Restaurant Revisited: Kalico Kraziness at Kalico Kitchen

by in Shows, July 14th, 2013

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: ImpossibleNot long after arriving at Kalico Kitchen in Douglas, Mich., Robert Irvine realized that the negative tension and long-standing animosity between owner Catherine Wilt and her employees was as much of a problem at the restaurant as its dusty dining room and greasy kitchen. This over-30-year-old eatery was once making nearly $1 million in sales, but it recently acquired a $400,000 debt, something that Catherine learned when she returned after a four-year leave of absence. Over the course of two days and with a $10,000 budget, Robert and his Restaurant: Impossible team attempted to mend the strained relationships at Kalico Kitchen; plus, they gave the space a much-needed deep cleaning, design overhaul and updated menu with fresh, quality ingredients. FN Dish checked in with Kalico Kitchen, and a server, Laura — on Catherine’s behalf — shared how the restaurant is doing today.

“Business went from $200-$300 per day to $2,000-$3,000 per day,” Laura explained. Not long after reopening, Catherine “had made enough money to pay the mortgages to keep her from foreclosure.”

Since the renovation, “the kitchen staff is keeping the kitchen clean and the wait staff has a much better attitude,” according to Laura. The restaurant has enjoyed a mix of returning and first-time diners, and Laura added that many customers have been impressed with the updated decor. In terms of the new menu, she told us that Kalico is “in the process of updating the old menu, and adding some of the specials on the paper menus.”

Despite Catherine’s hopes to improve her professional rapport with her staff, the situation has remained largely the same. “Catherine feels that her relationship with her employees has not changed. She doesn’t feel that she has changed at all. Her relationship with Donny hasn’t changed either,” Laura said.

“Financially, things are looking up, and we are very appreciative of Robert coming out and saving the restaurant,” Laura said. “Catherine believes that she would have lost the restaurant by now had he not come here …. She feels she owes her gratitude to Restaurant: Impossible and the local community for standing by her through these rough times and continuing to patronize the restaurant.”

More from Restaurant Revisited:

Angelo’s (June 23)
Pier West Restaurant (June 16)
Pinehurst Country Lodge (June 9)
Bryan’s Smokehouse (May 26)
Wagon Wheel Family Restaurant (May 19)
Mom & Dad’s Italian Restaurant (May 12)
Smitty’s Restaurant (April 28)
Old World Italian Restaurant (April 21)
Joe Willy’s Seafood House (April 14)
Sweet Tea’s Restaurant & Catering (March 24)
Soup to Nuts Diner (March 17)
Caseyville Cafe (March 13)
Maniaci’s Italian Restaurant (March 10)
Dinner Bell Restaurant (February 27)
Nanny Goat’s Cafe & Feed Bin (February 20)
Sapori D’Italia (January 23)
Windseeker Restaurant (January 16)
Whiskey Creek Steakhouse (January 2)
Rising Sun Bistro (December 19)
Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Missouri (December 9)
Bronk’s Bar and Grill (December 5)
Rohrer’s Tavern (November 28)
Poco’s on the Boulevard (November 21)
Oleander Bar and Grill (October 17)
Valley Inn (October 10)
Whistle Stop (October 3)
The Maple Tree Cafe (September 26)
Michele’s (September 19)
Paliani’s Restaurant (September 12)
Frankie’s (September 5)
Gusanoz (August 29)

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Comments (489)

  1. Jan says:

    Just one question….who was paying off the health department?

    • GUEST says:

      around this town.. places like the Kalico can't afford to pay off the HD, not like some other well known establishments in the big cities..

  2. cathy says:

    They took a picture of the grease on the floor and told me to leave it like that until after the show, and I did. I didn’t know about the broken tiles and the back-up grease until they tore out the tiles. I thought, “Ok, they like a lot of drama.” After all, it’s their show and they wanted drama. I was hoping they would focus on the things that were wrong with the business and I didn’t want to try to tell them how to spend the $10,000, because it was their money. I tried to let them know where it was most needed for this restaurant.

    • Cherl Darby says:

      The restaurant was FILTHY. The show didn't create that. It took years for tt to happen. Judging by the huge number of posts by you, Cathy, you coul bette spend your tim mending the damage you have done to your family and employees. The show speaks for itself. No protests from you can change th fact. You protest too much! I'd be defensive, too, if were exposed for the abusive peron you were shown to be.

