About a year and a half ago, the staff at Finn McCool’s attended the culinary version of boot camp, when celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay visited the restaurant and whipped them into shape for the reality television show “Kitchen Nightmares.”
In March, Chef Ramsay returned to the Westhampton Beach establishment, and, unlike some of the other restaurants featured last season on this popular show, found the business flourishing.
The results of Chef Ramsay’s second visit to Finn McCool’s will air on FOX-5 this Thursday, September 4, at 8 p.m., as part of the kick-off episode for the continuation of the “Kitchen Nightmares” series. The episode is titled “Revisited: Gordon Returns” and runs for two hours. The series, which is the American version of a British show called “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares,” first aired on American television last fall and shows how Chef Ramsay can turn around struggling restaurants.
According to Arthur Smith, the executive producer of the show, there were 10 restaurants featured during the first season of “Kitchen Nightmares,” though only six will be revisited in Thursday night’s show.
“[There was] only time for six in the show,” Mr. Smith wrote in an e-mail that was sent through the station’s public relations department. “Layla’s closed, and that was part of that show. Sebastian was sold ... and Seascape was sold,” he added, referring to other local restaurants visited by the chef during the first season.
Chef Ramsay’s first visit to Finn McCool’s originally aired last year and was recently re-run on the channel. The upcoming episode recaps the success Finn McCool’s has experienced following Chef Ramsay’s fine-tuning, and is something that sets the restaurant apart from others featured on the show that were either closed or sold to new owners.
“[Chef Ramsay] was very pleased because, basically, the end result was that we did what he said,” noted Buddy Mazzio, the owner of Finn McCool’s. “We tried to stay close to his original plan, and things worked.”
Mr. Mazzio noted that since Chef Ramsay’s work on the restaurant, there has been a 37-percent increase in business. “It’s a tremendous amount of work, but the dividends are phenomenal,” Mr. Mazzio added.
The restaurant’s placement in national and international media has also drawn in customers from as far afield as Australia and Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to Mr. Mazzio.
“The other day a couple was here ... they had landed in [Los Angeles] and flew to New York just to come to Finn McCool’s,” he said, noting that the couple was from Australia. “We got 3,600 e-mails when the rerun aired a couple of weeks ago.”
Chef Ramsay’s original plan for the restaurant included introducing more fresh, local foods—especially seafood—and changing different aspects of the establishment’s interior, explained Brian Mazzio, Buddy’s son and the head chef at Finn McCool’s. As a result, the establishment is no longer strictly an Irish pub, but rather a restaurant, he explained.
“It was originally a generic menu, like a diner menu,” said Brian Mazzio, who has worked at restaurants across the East End and in Manhattan. “All our foods are now fresh and local.”
He went on to say that he stops in at Cor-J Seafood in Hampton Bays every morning to buy fresh fish.
“We all live on an island. We have great shellfish and calamari,” Brian Mazzio said, emphasizing that this was Chef Ramsay’s philosophy as well.
Before Chef Ramsay’s visit, many of the menu items were frozen—mozzarella sticks and corn fritters were the big sellers, Brian Mazzio explained.
He also pointed out framed pictures hanging in Finn McCool’s that show the metamorphosis of the interior of the restaurant. The photos show that the pre-“Kitchen Nightmares” Finn McCool’s used paper placemats on the dining tables, and had televisions mounted in the dining area. These pub-like items have been replaced by more elegant tablecloths and, with the absence of televisions, the dining room appears more sophisticated.
“Now we’re competing with restaurants, not pubs,” Brian Mazzio said. “We’re not doing Starr Boggs, though,” he added, referring to the another popular Westhampton Beach restaurant.
Brian Mazzio emphasized that the restaurant’s metamorphosis was not an overnight sensation; He said that many of the regulars at Finn McCool’s, when it was still strictly an Irish pub, deserted the establishment when it transformed into a fine-dining restaurant. At the time, he said that his father, Buddy, wanted to switch back to a more basic menu.
“I said he could order the fried stuff, but he could find someone else to cook it,” Brian Mazzio said, explaining how his father wanted to can Chef Ramsay’s original plan for the restaurant.