Tonight's Cooking Channel episode of Restaurant Redemption brings chef Ching-He Huang to Iowa City, Iowa to help revive a failing restaurant.
Ching visited Xie, a Japanese-French fusion restaurant opened by Jennifer Xie, who was born in China. The restaurant features upscale food at high-end prices. The problem is, it is a college town, and the concept never took off with the college demographic. On the brink of closure, an ambitious server named Wes Lewis stepped in. With years of experience in the restaurant business, Wes and his coworkers came up with a plan.
Promoted to manager, Wes has little time before Jennifer closes the doors for good. If he can turn the place around within a window of time, she agreed to give him a share of the restaurant. When Ching walked into the restaurant, she was very surprised to see how upscale it was. Unfortunately, it was out of place in the heart of the college campus.
Ching met with Wes, his bar manager Michael and head server Cynthia. The owner told Wes, the restaurant had to reach $30,000 in the first month, or she would close the doors. They have a week and a half left, and have $15,000. Ching has a monster of a project on her hands, and Wes feels that even if the food is not good, by giving good customer service, they should do well. Ching knows better.
So she had them make their best dishes for her to try, and while she waited, she searched for other clues that may point to their failure. The beef skewers were tough and chewy. Crab Rangoon was greasy. The duck at $23 was undercooked and overpriced. The three coworkers explained that the fryer they had is not conventional, which was why the crab was greasy. Wes defended the food, stating that it was above-average, but Ching told him it needed to be the best.
So Ching told the three, that they had to change the menu to attract the younger college crowd. In the kitchen, Ching brought chef Luis a new double fryer, and he was delighted. She made vegetables tempura and made hand wraps out of them. Luis was enthusiastic, but Wes seemed bored and even yawned. When she called him to task, he told her that he had no interest in cooking, but she needed him to be enthusiastic. As a general manager, he needed to know what was going on in the entire restaurant. He took offense to her chastising him, and walked away. Was she not there to help him too?
Ching went to confront him alone, she told him how much potential she saw in him. Tough love, was the theme of the day, and Wes understood and was back in the kitchen. Ching told Wes to think outside the box, to go out with the old and in with the new.
Her design team refurbished the restaurant to make it more friendly to the younger crowd. When the revamp was complete, the owner and the three coworkers saw the big reveal. They all loved it, and the grand opening was a success.
Unfortunately, it was too late for Xie. They closed shortly after the grand re-opening. However, Jennifer has applied many of Ching’s concepts to her other restaurants and continues to see success in them, thanks to Ching and her crew of Restaurant Redemption.
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