Tonight's episode of Restaurant Redemption brings amiable chef Ching-He Huang to Assembly Steakhouse in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. an old classic surf and turf steakhouse with Asian infusion. She came to see owner, Jack Koumbis, whose father came from Greece and opened a diner. Jack learned much from working with his dad, and then graduated top of his class from Culinary Institute of America. Jack runs the kitchen while his wife Barbara runs the front of the house. The first ten years were a rousing success, but the downturn in the economy struck them hard, causing them to lay off 90% of their staff. Now they are leaning on their kids to help run the restaurant.
When Ching walked into the restaurant, she was greeted by Jack and Barbara. He admitted that since 2008, their covers dropped from a thousand to two hundred. They know the restaurant needs sprucing up, but they are tired of working seven days a week, and it is taking its toll on their children. While Jack prepared five of his signature dishes for Ching, she looked around. There was a sushi bar, a sports bar and then the dining room. The bar was dated and things were just mismatched. When she sat down, she noticed that there were 85 items on the menu. The sushi plate had enough for a few people with dried-out wasabi and the sushi had too much mayo to call it sushi. The miso glazed shrimp were suspended on skewers standing in a miso glazed pineapple, and the shrimps were rubbery. The skirt steak was tough and overcooked. She had to tell them how disappointingly bad the food was.
When she sat down, she found out more. That Barbara works long hours and has five children to take care of. She also stated that Jack believed he is a good teacher, but it is not necessarily true. She misses her children’s events because of the restaurant. So Ching called out the children, Alex, Melissa and Chris to get their thoughts. They said they were half-hearted because of their dad’s antagonistic ways and recently when he is there, he is on the computer and not tending to business. The children were all in tears over the situation.
She sent them home to think over where they want to go with the business, and closed the place for a makeover. In the kitchen, she told Jack that she was going to simplify the menu, with a 5-5-5 concept, using five surf, five turf and five sushi items. She showed him how to make an Asian spice mix to use with the skirt steak for a delicious steak.
Ching spent some time with the kids alone. They do not want to be in the kitchen. When she met with Barbara, she agreed that the restaurant is important to the family, and they must keep it going or lose everything. When Ching faced Jack, he had a martyr attitude that everything was his fault. He was taking his frustrations out on his kids and Barbara. He admitted that he had been horrible. She brought in Nick Mautone, a restaurant management expert. He advised them to close one day a week, to have a date night with his wife and come back with fresh eyes on the next day. Nick also helped them manage the restaurant on a more cost-effective way. Ching gave Jack fresher and tasty recipes for delicious entrees.
When they saw their modern and refreshed restaurant, the couple were in awe of the changes, and a new staff was brought in while the kids took a much-needed break.
When the kids came in, saw the new interior, tasted the menu items, and the busy bustling restaurant, they were thrilled, especially by the renewed excitement of their parents thanks to Ching and her crew of Restaurant Redemption.
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