she claims that people come just to eat the mac'n'cheese, and Robert asks her why, if people come to eat it, the restaurant's failing. She does a rather good impression of a fish trying to come up with a reply.
  • Broke the Rating Scale: In the Sweet Tea episode, Robert rates the liver pudding a -10 on a scale of 1 to 10.
  • Cassandra Truth: Many to most owners and chefs simply refuse to admit there's anything actually wrong with their restaurants, making one wonder what they actually expected Robert to do (other than maybe buy them some new stuff for ten thousand smackers). Very, very rarely Robert will encounter someone who easily accepts all his criticisms and admits they didn't know what they were doing and needed someone to tell them.
  • Continuity Nod: In the Thanksgiving Episode, he brings his two sous chefs to help complete two services: one (at the request of Newark Mayor Corey Booker) to cook up 175 pre-made dishes for another soup kitchen, and the other for the regular dinner service.
    • Even better. In that same episode, Robert deliberately invokes that "garbage can turkey" trick from the Dinner: Impossible days.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef: Some of the cooks wind up being this, either through ignorance of how to actually do it or through unsafe food handling.
  • Downer Ending: Whenever the restaurant winds up closing despite the efforts of Robert, his team, and the staff.
    • Valley View Restaurant closed even before its episode aired.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Robert definitely comes across this way when the heat's on. It helps that he started his career in the British Navy.
  • Dumb Blonde: One of the waitresses Robert tried to train. She knew nothing about anything on the menu, repeatedly shrugged Robert off, clearly didn't understand him but still agreed to shut him up, complained that she didn't see why she should have to try the food or say she liked the food at the restaurant she worked at, and was even admitted by her boss as "not liking to work too hard". It wasn't exactly a shock to learn that the restaurant that was still employing her closed despite Robert's efforts.
  • Heroic Build: Robert brings the gun show every week! See also: Estrogen Brigade Bait.
  • Large Ham: Robert can be pretty over the top, especially on Day 1 as he tries to convince the owners that they need to change. His bellow can also often be heard floors away.
  • Lethal Chef: Can literally be so if food isn't handled properly (i.e. kept warm or cold enough or kept out all day) and an oft-repeated Catch Phrase of Robert's is declaring that "You could kill someone!"
  • The Mean Brit: Robert can very much come off as this, though he's always quick to say that he's just trying to help.
  • Nepotism: One restaurant has a pretty bad case of this with one of the owner's granddaughters working there and getting away with things that would get anyone else fired.
    • This has cropped up in a few episodes. Oddly grandchildren seem to be the more common recipients of this than children.
  • Oh Crap: The looks on the design team's faces when Robert grabbed a sledgehammer and put a large hole in a wall he wanted removed, and that they'd told him was full of plumbing and electrical equipment. One designer actually screamed- understandably, though.
  • Once an Episode: Robert gathers the restaurant staff around his paper board and outlines the bullet points of everything he needs to do.
  • The Reveal: At the end of every episode, the owners see the redesigned restaurant for the first time.
  • Too Dumb to Live: When you've lost most of your senses of taste and smell putting out the Gulf War oil fires, you probably shouldn't be cooking. (An actual chef Robert met in one episode had that problem. His food was about 90% salt.)
    • Several owners have gone right back to their crappy recipes since Robert left. In particular, the staff at Coffee's Boilin' Pot was cooking their boil for the day in the morning, then dumping ice right into the pot to cool it down to safe temperatures, rendering it all diluted and tasteless. Even after Robert showed them a workable method of boiling to order (by divvying up uncooked ingredients into small cheescloth bags to cook when needed), they went right back to their old way.
    • The owner of Rascal's, who had an obvious hoarding problem. Robert worked with him, dunged out his horrid back patio and spent thousands to get his disgusting kitchen properly cleaned. The owner responded by telling local media that Irvine had planted fake mouse droppings in the kitchen (while not bothering to deny the thirteen dead mice Robert's cleaning crew found). Several months later, the hoarding problem returned and the Health Department shut the place down.
  • Too Incompetent to Operate a Blanket: The chefs at Anna Maria's would cook their marinara sauce, then cool it by dumping ice into the pot. Not only is this unsafe (as ice machines harbor the kind of bacteria that would grow voraciously in a tomato-based sauce) but it also renders the sauce bland and tasteless. Of course, these are the same "chefs" who would prepare "chicken parmesan" by taking a pre-breaded, precooked chicken patty, adding cheese and their watery sauce, then microwaving it.
    • The "chefs" at both Sweet Tea and Salt Works II made everything (and we mean everything) from cans and mixes. Robert had to spend parts of both episodes showing them how to make basic stuff like chicken stock and white gravy, because they didn't know how. Of course, their reliance on cans and mixes had rendered the food both expensive and tasteless. Robert even had to tell a proprietor of Sweet Tea that a drinkable "Ginger Iced Tea" does not include whole pieces of raw ginger in the glass!
      • Proving true incompetence, the Sweet Tea "chef" apparently went right back to serving out-of-the-freezer food.
    • Averted with La Stanza. Lucia came off this way at first, but it was more a case of not knowing what running a restaurant entailed, and her horribly overworked head chef never complaining. Robert spent much of the episode teaching her what she needed to do and how to equitably divide the work with her head chef. The result was a Happy Ending.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Robert came close at both Rascal's and McShane's (particularly at the latter when Robert found both decomposing beer spilled in the cooler and copious mold growth on the inside of the soda gun). And then it finally happened for real in the Anna Maria's episode when Robert moved an appliance in the kitchen and discovered everything from rotted bread to cutlery, and Robert flat out admitted this had never happened before.
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