Restaurant Revisited: Ungratifying at gratifi kitchen + bar

by in Shows, April 2nd, 2014

Kevin Strickland and Robert IrvineIn Houston, the dangerously dirty kitchen at gratifi kitchen + bar was just one of the major issues with which Robert Irvine was to contend during his latest Restaurant: Impossible mission. The eatery’s owner, Kevin Strickland, was notably arrogant and struggled to work well with his employees — and Robert. It took the Restaurant: Impossible team two days and $10,000 to overhaul gratifi kitchen + bar and transform Kevin’s brashness before they would ultimate relaunch the business. FN Dish has the first exclusive interview with Kevin since filming wrapped; read on below to hear from him and find out how gratifi is doing today.

“Most customers, whether new or old, think it is fantastic,” Kevin says of the interior overhaul on gratifi. He and his employees are pleased with the update as well, he says, adding of staff, “They see that it is a much nicer restaurant and they dress appropriately for it.” He adds, “The bar is 10 times better. It’s not only beautiful but now functions like a real bar.

The reaction to gratifi’s new menu has been favorable as well, according to Kevin. “The tuna nachos are a surprise hit,” he reports. He admits that Robert’s menu is more appropriate for the business, but he’s “already tweaked it some” since reopening. “I will likely drop a couple of items and have plans to add two or three new items. Menus should change over time anyway, so it’s OK,” he explains. “I consider this menu a starting point, not an end point. I already have plans for new menu items to represent Houston’s very diverse food culture.” Kevin adds that “the new menu is very well priced for the food we are now making,” and he says that there’ve been “absolutely no comments about the higher prices.”

In terms of kitchen sanitation, Kevin notes that his kitchen employees “are 100 percent on board with the new way of doing things.”

Now that Robert has left, Kevin says, “I am more direct with my staff. I nip problems in the bud before they have a chance to fester.” He adds, in terms of his state of mind, “Rather than the stress generated by those three dysfunctional people, it’s now been replaced by the stress to keep the current staff motivated, trained, on point.”

“I’m over-the-moon happy with the renovation,” Kevin notes, looking back on his Restaurant: Impossible transformation.

More from Restaurant Revisited:

Mama Della’s N.Y. City Pizzeria (March 26)
Pasión Latin Fusion (March 19)
Tootie’s Texas BBQ (March 12)
Mill Creek BBQ Restaurant (March 5)
Estrada’s Restaurant (February 5)
Hillbillies Restaurant (January 29)
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)

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Comments (54)

  1. FNGossip says:

    The restaurant is still having service issues. I wonder if it is due to understaffing.. Also, the health inspectors were in the restaurant a week before Robert came, and they didn't mark down too many violations. More info if you click my name

  2. russ says:

    THere were 17 employees we only saw 6 where were the rest. ALso as noted why not ask for the last health inspection. Disappointed with all the States that Robert goes to and find filthy restaurants. Whee are the health inspectors and inspections. I would be ashamed. When I was in grad school a fellow student had come back to school because the State he worked in the inspectors were taking kickbacks and not inspecting. I have worked 18 years in the military in food program (consultant/inspector) and 212 years in a County as heatlh official/inspector and would never even think of taking a bribe much less a cup of coffee.

    • Ticia says:

      Some inspectors just don't show up and say that they did. I learned that when I worked in food service at Target. We didn't get a health inspection for 3 years. It was supposed to be yearly. Luckily for them we had an independent inspection system that was a lot worse than them.

    • guest says:

      212 years!! :-)

    • chris says:

      Russ, lighten up dude. It's Just a TV show looking for ratings. If they incorporated everything you are talking about, the show would be 10 hours long. Come on, use your common sense. Seriously.

  3. mrmagoo says:

    Given what I know about organizational communication and psychology, this restaurant is destined to fail. The owner perceived himself as "perfect". Notice the "tweeking" in the menu; this is a sign that unless he has input, the organizational scene is imperfect. With his background (accounting to restaurant, really?) and point-of-view, Gratifi will close soon. I don't think Robert, in this case, had much of an impact other than to give the owner what I believe he perceives as a "free makeover".

  4. Erin says:

    Please tell me this guy is selling his restaurant! He does NOT belong in this business. He has no passion, sees right past the filth and grime, and thinks he's right and everything is ok. Delusional, and he belongs back in his old profession.

    • phillybob says:

      My thoughts too. It seemed as if he was only interested in getting a free, and renovated restaurant. I do not know how long ago this episode was filmed, and when the assessment he makes in the above article were spoken, but I do not believe that someone as obsequious to Chef Irvine and as delusional as he appeared on film can change. The fact that another owner is "tweeking" the menu again, gives me pause about Grafiti's potential future success.

  5. reubix1 says:

    Why the negative headline over an essentially positive write-up … other than the obvious play on words?

  6. Kevin says:

    This is the the type of show that makes me just stay home and cook my own meals. Seeing the filthy conditions just make you suspect that every restaurant will be a nasty disgusting mess like this one. After seeing the way it was. I would still have a major issue going there even if somebody came and cleaned it for them and redecorated. The old saying "you can't polish a turd" applies here. Now its just a turd with perfume on it.

    • guest says:

      I managed restaurants for many years. When I eat out I look for the details in the dining room, dirty salt and pepper shakers, tables still sticky, etc. If those things are neglected, the kitchen is worse!

    • Guest says:

      Ah, but you CAN polish a turd.. Mythbusters proved it. It wasn't easy, but it technically is doable.

      • chris says:

        So Kevin I guess you think EVERY hotel has bed bugs too. Look, this is a TV show pushing for ratings. The show Bar Rescue does the same thing. The show host is John Tafta, he yells and screams….treats the owners like scum of the earth and calls them failurers. Don't take these shows so literal.

  7. diana says:

    With "Gratifi", I haven't seen Robert testing the food that the owner -cook created, not even after the restaurant's kitchen was cleaned, how did he allowed it to be opened , did he just create a few new meals ? He would've have to make sure the food would not fail the new restaurant, not ?! I do like the idea of improving a, it is amazing to see what imagination some designers have… and Robert's cooking and organizational skills… good program, but, yeah, what with the inspectors? Where were the 17 workers in this restaurant ?!

  8. Guest says:

    I watched this show last night on a 55" screen TV at my neighbors and we didn't think the kitchen looked that filthy. I HEARD those words over and over but it didn't look that bad to me. I was surprised how much dust was on that one chair but I always wonder because ANY TV show is going for ratings which means the more bizarre the better. I didn't see much arrogance as much as apathy from the owner. And even though I'm sure
    Robert Irvine means well, he would be yelling if Kevin said little instead of "yes sir." Or was he supposed to ask questions and grovel at Robert's feet? And before anyone starts with comme, my house is very clean and so is my neighbors. Floors are mopped at least weekly, vaccuming is at least twice a week, only one person at home.

    • crzylinks says:

      Maybe you should open a freeking restaurant then,seeing as how you are so freeking perfect…NOT…AH!!

    • Guest says:

      I don't think Robert was getting upset at the words, "yes sir" (unless in Robert's military career, he never made officer. Military generally don't like being called "sir" or "ma'am" unless commissioned.), but I think it was more the apathetic tone guy spoke the words. They sounded a bit like a teenager's lackluster response when not really paying attention to their parents.

    • foodcritic101 says:

      You didn't think it was dirty??? Are you kidding? RI said it took 2 teams 8 hours to clean it!

      And your house is clean. Sure.

  9. Colorado Chef says:

    This was a strange show. Did I hear correctly that the owner is a million dollars in debt? How do you let things slide for that long?

    So this guy was an accountant and he bought a restaurant because he likes food. By that same logic, if I am good with numbers and can figure out a food cost I should start doing tax returns? Let's see, I can figure out my favorite pitcher's E.R.A. that means I'm a CPA!

    I hope Graffiti succeeds but it will be long odds.

  10. iscream247 says:

    Talk about passive aggressive! The constant yes sirs made me want to barf. I don't think this restaurant has a chance in hell. The owner was just plain unlikable.

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