It's been eight months since Eagle Rock's own subjected itself to the scrutiny of world-renowned restaurateur and chef Gordon Ramsay on his Fox reality show Kitchen Nightmares.
On the night of Friday, January 27, however, the man who once called the restaurant owned by Jim and Jeff Thiel "disgusting" was back—but this time he had nothing but a lot of "wow," "amazing," and "wicked" to say about the Capri.
The Capri was one of the restaurants featured on Friday's "Revisited No. 2" episode of the popular show, in which Ramsay spends a week with a failing restaurant to help revive it. Ramsay checked up on the Thiel twins after transforming the troubled restaurant from a place of dusty chandeliers, gum-lined tables and questionable menu choices to the hip, thriving, and delicious eatery it now is. The aired May 6, 2011—and Ramsay worked on the restaurant's makeover in January 2011.
"This place looks amazing," Ramsay said upon revisiting the restaurant on Friday night's show, especially impressed that they were open for lunch and had new tables outside. Yes, the décor and cleanliness has been kept up since it's first revamp, but it was the food that truly impressed the TV chef.
Ramsay called the Capri's meat lovers' pizza "delicious," the new homemade meatball sliders "wicked," and had an overall "wow" count of four.
Rescued by Reality TV
"It felt great to make him proud," co-owner Jim Thiel told Patch the morning after the new episode aired. "If it weren't for Kitchen Nightmares I think we would've closed.”
The restaurant’s business has gone up about 20 percent, according to Jim. “It's hard to buy advertising, but the show really spread the word and we have a lot of new customers, along with old customers returning,” he says, adding: “This couldn't have happened without him [Ramsay]."
Among the changes made on the first episode—which the restaurant has stuck with—is having a smaller menu to be able to manage the kitchen better. The Thiel twins have also delegated more of the culinary duties to their cook, James Dunn. "James has taken a lot of pressure off myself and my brother on running the kitchen," says Jim. "But we also learned that we need to be hands on—the biggest thing Gordon taught us is to oversee everything to make sure it gets done and also do a lot of the work ourselves."
'Clean is Not a Four-Letter Word'
Yes, that means Jim even cleans sometimes (though he delegates some of the dirty work to his servers). Those who recall the first episode would know that Jim had a rough time cleaning when he said that "clean" is a four-letter word. This time around, he cleaned up his wording from the first episode. "Clean is not a four-letter word,” he joked on the show. “It's five letters, so it's okay."
The one challenge the Thiel twins face in the show’s aftermath is catering to their old customer base. "What we're working on now is that a lot of our old customers want some of the old menu items to return,” Jim explains. “They miss the ravioli or the veal. So we're trying to bring stuff back in specials. We'll get there."
Valentine's Day Special
One special the twins are excited about is the Couple's Dinner for Valentine's Day. For $70, a couple gets an appetizer, salad, choice of entree, dessert, and a whole bottle of wine.
Ramsay was so impressed with the changes at Capri that he surprised the Thiel twins with a visit, accompanied by Michael Nogueira, who stepped down as president of the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce on January 20. "Now we have a place that we can actually come out for fresh meatballs," Nogueira playfully declared, presenting the restauranters a certificate of appreciation.
Menus might change, décor get updated, and specials added, but one thing will never change: The 48-year-old twins still bicker, still joke around a lot, and will always be kids at heart.
"That's one thing no one can ever change in us,” says Jim. “Not even Gordon Ramsay."