On this episode of "Kitchen Nightmares," Chef Gordon Ramsay travels to Charlie's, an Italian bistro in La Verne, California, where one woman's dream has become her family's worst nightmare. The owner, Tatiana, began working at Charlie's ten years ago as a waitress, and in 2008 she was given the opportunity to buy it. Short of funds, she turned to her mother, Pat, and her sister, Val, for cash. The two schoolteachers financed the purchase and put up their houses as collateral to help Tatiana fulfill her dream.
The inexperienced waitress kept the same name, menu, and chef when she took over the establishment. Now with only a few customers coming in all day long, the family is questioning what they're doing wrong. The staff feels that the issue stems from the tired menu and bad food. They also complain that Tatiana doesn't work hard, is unsure how to manage an eatery, and is disrespectful of her employees. Her mother and sister are growing resentful that the business is suffering and that their homes are on the line.
When Chef Ramsay arrives, Tatiana laughs nervously as she explains that despite the restaurant's name, there is no Charlie. In fact, he was the owner before Simon, who sold the place to her. Chef Ramsay is shocked to learn that while Pat and Val stand to lose their homes, Tatiana put only $1,000 of her own money into Charlie's, yet she makes all the decisions.
Tatiana admits to Chef Ramsay that although the previous owner ran the restaurant into the ground, she has made no changes since taking over. As the family discusses the finances, it's clear to Chef Ramsay that Val and Pat do not feel like equal partners and that Tatiana does not respect their contribution.
After talking to the three women, Chef Ramsay samples the menu, starting with the bread, which he calls dreadful. He then tries the raw ravioli, overcooked frutti di mare, a bizarre lasagna, and a pizza that tastes like it's been frozen. Despite Chef Ramsay's harsh words, Tatiana refuses to pass on any of the criticisms to the chef.
When Tatiana explains that she has put her trust in Casimiro, the head chef, Chef Ramsay stresses that she needs to take ownership and be more involved with what goes on in her kitchen. Upon inspection, he is dismayed to find frozen meatballs and pasta, both of which are bought from outside vendors, rather than made fresh onsite.
Night one is typically an observation night for Chef Ramsay, but things are so bad that he decides to implement one change right away. He wants the chefs to make meatballs from scratch. He has both Casimiro and the sous chef Daniella prepare samples to see whose he prefers. Casimiro does not sauté his meatballs first, leaving Chef Ramsay very confused about his ability as a chef. He loves Daniella's meatballs and decides to use them for the night's dinner service.
When the patrons arrive, Chef Ramsay is giving a tutorial on meatballs in the Italian restaurant. As orders come in, he is baffled to see that Casimiro fills only one ticket at a time, causing the kitchen to run at a snail's pace. As food finally makes its way into the dining room, customers find out that it was not worth the wait.
Chef Ramsay becomes increasingly frustrated, as Casimiro burns the meatballs and then refuses to cook after being criticized. Chef Ramsay is annoyed by the head chef's attitude and by Tatiana's lack of management.
Tatiana is embarrassed by the restaurant and blames herself for doing a horrible job. Finally understanding what her chef was really doing to her business, Tatiana makes her first big change since becoming an owner: she fires Casimiro. Chef Ramsay assures her that he is there to support her and is glad she did the right thing.
After one of the most difficult days he has ever had on "Kitchen Nightmares," Chef Ramsay is now completely focused on rebuilding Charlie's. Because they are now out one cook, Chef Ramsay introduces them to Jonathan, one of his own chefs, who will work at Charlie's for one month. In addition to running the kitchen, Jonathan will help Tatiana find and train a young chef to take over when he leaves. Chef Ramsay urges Tatiana to become Jonathan's best friend and soak up all she can from him.
With a new chef in place, Chef Ramsay knows it's critical that Tatiana become more familiar with the inner workings of the kitchen. She learns to make lasagna and pizza and discovers that it's not as difficult as she feared it would be. The next day, Tatiana and her family arrive to find an entirely revamped menu, including homemade focaccia, fresh spaghetti and meatballs, and four kinds of pizza.
When they open their doors for dinner, the town of La Verne is eager to give the new Charlie's a try. With the kitchen staff working together, food quickly makes its way to the diners, but not all the customers are receiving their meals. It soon becomes apparent that there's a detrimental lack of communication between the wait staff and the pizza station. Chef Ramsay instructs them to check in with Jonathan before they make a pie.
He also pleads with Tatiana to step up and manage her staff. She rallies the troops and gets them to communicate. Now everyone is back in sync, and entrees are making their way out to the tables.
After hearing rave reviews from the diners, Tatiana is finally proud of her restaurant, and her mother and sister now believe in her. Chef Ramsay congratulates the owner on a job well done, and she promises to make him proud.
In the weeks that follow, Jonathan maintains the high standards in the kitchen and immediately helps Tatiana find a new chef. Thanks to the transformation, her business is back on track, and so is her relationship with her family.