    • Denise says:

      They did focus on the problems with restaurant; you! Seems you haven't changed one bit though.

    • umpiresoftball says:

      Oh look more excuses from old farts. you do know that you got to clean up every night? hack i am not the best cleaner at my house but my place is liveable in fact i would of reported your restaurant and walk the other way.

      • Amy says:

        I have been to this place. I walked in and walked right out. The place was a disgusting mess! I am glad it is closed!

        • umpiresoftball says:

          Really sounds bad, My mom told me about this place they stop they said it was dirty so dirty plates etc… She not one to complain but i e-mail health inspector of the area to check it out. Not sure exactly what happen. Hopefully either the fix the issue or closed for good

  3. cathy says:

    I told them that my doctors told me I had to get away from all of the stress at the restaurant because of my heart. I have total blockage on one side of my heart, and a lot of blockage on the other side. I also have very high blood pressure and Emphysema. My doctors said that a stint or bypass surgery were out of the question unless I was having a heart attack. So, I’m being treated with medications.

    • helpme2005 says:

      Maybe for your own sake, it is time to put yourself first. Taking care of your health should be tops on the list, or none of the rest matters. This is not to say that blame can not be placed, but you are not the only one with flaws or responsibility in this situation. It is difficult to look at ones own mistakes in the best of times, but when dealing with illness and family issues outside the business, it can become impossible to fix anything. I once worked for you,many years ago, and you were not easy to work for or always right, but neither were your employees family or otherwise. Maybe it is time to hire someone not from the area to manage the business and an outside accounting firm, and step back and worry about health, happiness, and enjoying family and friends for just that; not as employees.

    • lisa M says:

      I am sorry about your health problems, it looked like you worked very hard, you should be able to take care of yourself. Yes, the show has to create drama, that is what people watch, I wouldn't take it personally, there are two sides to every story, they have to quickly access the situation, and do their thing. Watching the show it was obvious there was more to it than your potty mouth. But you got slomething out of it, a great new look, increased business, etc. Just be glad they did what they did, even if the way they did it was not to your liking. For your own peace of mind and health, let it go. Obviously your family took advantage of you, but forgive them and move on, but take care of yourself.

    • guest says:

      … and you smoke?

    • ana familia says:

      The statement of "a stent or bypass surgery," that is not true at all. If there's blockage a doctor will not wait for you to have a heart attack to do surgery. My father had a stent put in his heart before any heart attack and they went thru the vein in his right leg. If it's blood thinners that they put you on they would still have you stop them one week before any surgery (otherwise you'd bleed to death). The whole purpose of a stent is to PREVENT a heart attack. Besides they could never do it during one. You need to get your facts straight and I might add find a better doctor. And equally you need to stop being so bloody mean to people! For God's sake make your last bit a time here pleasurable for others and you might just find it makes you happy as well!

    • Tom says:

      How can you even talk about having Emphysema? No one should feel sorry for you because on the program you were SMOKING!!!!!!!!!!

      • Tom oughta talk... says:

        She didn't ask for your sympathy, Tom! It's referred to as an "addiction" for a reason~not a rational behavior! It's obvious YOU'RE not perfect either, Tom, judging from your abrasive, rude & cruel insensitivity! (͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

        • carole says:

          Sweetie, you have got to treat others better than you seem to have been doing. If the situation with your staff remains as it was, then something has to change. I really hope you will never , ever tell your son or grandchildren they are worthless you know whats again. I don't have grandchildren, only a son, but I would never dream of having him remember his mama by that. And, when, God willing, I have grandchildren, I can only ever think of telling them they are the most wonderful children on earth. Let it go, and let your son run the place. Make the rest of your life the legacy you want to leave behind. I wish your family the best of luck.

        • Harold Paratestes says:

          Addictions are not incurable but you have to want to quit, If you continue your habit(s) without seeking help, you deserve no pity, sympathy or anything else. I'm sure her doctor advised her to quit, but as was demonstrated in the show, she's not a good listener.

    • Patrick says:

      I just watched this episode. Ummmm…Cathy, you are a master manipulator as I said to my wife and sister in law as we watched the show. And THIS post proves it. You want to put stuff off because of your "illnesses", however I fall short of having any sympathy for someone with these maladies when you're shown outside talking smack about people with a cigarette hanging out of your mouth. You are a fool and you should be ashamed of yourself for attempting to put yourself in a place to be sympathized with. I hope your son finds a better place to follow his cooking dreams!

    • Harold Paratestes says:

      What are you still doing there. Didn't you make a big deal of turning it over to your son? Move to Nevada and hook up with Harry Reid. You two would make a good pair.

  4. cathy says:

    There were things going on behind the scene that I am still unsure if I can speak on them but They kept me away until they were ready. When they brought me out to meet him for the first time, it was on camera. I knew right away that this was not going to be anything like I had hoped it would be. At this point I knew that I had made a big mistake about my HERO! I learned real quick that this was going to be about Him & His Show, and His Ratings, and this show was going to make Him and the Food Network a lot of money!!! I learned real quick that this was not going to be about me. or saving this restaurant. As it turned out, it has been a nightmare – for me and my restaurant, for this community, for our Health Department, and Douglas City Officials- who were portrayed as not doing their jobs. When Irvine left Douglas, Michigan, he was not riding off on a white horse, but in his Big Black Lexus! Imagine him telling me that I have no heart! He left a path of destruction behind him and never looked back.

    • Douglas_Native says:

      So you're having problems with his success? Why don't you rattle off some of the Lincolns and Cadillacs you've owned over the years Cathy?

    • Sam says:

      Don't blame Robert. I bet he never told you to act like a nutcase and throw your family under the bus; you did that on your own. You, your restaurant, and everyone else you rattled off WERE NOT doing their jobs. If you were, you wouldn't be an owner of a disgusting, failing restaurant.

    • dbackbone says:

      Did you really think the cast and crew travelled to your pig sty for Catherine? It is a great TV show. A TV show that helps restaurants, their owners, their employees and the customers. Robert Irvine is a special human being in my eyes. And there is nothing wrong about earning a good living and providing a good living for his staff and employees. I haven't heard him say anything negative or hurtful to anyone, constructive criticism, yes. The brief period you, Catherine, were on the screen I heard and saw nothing but meanness. You, yourself said you didn't like what you have become. Lady, you are a cancer that has spread to your family and employees. I did find it amusing that you were expected to change. I knew you couldn't, Robert knew you couldn't and you knew you couldn't…hell, everyone knew you couldn't. At your age and with that personality for so many years that is flat impossible. Hopefully your family and employees have moved on, although I know after being beaten down that probably is very hard to do.

    • Gina says:

      It seems to me, that you made your own bed and are trying to pass blame! You are not the victim here, so stop trying to portray yourself that way. Did you see the rancid state of that kitchen?! The health inspectors probably come visit frequently now, and FOR GOOD REASON! I wouldn't feel comfortable eating in your restaurant, unless they were frequenting your kitchen.

      If I knew they were comingto film, I would be damn sure my place was clean and up to health standards. You've done this to yourself, and that's the bottom line. I find you a very ungrateful person and I should think you could use a lesson in grace and humility. I will pray for you and your enlightenment. I will also pray for your grandchildren.

    • jessica says:

      After seeing the show….i belive that a women in your stature should be ashamed for the way you talk to ur son and ur grand kids i hope for the love of god when u get to old and u end up having serious health issues ur family dont black ball u and leave ur ass to rot. you are rude and bilittle the people that care about you and i myself am ashamed to say u are from my community.

      • a admirer says:

        you couch potato toco eating sow you know nothing about catherine or her son or grandchildrin so why dont you lay down by your bowl a keep your stuped mouth shut or better go tell her os fffff

    • suzinne says:

      You're proving here just what was depicted in the show about you in the show about your restaurant Kalico Kitchen. They totally remade your restaurant and menu, yet I hear no gratitude whatsoever from you. Talk about being an ingrate!

    • Harold Paratestes says:

      Ah, yes. Cathy is in denial and is now trying to blame Irvine for the disgusting condition of her dump. I have been to the kitchens and back rooms of many places like the Kalico Kitchen and I often wondered how health depts. permitted such filth-or if there was a health dept.

    • Kerryrm says:

      If Catherine has is so right and has all of the correct answers, then how come her restaurant is/was doing so poorly? If Robert was all about his show and the ratings but does not have a clue as to what was really needed to turn business around for the Kalico, then how come Robert runs and owns so many successful restaurants that are NOT in need of saving? He was a successful restauranteur, earning enough money to pay that fancy car of his that you belittled long before the Food Network hired him to do this show and worry about ratings.

      It seems to me that your are more angry about the fact that he tried to get you to stand back and take a personal assessment of yourself as a means to help you see the real reasons for why your restaurant is/was failing than you are about the show. You are in such a deep state of denial that it is easier to blame and get angry at the one that tried to get you see the truth than to admit to your flaws and want to change them. Catherine, you are a walking example of insanity. You insist on continuing to be and do things the same way and yet you expect different results.

      Statistically, 70% of change initiatives that businesses want and try to implement fail. Some of reasons are a result of too much resistance to change, too much finger pointing, lack of accountability, lack of owning the change, lack of proper planning for change, lack of believing that change is needed, etc. (This is a fact, Google it)

      • j jj searver says:

        you sound kike you know catherine verry will why dont you go see her maybe you can help her jj

      • gwnola says:

        Let's face it though: Robert is arrogant, bossy, pushy, demanding, and demeaning of others. If the owners acted to others as he does to them, he'd call them the problem. Not saying he doesn't help or do a good job, it's just that he doesn't have to act as he does and be so "over the top" to get it done. I know it's all "tv drama," but I'd personally like it toned down. I'd imagine that there's a good bit of truth in what Cathy says. If I had a failing restaurant, I'd think twice about calling Robert because no matter what problems there might be, he'd come out looking like a Savior and I'd look like an idiot. No thanks…wouldn't want that.

        • costermer says:

          its all about the money who is makeing money it sure isent cathy i hear she has all most lost ever thing her famely is all gone the ones she left in charge while she was gone they havall left her to clean up the mess she is tuff lady she is no quiter i know her she wont run away

          • Harold Paratestes says:

            She may not be a quitter, but she should be-and get out of the Kitchen if she can't stand the heat.

        • Harold Paratestes says:

          Robert has two days to turn things around. There is no time for touchy feely chit chats. As far as being afraid of Robert finding things, why don't you look for them? You are indeed a person in denial. You think he's come out looking like a savior and you'd look like an idiot. I suppose you would have no objection to taking credit though, would you?

    • umpiresoftball says:

      You are one of the reason if you really are Catherin why i cannot stand old farts like you. You cannot accpet your own faults and put blame on everyone else but yourself. your apologize was half-butt excused and liar. personally you should be closed a long time ago

    • Guest says:

      so its roberts fault you keep a dirty restaurant? ok. it seems like the restaurant portrayed you perfectly. you never take responsibility for your own failures. it's always the fault of someone else

    • Jason says:

      I was honestly shocked when I watched the show, Cathy. I watched you express great shame and embarrassment as you watched your employees repeat the horrible things you said to them. Robert asked you to write an apology to them that night. The next day you said you "were working" on the apology to your family, but were surprised at the idea you should do so for employees. You said you'd do it in person with them, but when they stood before you, all you could do was express your feelings about the awful things they said about you. Even though they were only repeating the things you said to them.

      Now you're here blaming Robert and the TV show for your continued failure. You blame your son, your family, your employees and even the TV show that offered you a chance at turning things around. You are 98% of the problem in your family and your restaurant and, as is apparent in your post that I respond to, you just can't see it. You not only refuse to accept and acknowledge your responsibility for all the problems, it honestly appears as if you simply can't see what is obvious to everyone else. You're like the hoarders who can see the filth and destructiveness of their own behaviors.

      This isn't a matter of stubbornness or ego. This is clearly a mental issue that you need help with. It will take you losing your home, losing your restaurant and losing your family – and then, MAYBE you will understand that you need help. I'm sorry that it will have to come to that; it's a tragic reality of mental illness that the illness interferes with your ability to see that you're sick.

