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. cathy says:

    I told them about my staff and how they reacted when I told them in November that I could no longer make payroll because I had a shut-off notice on the gas. I told the two-cooks I had that they could take a lay-off if they wanted to collect unemployment. My cook, Seneca told me he wasn’t leaving. You saw him the show. He told me he would be here until the ship went down. My cook, Chris hadn’t been here long enough to draw unemployment. So he stayed. Seneca and Chris are still here today. My wait staff said they would stay and live off of their tips, which wasn’t much because business was so slow. They got a check every week, but couldn’t cash it. As of now, they have all been paid. I told them how grateful I was that they did that for me. I know it was hard for them because they needed their money, too.

  2. cathy says:

    At the time, that was all I could do. They are all still here today. Why? You will have to ask them. I told them when Irvine came and talked to them to feel free to tell them what they thought the problems were and not to worry about my feelings, but to be honest. There were problems with the food and service last summer and fall. I told them to tell Irvine what they thought the problems were regarding those issues. I really thought the human side of the story would be enough for a good show, and Irvine would have enough drama with the differences between Donny, my son and I.

  3. cathy says:

    As for my son, he can be a wonderful person and a very loving father. He is a great cook! He can be all that and so much more! Like so many others, he has his own demons to deal with. I realize now that I love him enough to let him go. That problem I can’t fix. Only he can do that and he has to want to do that for himself. I love him very much and he is all that I have. I pray that he will realize his problem and seek the help that he needs. There are other families out there going through the same thing. I don’t want to sound mean or heartless. I didn’t want to talk to Irvine about those issues because I didn’t think that was why he was here! I thought the focus was suppose to be the decline in business, no food or money, bad judgments; and the fact that the kitchen ceiling, and floors needing repairs would be enough for them to focus on and make it a good show.

    • butch says:

      Is that why he will be prosecuted for trespassing, if he steps onto the property? And his kids?

      • cathy says:

        Yes, those issues can not be allowed to continue in this business..period. No business or family can function until someone stands up to break a dysfunctional cycle. I have chosen to do that and it isn't easy, but it has to start somewhere.

    • Douglas_Native says:

      As was typical of your behavior Cathy, you were blaming Don for the restaurants problems within minutes of meeting Robert. I know this to be true because you were still holding your E-Cig in the same hand that you were when you walked through the door. So you say " I didn’t want to talk to Irvine about those issues because I didn’t think that was why he was here!" yet you COULDN'T WAIT to blame someone.

    • Guest says:

      At first I questioned if you were the "real" Cathy but after reading your comments, I'm convinced you are because you're still blaming everyone but yourself. Chef Robert was there to address any and all issues that were affecting the restaurant's performance and one of those happened to be YOU. I am so thankful my mother has never treated me like you treated your son on national TV.

    • dbackbone says:

      "like so many others he has his own demons to deal with". How about you Cathy, do you have demons to deal with? If so, what are they or are you perfect and not accountable for any wrong doing.

  4. cathy says:

    We live in a beautiful resort area right on Lake Michigan, in a community that offers arts and boating. We have many restaurants and very unique shops for our tourists to enjoy each year. But in the winter business drops off considerably.

  5. cathy says:

    Arizona was not a vacation for me it was necessary if I wanted to live. I missed my family and friends while I was there, but I was making new friends. I was going to the pool and walking every day. I felt much better and more relaxed. And I was able to breathe easier with the drier climate.

  6. cathy says:

    I came back home last year, in July, for a visit. I didn’t plan to stay. Maybe my family didn’t want to upset me, I don’t know. But I was kept in the dark about how bad the business situation was. They made some bad decisions while I was gone, and they didn’t communicate that to me. My accountant didn’t inform me of any of the issues either. None of them stole money from me. They got behind on taxes. Maybe they thought that they could catch up and not worry me with it. The problem was that we didn’t have much business. They did not put me $460K in debt; I said I owe $460K. I still owe that much and probably more.

  7. cathy says:

    My niece, Cindy, quit in the fall. My nephew, Scott is still here. I don’t know what I would do without him! He has made countless trips to stores for groceries. He has only had one-day off since last summer. And that was to go to his Grandfathers’ Memorial Service. He has cooked, cleaned, and everything else that needed to be done. He takes care of me and I love him very much!!

  8. cathy says:

    Everyone was waiting for Irvine to come. The Locals and the Bank and everyone that I talked to were so excited! I got a wonderful letter from the Michigan Governor. I felt so proud that he took the time to write to me of all people! I wanted to have it framed and hang it in our dining room for everyone to see! Yes, we were all waiting for Robert Irving, my HERO. He was a person I was so excited to meet. I thought I would burst before he got here! Someone asked me if I was going to touch those big biceps of his. I thought about it and laughed saying “If I wasn’t 70 years old I might try and a lot more…

  9. cathy says:

    You can see why when I found out my HERO was coming I was so excited! I told everyone he was coming, and I knew we would get a lot of publicity because everyone knows who Robert Irving is.

    • Jeff says:

      You put blame on everyone but yourself the entire show and ironically, you seem to be one of the only (if not the only) owner who had such huge issues with Robert. He did what he could so instead of bashing him, be thankful and realize he can't fix stupid.

  10. sue says:

    that place will fail again !!! and this time i hope some one buys it, and dozes the whole works into a hole saugatuck needs a fine eating place catering to the rich people that come there. that will be a good adverstiment for saugatuck and put a lot of money into the tax base. an equiste eating place with people that know what they are doing. and serve awsome food !!!

    • cathy says:

      Sue, Just where do you think think the locals and elderly will dine. They are not the rich people that you want to cater too. There are restaurants in town that do cater to the wealthy, and I know that many live in this community too. I am referring to those who are not so fortunate.

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