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. Bobo says:

    Has anyone cleaned the nasty bathrooms since the filming of the show?__The customers commenting on this blog are horrified by their condition.__Can someone with an ounce of pride take 15 minutes and clean the bathrooms and toilets. It doesn't take talent or skill. Just effort and pride.__If this can't happen, there is no reason for this restaurant to stay open. Good grief.

  2. Flying Dutchman says:

    Flying Dutchman,

    My family and I have eaten at Kalico Kitchen off and on for the past 25 years. Apart from the tragic personal issues between family and staff, the unspoken issue for me is the state of restaurant public health inspections in the area. How can the filth and vermon found on the kitchen floor pass even the most cursery inspection?!? The Holland Sentinel reported on July 25, 2013 that an Allegean County Health County health inspection had been done at Kalico in August and November, 2012. Based on what was was shown on the Food Network, one would have had to have been…extremely disabled,or lazy, or untrained, or paid off… to have missed the living creatures and filth under the major kitchen appliances that was found on the show in Kalico's kitchen. Makes me wonder just what other public health issues are to be found in area eating establishments…that are "overlooked!"

    • LPL123 says:

      Well, I can assure you that nobody paid anyone off. Second of all, inspections do not include ripping up tiles on the floor, NOBODY knew it was like that. Not the owner, staff, health dept. Etc. You can bet that the kitchen has stayed cleaner since!

    • home cook says:

      I now check out restaurants on the Ottawa County Health Dept website after participating in a Restaurant Impossible episode in another Michigan city. The website lets you know when last visit was done and the infractions they had.

  3. Dog Fart says:

    Good grief. Let's face it, the restaurant was gross, and not only before filming.

    Numerous posts on Tripadvisor and Yelp have pointed to nasty conditions in the dining room and bathroom for years. Not just right before the filming.

    I really hope the restaurant has not gotten disgusting again. But some of the posters on this blog have eaten here recently and were totally grossed out by the bathrooms and to a lesser extent the dining room.

    Does the concept of hygiene exist with this staff? Or are folks just damn lazy….

    • S r says:

      Amen there was no way in the world anyone at any point were to walk in that Mitch and not know how bad it was, I've worked in diners before and trust And believe built up grease gives off a bad odor! And as far as sittin back drinking and stuff what is the difference of them doing that yet the entire staff had no desire to abide by health regulations?? Idk maybe I'm slow and missing the big picture highly doubt it though

  4. Donny says:

    You know, I don't really remember to much about living in Florida. But, I had my friends and my Mother was my world. I never remember her say anything, EVER! Mean to anyone. Except when she smack the lady across the street for calling me a "punk" . Lol. I was never so scared when her son came over with a shovel. But I was like 8. But I still rember. After all these years. What happened? Maybe it was me, Oh, I've been a piece of shit before, I guess. Alex is 22 and Cody is 16, and I love them so much, I would never tell them such things. Maybe it is my fault. And that's fine, because I'm gone, well since the popo said, you don't come back, that 2 week ago. And Laura? Who the hell are you anyway? I didn't even know who you were 11 months ago. Such a joke!!!! But, hell it doesn't matter. I lost.

    • Alex says:

      You know, and don't need me to tell you that everyone makes mistakes, but it doesn't forever brand you a "piece of shit". That's the last thing that the people who know and love you think, everything else is moot and irrelevant.

    • William says:

      You know I was hired their sometime between 1998-2005 when I started my culinary career, but they only worked me for one day and let me go. So I move on because I felt the stress though the yelling and fighting. However, I'm just holding off on the 5 last classes toward my culinary management degree, so I can pay off a couple of student loans. As I'm still creating new dishes with wine sauces, meats, and vegetable on my days off of my factory job.

    • Gina says:

      Sorry for you and your children. It may be time to move on though. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

      Take what you've learned and move onto another venture.

      Good luck! It takes years to recover from emotional abuse.

