Last summer, Gordon Ramsay and the “Kitchen Nightmares” crew traveled to Norwalk to film an episode of the popular show. Instead, the popular celebrity chef came away with a two-part series that airs this Friday and next on Fox. Nagy’s journey began in January of 2012 when he first made contact with the show. By June, Ramsay was in Norwalk and they were filming.
So what exactly happened when the world-renowned television personality and restaurateur came to the quaint Mill Street Bistro? Funcoast talked to Nagy about the experience.
Funcoast: First of all, how does a small, out-of-the-way restaurant get to be on “Kitchen Nightmares?”
Joe Nagy (JN): I saw an ad. They wanted to do a show in the Midwest. Gordon Ramsay had never done any shows in the Midwest and Ohio especially. So they wanted to do a show in this area. I called, left a message and they promptly called us back within an hour.
Funcoast: So what was it that intrigued Ramsay and his staff about your restaurant?
JN: I’ve been in the food business for 30 years and our building is an old mill. We have a very unique restaurant, and we actually have our own farm. We raise elk, beef, buffalo and some poultry. We also have an Ohio bluegill business. I think they were intrigued by that.
Funcoast: Considering “Kitchen Nightmare” is basically a show about Ramsay helping out restaurants that are failing, what did you get out of it?
JN:Is there room for improvement? Absolutely, and we felt that Gordon Ramsay, with his expertise, would be able to bring us some recognition and show us some techniques. There’s a risk with anything. Our restaurant has always held its own, but can we do better? Absolutely. Is it going to bring us recognition and show us some things we could be doing better? I would certainly think so. It was quite interesting to undergo a production like that. There were quite a few people here. They had some really talented chefs that came in and helped us. And Ramsay is an interesting person. He has a lot of credentials, and he was totally impressed when he came to the farm. We had a private conversation. He was really impressed we actually raise elk, beef, buffalo and we buy everything local.
Funcoast: Naturally any show involving the opinionated Ramsay also includes quite a bit of head butting. Could the same be said about his time spent at the Mill Street Bistro?
JN:Absolutely, we’re going to butt heads. That’s the whole idea. He’s going to challenge you and that’s what the television show is about.
Funcoast: That said, you’re referenced in the promo for the episode as “the most pretentious restaurant owner [Ramsay has] ever met.”
JN:Great. I love it. I love it.
Funcoast: The show promo also said, “Joe runs his staff like a dictator and has trouble listening to any views aside from his own.” Do you agree with the way you’re characterized?
JN:I don’t believe I’m pretentious but what are they doing to say? “Joe, the most mellowest, laid back guy [Ramsay] ever met.” They’re not going to do a show about that. So that’s pretty much par for what the show is. I know who I am. I know that I’m very successful. I’ve been here going on six years, and I’ve done very well. I have a wonderful staff. They’re awesome. So if they want to spin me as a dictator, then come on. That sells. They’re the experts.
Funcoast: Since last summer have you changed how you run your restaurant?
JN:A restaurant in general has a life and it changes all of the time. And it needs to change, so if the television show is going to make some corrections and changes that were needed, that’s excellent. Did it reinvent the wheel for us? No, not even close. It just simply made us aware of some of the techniques we could be utilizing.
Funcoast: What do you hope locals watching your restaurant on “Kitchen Nightmares” take away?
JN:I hope they take away that they realize they have a restaurant in our local area that is really working hand in hand with farmers. We have our own farm, and we’re buying local. We’re just a small bistro. We’re not over-the-top elegance. That’s not our persona. We’re just a local, sustainable restaurant.
The Mill Street Bistro is located at 21 Mill St., Norwalk. The “Kitchen Nightmares” episodes featuring the restaurant are set to be aired at 8 p.m. this Friday and next Friday on Fox. For more information, call 419-663-3663 or visit millstreetbistrobar.com.