by Rick Langenberg:
After months of speculation, the dreaded culinary nightmare was revealed in detail last week in a two-hour television special on FOX last week that certainly gave Woodland Park and a local Italian eatery more than their customary 15 minutes of fame.
Chef Gordon Ramsay spared little mercy for Mangia Mangia in his usual “in your face” confrontational style, as part of his popular Kitchen Nightmares reality television show, which aired Friday evening. The show, which recently started its seventh season, wasn’t lacking in entertainment.
Several local businesses, including the Shining Mountain Golf Club and Mangia Mangia, got into the celebratory act by conducting Kitchen Nightmares viewing parties. The arrival of Ramsay and his television crew last August in Woodland Park became the talk of the town, with many locals unsuccessfully trying to get a sneak preview of what may transpire inside the restaurant’s doors.
The final airing of the Mangia Kitchen Nightmares didn’t disappoint local residents and gave Woodland Park a little dose of national prime time publicity. The show focuses on struggling restaurants with the colorful chef spending a week with the business owners and their staff, at the restaurant’s request.
The Woodland Park episode began with Ramsay cruising into the restaurant’s former drive-through booth and trying to figure out if Mangia Mangia was a fast-food restaurant or an Italian eatery. He initially sampled their soup, and after much disgust, described it as “defrosted snow.” His critiques of their food and operation didn’t get any better, with Ramsay attacking virtually every dish on the menu and repeatedly returning entrees and special dishes to the staff. “This is bland, boring and dated,” blasted Ramsey in describing the Mangia’s food items. And similar to other episodes of Kitchen Nightmares, the show focused on the internal turmoil among the kitchen staff. This episode was capped by conflicts between owner Julie Watson and her employees and a series of bizarre fights. During the show, tempers exploded, tears flowed, walkout threats ensued and even a firing of a head chef occurred. “Get a grip fast,” yelled Chef Ramsay on frequent occasions. “How the Hell are these doors still open. This business is dysfunctional. The atmosphere is dreadful,” stated Ramsay throughout the episode.
At one point, the outspoken chef, who also has gained notoriety for his strong British accent, vowed to throw in the towel himself and head to the airport, after noticing the restaurant storing 400 portions of pre-cooked pasta.
But the show ended on a happy, positive note with the airing of a big community celebration due to the changes that developed at Mangia Mangia with a new menu, look and attitude, as well as the addition of a new chef. Ramsay insisted that the restaurant alter its former practice of preparing items by microwaving frozen food, to crafting fresh culinary dishes and showcasing a more updated Italian menu. He also stressed the importance of using traditional ovens and getting away from a fast-food restaurant mentality.
Several local leaders such as Woodland Park Mayor Dave Turley were filmed indulging in special Italian culinary masterpieces, as part of the new Mangia Mangia. “It was like I went into a different restaurant,” said one of the employees, in describing the new Mangia Mangia changes, favored by Chef Ramsay. And in a somewhat comical ending, Chef Ramsay tried to haul a microwave out the drive-through window in a symbolic gesture of doing away with the old failed ways of doing things at Mangia Mangia.