    • DaughterofaNarcisist says:

      Donny, I saw the show on Wednesday night and thought about your situation all day Thursday. Couldn't shake it, so I finally headed on over to foodnetwork to see if I could figure out a way to contact you. It is NOT your fault. She has narcissistic personality disorder. It's a mental illness. She is INCAPABLE of empathy. She processes EVERYthing through a filter of how it impacts her, how it makes her feel and how she is perceived by other people. She can't control it. You are expecting reasonable from someone who just can't be. At least not consistently. Please, PLEASE consider reading the book, "Why is it Always About YOU? It's an empowering eye-opener. To summarize it in one sentence? "The ONLY solution is distance." If distance isn't possible, setting boundaries is the next best option. At the very least, please check out the reviews on Amazon:
      I hope this doesn't offend you, but I've prayed for you so many times over the last 24 hours. For you to have the courage to step away, geographically if necessary, for you to become aware of her limitations and to be empowered by that awareness, for you to be able to set boundaries and stick to them. This is going to sound weird, but walking that fine line between "honor your father and mother" and protecting myself was SO much easier once I began interacting with my mom as if she were an autistic child. That, and my faith in Christ. When I reached the end of my own stamina, God had to give the grace – through me. Praying you read this comment and that it helps.

      • Donny says:

        Thank you. I have not talked to my Mom or been in the Kalico for 6 weeks. Started a new job 3 weeks ago, and it's going great. I've gotten my first, I mean first apartment. Things are looking up. Thanks again. Donald Shriel.

    • Friend says:

      Your probably one of the sweetest souls I know. Its' not your fault what happened to the KK. Hang in there Donnie, God has a bigger and better plan for you. :)

    • Ashley says:

      Dear Donny and family, This is so sad to read, but not surprising unfortunately. Even in the show your mom was not saying what she needed to. She is an angry bitter old lady and deserves all she gets. None of you deserve her wrath! She will need years of counselling to change. We saw the restaurant is closed for health violations….. sorry to say, it serves her right. We all as a family, wish all of you the best! Stay away from her! She is toxic. I recommend a book i am reading…."Will I Ever Be Good Enough" I know your pain! Please be good to yourselves and heal! Many blessing!

  5. Sarge927 says:

    NOW the truth comes out. Before the show Catherine was blaming everyone else for all her problems. Now she's blaming Chef Robert Irvine — someone who came out to HELP her! This woman has an answer for everything, and it's NEVER her fault. Well, Catherine, good luck to you when your restaurant fails (notice I said WHEN, not IF), and you can continue to live in denial blaming everyone else for your misfortune WITHOUT your precious restaurant and WITHOUT your family and WITHOUT anyone who gives a damn about poor little you…

  6. Kim says:

    Cathy, you are a horrible human being. I just watched the show and felt so sorry for the employees and your family. The fact that you can't take responsibility for your actions is just horrendous. You verbally and emotionally abuse these people. Robert Irvine did a wonderful thing and you are not thankful at all. You just continue to blame, blame, blame. Take a look in the mirror, because you are a monster. I hope everyone quits. I would never work for a tyrant like you. I was hoping for some change in the show, but the evil look in your eyes made me realize that you could never change. You continue to make excuses for your behavior, but the one you really need to blame is yourself.

    • Stacy r says:

      I agree!!!! While I was horrified at the deplorable conditions of the restaurant and the overall cleanliness I can honestly say I can relate to the employee you get from people what you give them!! Honestly throughout the whole show I had Catherine pegged as the type of person who has a flare from dramatics!!! You really ought to be ashamed of yourself for not only being flaky and but also being a drama queen you managed to be able to turn on and off the tears at the drop of a hat!! If I were your employees I would tell you to go straight to hell and how exactly to get there! Your family was sincere but clearly you really don't like yourself so how in the world would anyone with any common sense hold onto the fantasy that maybe one day you will change!! To all the employees my hats off to ya and keep y'all's head up

  7. Sam says:

    Just looking at and listening to that old heifer disgusted me. My impression is she is a dirty, bad-mouthing, ciggie-smoking, pathetic fool.

  8. charlie says:

    What really amazes me is the fact that owners call into to RI to get help and grip/complain when Robert shows them in black/white what they have been doing wrong, and Robert is the BAD GUY for telling them the truth. My question is why did you call him in the first place if you don't want his help (speaking as restaurant owner) ;)

  9. guest says:

    Had it not been for her family and staff, I can think of barely anyone on this show that I have ever seen who was as crude, rude, disgusting and trashy as this Catherine and deserving of failure. The most revolting individual I have ever seen on Food Channel (and that says a LOT.)

  10. Brutal Truth says:

    Every comment in the show and every comment she has made on this forum ooze the truth. All that matters to Cathy… is Cathy. It is all about her and that is all that matters. The real problem with her heart is that it is non-existent. When this narcissistic, self-centered, manipulative witch's little restaurant crumbles at her feet, I only hope the few folks who haven't the confidence to leave her to wallow in her own filth and delusions aren't hurt in the process. When it happens and she loses her house, maybe she can find a bridge to live under like the troll she is.

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