Monday, January 07, 2019

Gordon Ramsay is a pay day lender

This is an interesting Gambit article about the effect celebrity TV chefs can have on the restaurants they feature. It made me wonder if so-called neighborhood restaurants like Katie's make it on their own anymore without the boost that comes with becoming a Neighborhood RestaurantTM where the real money comes from serving up "local authenticity" to tourists. Of course it also evokes the ongoing question of whether or not anybody besides tourists actually lives in New Orleans' neighborhoods anymore but that's something for later in the week.

The other thing that really jumps out about the Gambit article is going on Gordon Ramsay's reality show (the latest version of which recently featured the Trolley Stop) is basically like taking out a pay day loan. It exploits vulnerable businesses and seldom offers much benefit in return.
In 2014, "New York Magazine" food blog Grub Street released a report that claimed 60 percent of the restaurants Ramsay featured on his show “Kitchen Nightmares” had closed. Metairie restaurant Zeke’s, also featured on Ramsay’s show in 2011, closed shortly after the renovation.
Last week Jarvis DeBerry wrote that he was unimpressed with the results of Ramsay's work with the Trolley Stop. The primary issue in that column looks like it stems from a misunderstanding over whether it's a terrific idea to call a catfish platter a catfish po-boy.  I think, also, the restaurant's owners responded badly to the column and matters just got worse from there. 

But the most important thing I learned from all that was that Ramsay had the Trolley Stop drastically pare down its menu.  Like, it went from 6 pages of every sort of appetizer, salad, po-boy, burger, breakfast, nacho... and so forth to just one sheet of basics.  This might sound like good common sense advice in a vacuum.  It's what you might tell someone just opening a new mid-range brunch spot. Do a few things and do them well.

But that's not really what the Trolley Stop is supposed to be about. At least not to its long time clientele, anyway.  In fact the specific claim to fame there has long been that it is a place to get a wide variety of crap at all hours.  That's certainly what I appreciated about it way back in a bygone decade when it was a frequent stop on late night walks back from working my hotel shift in the Quarter.  Sometimes the fact of a greasy spoon with a sprawling menu is its own reward regardless of the quality. A place like that really just has to be good enough. By the time Jarvis got there, the regulars were already in revolt.

Maybe they'll talk some sense into the ownership.  Given Ramsay's track record, I hope they listen. 

No comments: