This week Kitchen Nightmares visited the Mediterranean restaurant Zayna Grill. White women across the country saw this episode and were like "OMG hummus!!!" Finally!
The Redondo Beach restaurant is a family business where everyone hates each other and the food is terrible, so it's such a shock the business is in a state of crisis. The staff of Zayna Flaming Grill includes the co-owners Fay (or Fayza or Foo Foo it's really hard to say, she apparently goes by all of them), and her niece Brenda. An aunt-niece owned business is a bold move, just in that it isn't a common family and business blend. It's like a mango-kale smoothie. It just doesn't sound like it will work.
Fay and Brenda own the restaurant and employ Amel and Vanessa as well as Fay's son Mark. Since everyone is related, the whole restaurant is a family affair, which if Mary J. Blige taught us anything, we should know is going to be full of drama. Instead, it's just a regular crisis where everyone hates each other and no one knows how to work with others.
Ramsay comes to the restaurant, but meets with Fay and Brenda separately at first. Naturally, he sees Fay on a park bench and Brenda in what seems to be a parking lot near the beach, since that's where people have important discussions. Each owner thinks the other owner should be fired. Fay claims to do everything and that Brenda doesn't pull her weight. Brenda thinks that Fay won't relinquish enough control to let the restaurant run without her. And honestly, they're both wrong.
Now knowing the issues of distrust and disrespect, Ramsay sits down for lunch to see what Zayna's offers in terms of food. Sure, it may be a mess in terms of personnel, but it might be fine with regards to the actual dishes. I once went to a nail salon that did such a good job that even when this girl sat next to me while my nails were drying said, "Jeff Goldblum sucks," I didn't even punch her in the face and risk ruining my nails. That's how good the manicure was.
Ramsay sits down for his lunch as he does at each restaurant. He tries to order while not getting in the way of the giant cushions from the couch falling on him. Before even opening the menu he sees on the front that Zayna brands itself as an "Exquisite Dinning Adventure." That's on the front of the menu. Verbatim. Ramsay calls over the waiter Mark to ask him how to spell some words. He starts with an easy one, asking him to spell "Bistro." Mark nails it. Then he asks how to spell "dining." Mark gets it right in Zayna world, where "dining" has two n's.
After learning of the large-scale illiteracy problems with the staff, Ramsay is left to deal with the couch cushion situation. Simply sitting and trying to order is complicated by the prospect of sitting in the booth and not having a giant cushion fall down on him. In fact, it keeps happening enough that it seems to legitimately impact his meal. Because who doesn't love to eat while huge pieces of a couch are falling on you?
The first dish Ramsay gets is the dip sampler with the hummus and babaganoush and two other undescribed dips. All of them are more oily than the Gulf of Mexico after BP was done with it (just in terms of pools of oil, not in terms of dead aquatic wildlife).
While Ramsay is tasting his first dish at Zayna, waiter Mark is standing across the room just staring at him. He's like a super creepy ghost, but not one you're scared of, one you're just like annoyed by. Amel says that Mark doesn't pull his weight, but how could he? He's too busy creeping everyone out to do things like bus tables or take orders.
Waitress Amel brings out the next plate and it's the fava beans. The dish has a "Z" drawn on it in a white sauce (Tahini? Tzatziki? Glue? I mean, who knows?) on top of a dish that looks like something I wouldn't even feed a cat, and I hate cats. I don't even have a cat, actually. But even if I did, I wouldn't feed it that garbage. Ramsay's initial reaction is that the dish "looks like someone puked on my plate" and he's not wrong.
Next Mark brings out the Kibbi rolls, which Ramsay knows immediately are not fresh, despite the restaurant's claim about its food. Zayna says it serves fresh food, but almost everything Ramsay tastes at lunch is frozen. There are more lies here than my last relationship. And that was literally all lies.
When realizing the issue, Ramsay asks Mark to head outside and read the sign for him. The sign outside says that the restaurant serves "Fresh Flavorful Food" though Mark comes in focusing on the other F words (surprisingly none of them being "Fucking Idiot"). He finally realizes the difference between fresh and frozen, but it's really too late for Mark, just like, in general.
The frozen rolls aren't Ramsay's biggest issue. As he's trying to enjoy his lunch (or whatever it is you do with a terrible meal), Mark is staring at him. He's standing back in the kitchen and just blankly watching Ramsay eat to the point that Gordon asks Amel to go back in the kitchen and tell Mark to stop staring at him.
The next item to come out is the Zayna combo platter. It's a combo of terrible and tasteless. The meat is dry and has virtually no flavor, and the veggies and grains just kind of look okay next to it. Though Ramsay is upset overall by his meal, he's even more disgusted by sitting at a table and watching Amel drop the dirty dishes in a bus bin that's essentially in the middle of the dining room.
After the meal, Ramsay sits the staff down to discuss the problems, which was basically the whole meal. The issue seems to be that Fay has no help in the kitchen and is forced to do everything herself, even though everyone offers and she refuses to include them. She won't let Amel in the kitchen because she is always asking for bandages and hurting herself, which according to everyone else is a ridiculous claim.
After a miserable lunch and a brutal family fight, Ramsay returns to observe dinner service and see how Zayna functions on a regular evening. Since the restaurant is in southern California, most of the clientele is a bunch of white ladies being excited about hummus. Sadly, the item that ladies love to snack on was found majorly lacking. Many tables were disappointed in their hummus, and several sent it back.
Once Ramsay saw how many people hated the hummus, which Fay kept calling the "number one seller" along with every other item on the menu, he took matters into his own hands and went out to get hummus from a nearby grocery store. He then spooned that into the restaurant bowls and brought that out to the complaining patrons. They loved the "new" hummus. I mean, it was Sabra, and that's what me and my girlfriends eat when we are watching TV and drinking and talking about men who treat us like garbage, so it makes sense people like it. It's not bad!
Once he had enough of watching the train wreck that was dinner service in the kitchen, Ramsay inspects the walk-in to see how bad the frozen food problem is. In the freezer he finds weeks' worth of prep frozen in there waiting to be used for service, plus a few bins of food that was probably put in there roughly around Michael Jackson died. There was a frozen log of meat resting under a stream of warm water, essentially cooking it, which is cool because I didn't have enough nausea from my hangover and that really pushed me over the edge to full-fledged lying on the bathroom floor. Thanks Kitchen Nightmares!
The next day Ramsay comes back in one of his signature striped v-neck t-shirts to try and piece together everything that's wrong with the restaurant, relationship-wise. Taking the tasteless, oily food out of the picture, he wants to get down to the nitty-gritty of the staff issues. Fay claims that she has to do everything herself, from prep to cooking to running the kitchen, and that no one will help her. Everyone else angrily explains that they do try and help and want to learn how to run the restaurant but she either flat out refuses to explain it to them or is so critical that they give up. Reminds me of 80% of my experiences with oral sex, so I get it, but I also know that what she needs to do is try and teach everyone what to do instead of just being like, "That's wrong, get out of here."
After what I'm sure was minutes but felt like hours of yelling about who can't be trusted and why, Ramsay says the restaurant is opening for lunch and that Fay is heading home for the day. Brenda, Amel, and Mark will run the restaurant without her and he'll gauge their performance. Fay is upset, she doesn't want to leave the restaurant in Brenda's hands despite being business partners with her. While she's mad, the rest of the staff is thrilled to get to work without her miserable presence.
Brenda is extra excited because she gets to be in charge for once. She puts on a black visor with her chandelier earrings and looks like the manager of a McDonald's After Dark, like a real authority figure.
Ramsay then reveals to Fay that she isn't going home, but in fact is watching the operations of the restaurant on a television in a weird van in the parking lot. It all feels like a boring episode of Cheaters.
Before the lunch crowd comes in Mark asks, "Does someone know how to put the rice cooker on cook?" and things are off to a great start. Brenda seems to be in control and customers start coming in for lunch. Things are running relatively smoothly even though Fay is yelling at the screen that things are a disaster, which must be how my mother feels when she watches me do pretty much anything. Like, it's fine, but to her it just still isn't right. A few dishes are sent back and there's some moderate drama with Mark and Amel, but Brenda has things under control and surprisingly keeps everyone in line.
Fay sees Brenda take charge in the kitchen and is proud of her, realizing that she can run the kitchen and the business. When Ramsay comes in after service he brings Fay back to surprise everyone that she was watching them the whole time. The bigger surprise though is that she was happy with everyone's performance. She says to Brenda, "You're amazing and I don't tell you that enough," which is exactly what I say to the bottles of wine in my kitchen every Sunday.
Now that the family relationships are pretty much healed after a five minute chat, Ramsay takes Fay and Brenda into the kitchen to cook a fresh meal with them. They seem about as surprised to see a piece of fish that isn't frozen as I am to see a high school friend on Facebook that isn't posting about being engaged.
When Ramsay learns that basically no one in the area has heard of the restaurant, he sets up a spot on the pier for them to advertise and give samples and tell people they exist. Can I do this for dating? It seems to work and everyone is being really nice and interested and I can't go on another Tinder date where the guy tells me about how he's "really into watching soccer these days."
The next day is the big reveal of the restaurant makeover. Obviously everyone loves it. Gone is the drab interior and crappy decor. Now Zayna's is bright and beachy and a fun place to hang and grab a bite. Gone are the oversized couch cushions that fall on you while you eat. They've been replaced by sleek chairs and Ramsay's trademark succulent-plants-in-tin-cans-as-centerpieces.
For the relaunch, things start off relatively smoothly with a lot of communication and positive energy in the kitchen. Once a few orders come in, things quickly shift back to the old ways. Fay goes from telling everyone what they need to do to being basically a deaf-mute on the line. Brenda and Amel ask her questions about what orders she's prepping and she doesn't even acknowledge that someone is speaking to her. She just silently goes about her business on the grill. Eventually Brenda gets through to her and she starts communicating again and then everything is perfect, because that's how the Kitchen Nightmares formula works. Things are good, then they get dicey for one minute, then are great again and everyone is happy!
After relaunch it seems like everything with the new Zayna's is on the right track. They are using the fresh ingredients as advertised, they have a new beachside vibe, there is communication among the staff, and the family is no longer falling apart. We learn in the epilogue that after Ramsay and his team left, Fay went back to her old, difficult ways and Amel and Vanessa left the business. On the plus side, apparently Brenda has taken on a stronger leadership role. I've never been to Redondo Beach, or to Zayna's, but I hope now that at least they are giving customers the "dinning adventure" they deserve.