Restaurant Revisited: Dirty Laundry at Hillbillies Restaurant

by in Shows, January 29th, 2014

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: ImpossibleWhen Robert Irvine arrived in Murphys, Calif., to rescue Hillbillies Restaurant, he was forced to contend with not only a dingy dining space overrun with tchotchkes, but with struggling owner Jami Saul as well. Unconfident and unable to assert herself to her staff, she would often be talked down to by her employees, so it was up to Robert to teach her how to voice her opinion and stand up for herself. He and his Restaurant: Impossible team had just two days to work and a budget of only $10,000, but in true Irvine fashion, he delivered, reopening Hillbillies to a crowded house of eager customers. Read on below for the first exclusive interview with Jami to find out how her business is doing today.

“I do love the simplicity and clean feeling the new design brings to the restaurant,” Jami says of the transformed Hillbillies. “My favorite is the front entrance and the back wall of pallets. I think Lynn nailed the design for me.”

In terms of diners’ reactions to the updated menu, Jami explains that customers are gravitating toward a mix of the old and the new offerings. “The favorite and best-seller on our menu is still our regular frog’s legs, chicken fried steak, biscuits and gravy omelet, and our newest addition, the Hong Kong that Chef Robert created for us,” she says. “It’s by far the best sandwich customers say they have ever had.” According to Jami, Steve has taken over management of the kitchen and “loves making the new menu creations,” she says. “When we get customer feedback on how much they love all the new flavors, it makes him and me happy. It makes us feel like we are doing a good job.” She admits that “Chef Robert was right when he said fresh [food] is better.”

Jami says that her leadership skills have improved since the show filmed, and she notes: “I have definitely gained more respect from the staff. When I tell someone to do something, they do it! I don’t have waitresses yelling or cursing at me anymore. I believe they do understand that this is my restaurant and it’s my way or the highway.” She adds that she and Jessikah have made especially great strides in communicating with others. “She has learned how to be an employee, and I have learned how to be a boss.”

Since Robert left, Jami says, “I have not borrowed a dime from my mom and I have taken steps to set up payment plans to get me out of the rest of my [debt].”

Looking back on her Restaurant: Impossible experience, Jami admits: “There is not one word that Chef Robert said to us all that I can honestly say did not register. Chef Robert instilled the confidence in me that I really should have had the whole time.” She says to others considering launching a restaurant: “Stay true to yourself, be firm and stay on top of your finances. Educate yourself.”

More from Restaurant Revisited:

Spunky Monkey Bar and Grill (January 15)
Heather’s Country Kitchen (January 1)
Goombazz Big City Eatzz (December 18)
LBI Pancake House (December 8)
Ship Bottom Volunteer Fire Company (December 8)
Mike La Susa’s Italian Restaurant (December 4)
Seven (November 27)
Georgia Boy Cafe (November 20)
Coach Lamp Restaurant & Pub (November 13)
The Windsor 75 (November 6)
Ducky’s Family Restaurant (October 30)
Mama Campisi’s Restaurant (October 23)
Aponte’s Pizzeria (August 25)
Benner Street (July 28)
Hurley’s American Grille (July 21)
Kalico Kitchen (July 14)
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)

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Comments (61)

  1. FNGossip says:

    Did anyone recognize Jami from an episode of Cupcake Wars?

  2. Grumpy says:

    No changes to the food or service. Slow and the menu is the same. I don't understand why there is no dressing in the crispy chicken wrap. Why are the new dishes not on the menu?

  3. Ryan says:

    Was Robert's more-than-usual hostility really necessary? Was something that caused him to be so angry not shown to us? I was reminded of why I decided to stop watching this show.

  4. Joann says:

    It was exciting to see Robert in my home town..Been gone for over 40 years kinship still live there and hope that Jamie continues to make the restruant work Murphys needs to keep that old town feeling kept.

  5. Guest says:

    I think he was just mad at the way the staff was acting and treating Jami. They were walking all over her. I think he also stayed tough because e wanted Jami to toughen up and realize that if she didn't take control of her restaurant she would lose it..

  6. Regular viewer says:

    Robert was right to focus on Jami's lack of confidence. But that was all I liked about the show.
    The restaurant transformation was a total failure. To me "hillbillies" means a rough-looking cabin with a fireplace, not a modern art museum.
    And Robert's menu additions were ridiculous. Hillbilly food means Southern style – biscuits, grits, sausage gravy etc., not frogs legs provencale.
    A disappointing show overall.

  7. Epic Failure says:

    So…I switch on R:I for the first time in a few months. I'm watching the usual Irvine, trash the diner with things on the walls rant (granted this place deserved it, not because it was a diner, or the things on the walls, but because of it's condition). I'm guessing he would hate Cracker Barrel.

    I hear Irvine say something to the effect of them not having the kind of food HE would want after a trip to the vineyard (starting to get a slight ache behind one eye). BTW, a big pat on the back for showing a diner who didn't like the yuppification of the area and liked the place the way it was.

    Then…I hear the designer of the week (slight ache becoming throbbing pain from listening them talk about colors) talking and I hear him blurt: "I get the concept of Hillbillies but we're going to do it in a cool and modern way we're going to bring some chachskis but it's going to look like art rather than junk." (lack of punctuation towards the end intentional)

    At that point, my head exploded.

    Designer of the week, NO…YOU DO NOT GET WHAT THE CONCEPT IS.

    The producers should have sent designer of the week to a Cracker Barrel prior to this one to see how the "concept" works when it's done right…and how "modern" and "art" have nothing to do with it. And bring Irvine along so he can taste what real, slightly raised level diner food, cooked properly is like. Of course I am guessing that he's going to do the usual replace the diner food with his standard overpriced, foofy food instead of showing the cook to cook diner food properly because…well…my head exploded and I couldn't watch the rest…for a few more months.

    And for the record, yes I like Cracker Barrel. Waffle House too.

    • Julie B says:

      Yes, I never heard so many positive comments from the service before the makeover.

    • anniemar says:

      Maybe they didn't want to create a miniature Cracker Barrel. Just because it's a breakfast and lunch classic diner doesn't mean it has to be Cracker Barrel, and Cracker Barrel isn't the end-all-be-all of diners.
      Jami said she liked the new decor and that Lynn's design and vision fit her and what she wanted perfectly. What more could you ask for in a design?

      Personally, I like that the decor was a mix of the old and the modern. It was beautiful and seemed to fit what we were told about the area well.
      Yes, it would be nice if a typical, down home style diner could survive and thrive there without feeling like they're kowtowing to the new, modern, "yuppie" trend that's moved in to the area, but that isn't the case. This lovely little diner can't survive without business from tourists and from the surrounding towns. The tourists that are in his area happen to be the wine tasting, visiting vineyard, elevated cuisine sort, so the diner must find a middle ground between staying true to who they are and what will attract these tourists and out-of-towners. If the diner stays close to what the end result of the show was, then I think they'll have hit that magic mark with the design and the food.

    • Cutter says:

      EPIC FAILURE …If you don't like the way that chef Irvine has set for the restaurant makeover and food, (DON'T WATCH). Chef Irvine doesn't remake to the image of cracker barrel or waffle house. The restaurant has its own image, that's what makes it different from all the other restaurants. Remember that these aren't food chain that have one design for all.

    • Nancy says:

      Seems like you don't know the concept of "impossible."

    • pretendernx01 says:

      There isn't anything inherently wrong with a Cracker Barrel type place, what's wrong is if it doesn't appeal to the area which it apparently didn't.

      While the locals don't want too high end, going to lowbrow was turning off the tourists who have deep pockets to go wine tasting, hence Robert mentioned wine-tasting. Some areas have enough locals to offset a need for tourist dollars but it seemed theirs did not. It make financial sense to appeal to them too. She has to pay her rent, not worry about the politics of gentrification.

    • catbell7 says:

      Waffle House has dehydrated hash browns — but I still love 'em — but prefer to make my own from boiled taters grated – and of course Farmer's Market eggs at $3/dozen – some are brown, some are white, and some are blue – and even some duck eggs when the egg lady asked me if I wanted them – they tasted the same – lovely and fresh – best OM eggs on the planet ya'll.

  8. Charlene says:

    OMG The owners fingernails were filthy…..how do you promote a GREAT restaurant with filthy hands????

    Wash your hands, take a shower

  9. MeP says:

    Worst RI episode ever!

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