  5. cathy says:

    Paula Dean is someone I look up to. We were both single moms in business raising our sons. She has two sons. I have one. We both have a love for ‘Home Cooked Southern Food.’ We were both Southern women starting our own businesses. We both had a passion for what we did. And, I have several of her cook books in my restaurant. Her picture is in my kitchen in my home. We cook a lot alike. Both of us serve Peach Cobbler, Turnip Greens, Pinto Beans/Ham Hocks and Cornbread, and Catfish. We both cook with lots of butter. Many folks in town refer to me as the Paula Dean of Douglas. I take that as a great compliment.

    • Douglas_Native says:

      Somebody actually says that you're the Paula Deen of Douglas? Wow, that town really is delusional! Oh, and maybe you should try to spell Paula's name right.

    • G12 says:

      You can't be like Paula Dean because Paula Dean doesn't swear at her kids when she's cooking with them on national TV…

    • Sharon says:

      You are a self centered , egotistical,witch who does not care about anyone but yourself. Try God for a change and learn to Love.

    • carole says:

      It doesn't matter if you look up to Paula Dean or anyone else. Take a good look at what the viewers saw. I really feel sorry for your family and staff. I really wonder how much longer you will be in business with your poor attitude. By the way, I think it would be a really good idea for Robert and the staff of Food Network to make a surprise visit to many of the restaurants that they put time and money into.

    • Manga Manga says:

      How dare you even compare yourself to Paula Deen! She is the kindest, sweetest, loving of her family and her fans, southern belle I've ever had the pleasure of watching. Just because you cook the same dishes Paula makes, does in no way, whatsoever, make you comparable to Paula Deen, Paula definitely has a passion, you Mam based on the show and your comments have a demonic desire to make people miserable! And if you could cook like Paula your business wouldn't have been in such a demise.

    • Sam says:

      You are not even close to being in the same league as Paula Deen. You are nasty and filthy. Your restaurant needs to be closed down and you need to take a bath.

    • Pontius Pilot says:

      How could I tell you look up to Paula Deen? You look like her except about 20 years older.

    • Harold Paratestes says:

      Who did you hire to write your replies, Cathy? Must be a cheap PR firm.

    • Harold Paratestes says:

      WOW! Bet Paula Deen is not happy about your comparison

  6. cathy says:


    You all love the show and think Robert Irving is such a wonderful person. You think he is someone who can come in and fix a failing restaurant and help them get back on their feet again. Well, that’s what I thought too.

  7. cathy says:

    I used to love ‘Restaurant Impossible’ shows. I believe I saw every one of them. I often thought, wouldn’t it be neat if he could come to Kalico Kitchen and give my restaurant a makeover, just like I had seen him do for so many others. I thought how great it would be if he could work with me and my staff. He was my HERO and I looked forward to meeting him one day.

  8. cathy says:

    When I got a call, from the ‘Restaurant Impossible,’ in February of this year, I was told they wanted to do a show for Kalico Kitchen. I couldn’t believe it!! I asked them how they found out about my restaurant. They told me someone else had submitted an application, on my behalf, without my knowledge. I was so happy!! But, I told them I was afraid I may be out of business before they had a chance to come and do a show here. I thought, “My God, What a Blessing!” I had been praying for a miracle, and I thought this was the answer to my prayers. I never expected them to do this much for me.

  9. cathy says:

    So, they came right away and did their initial interviews and took pictures. I showed them how desperate things were. We had no food. They were shocked when they found out that all we had in the walk-in freezer was one bag of green peas! The woman doing the interview said, “My God, there is nothing in here except a bag of peas”. I told her business was so bad that we were buying food on a daily basis. I told her that I was so far behind in paying my food suppliers, that I had to pay cash for food and $300 towards the past due amount. I couldn’t even do that. I showed them that the ceiling tiles in the kitchen needed to be replaced and the kitchen floor was worn out in some area, and the Health Department got onto me about it every time they came.

  10. cathy says:

    Then, I told them the truth. I told them my nephew, Scott, my son, Donnie, and I hadn’t received a paycheck since last July. I told them I was so far behind on my house payments that I was about to lose it. I told them I had borrowed money on the house years ago for Kalico. I told them that I couldn’t afford propane to heat my home and I was living in the restaurant. I ate and slept there all winter. I was quite comfortable there with my TV and coffee. I didn’t go hungry.

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