My experience with Restaurant Impossible-Part 1
Zoogs Barbecue, Port Hadlock, WA
The irony of life.
A million movie star faces in the mirror later, I slip on my red working boots and I'm off to volunteer on the set of Restaurant Impossible. I'm in total shock that the show will be filming in Port Hadlock at a restaurant called Zoogs Caveman Barbeque. I have a history with this building. Nearly 50 years ago my parents built and established this building as a restaurant called the Hadlock House. They owned and operated it for a few years before moving away. It has changed many hands within the past 50 years and is now Zoogs. My dad has passed away within this time but my mom recalls the seafood menu, the white table clothes and the Jazz trio that played in the bar.
I show up at noon on the set in Port Hadlock, still amazed that my sleepy little home town would ever have something this cool. I head to the design tent
and right away I'm introduce to Cheryl Torrenueva the head designer and her Canadian assistant Rachel.
There are about 10 of us volunteers at this time. We have the task of cutting vinyl and recovering dining room chair seats. I meet a gal Heather Taracka and we start working together with the other volunteers. As the day progressed, more and more tasks and huge projects were taking place and volunteers were sought after. Starting with clearing out the restaurant and storing items that will not be used in a Pod, built just for this event.
Next steps were things like tearing off the vinyl on the front of the bar and tearing out the carpet in the whole dining room. Dust is flying people are running around and then you hear, "everybody keep doing what you're doing, Robert is going to come in and yell and the cameras will be running."
Sure enough, bigger than life, you hear, "hey, clean this place up" in a British accent and in walks Chef Robert Irvine. Cameras rolling, everyone acting like this is the everyday norm. All of us volunteers trying not to act star struck. So we keep cleaning, tearing out the restaurant and preparing it for the renovation.
At this point I'm pretty much thinking, wowe, how on earth is this place going to be done in two days. There's no way. I talk with designer Cheryl and look over the floor plans and the Sketchup. She shows us the props and she tells us that they have $10,000.00 dollars to complete this remodel. I'm starting to become very intrigued.
As Heather and I run around doing as much as we can, there are a million tasks to be done. Paint the gigantic wood beams, paint all the walls, paint the window trim, the doors, behind the bar, paint enamel on the countertops and the cabinets. Faux finish the walls. Rewire for light fixtures, lay the new vinyl flooring, tear out a wall, texture and frame the ends, frame a new front entry display area and paint it, hang cool boards on walls, redo the fabric on the pool table, then clean and clean and clean and touch up paint. Everyone is doing all these things at once. It's insane and I loved it, I thrived in this type of creative chaotic environment. But what struck me was the sense of camaraderie that ran throughout the volunteers and the RI crew. Everyone was so kind to each other, people laughed, smiled, cracked hilarious jokes, polite and upbeat. In the midst of all the fast pace action and adding new volunteers hourly, the crew was patient and took time to teach people some basic skills.
50 years ago, when my parents built the Hadlock House, my dad selected stones from a local quarry and carefully placed them around the wood fireplace. He created a unique shape like an upside down V. I learned all of this from my mom the day before going on the set. I shared this information with the designer Cheryl, she smiled and said, "the whole remodel was designed around the fireplace, I hope you like what we do with it."
While all this is happening, and the old vinyl has been removed from the front bar, it is being sanded and textured and painted and ready to be faux finished. I am ready for a new job and someone hands me a paint brush and says, "can you cut in?" I say "sure" acting like a pro and trying to remember how my husband Kevin paints at home. We have a saying at home, I like to pick paint colors and he likes to paint. Then this smiley guy says "hi, I'm Mike Dale" hands me a bucket of paint and points to the beams and explains the vision. Which is to basically cut in as close as possible to the wood ceiling and not make any mistakes. Then he grabs a ladder for me and smiles. I start my new project of hanging off a ladder at 10' high cutting in with paint and trying not to get any on the wood ceiling. I look over and the crew is working on the design around the fireplace, and it hits me, tears start to well up in my eyes as I think of my dad. His attention to detail as a contractor, his vision for his restaurant 50 years ago and his love of food and people. Here I am, painting over the beams and being careful not to get paint on the wood ceiling he installed before I was born. I watch as the construction crew enhance the design of his fireplace. At this point Mike comes by to check on my painting skills and I share my story with him, he says warmly, "we'll make it into something you will be proud of", I'm thinking, I like this guy.
As the creative chaos continues and camera crews are in and out, I realize there's a lot of beams. Mike the painter realizes that I'm fast and can cut in really well and that I pay close attention to detail. He nicknames me boots, it catches on, and he starts to put me in charge of the paint colors and locations. I meet volunteers Scott Kusel and Sarah Dexter and we instantly become fast, painting friends. They start painting walls and trim. Sarah tells me later that she was a professional painter. So any crazy detail stuff I hand off to her. Next thing I know, I'm behind the bar painting and allotting paint for other people. At this point I call myself the paint cocktail server. Time is running out for the 1st night and the vinyl flooring is being installed. It's 1am and the walls are being faux finished by Joe Dunbar. I think this guy is awesome and is a great faux painter, I find out later he's a fashion, dress designer, like for really famous people. I am realizing the talents around me and I start to feel humbled.
As the night/morning progresses I see the lead construction guy Tom Bury diligently working away. I comment on this to him. He is still smiling and positive and appreciates the acknowledgement. Mike is getting ready, when everyone is gone, to paint the life size frames in a metal looking finish and tackle painting the enamel counters. That's my cue and everyone else's to end the 1st day. It's after 1am, I take my sore feet home and lay awake thinking about what just happened. The thrill, the exhaustion and the excitement. I realize I will not sleep.
It's day 2 and 10 am, I'm showered, feeling fresh. With my red boots on, I hurry back to the RI set and wonder how the heck we are going to finish today.
Chef Irvine, designer Cheryl and construction guy Tom, meet in the restaurant and film. Chef Irvine hops out of his silver Lexus and walks through the front door. With cameras rolling they discuss todays strategy. We all watch from behind the cameras.
Sometimes while they're filming we have a few minutes of down time outside of the restaurant. We discuss silly things like my red boots getting the paint color Urbane Bronze on them. The discussion turns to other projects these crews have worked on...Extreme Makeover, other RI shows and their next project in 2 days, Treehouse Masters and later this week, another RI in Renton. My ears perk up, another RI just 2 hours away, how can I swing this?
We quickly get back to work and the place is coming together. Sarah, Scott and I are painting away. My new friend Heather has teamed up with the coolest construction girl Lisa Mie Ling Fong, building the front entry design. Lisa is my hero, she has worked with Cirque de Soliel on the sets of the shows as they toured. One of a small percent of women contractors world wide.
As we continue to work, we create new friendships and learn tidbits about each others lives. Starr Salvatore, who just came from a chemo treatment, and has worked on over 10 episodes of RI, sporting a positive attitude. James Walker in from Spokane, he and his crew installed the vinyl flooring. Claire Taylor, the young darling gal from Port Townsend, who was there for me at every turn. Mike from Coogs Budget CD's in Port Angeles, he sanded and sanded and sanded the cutting boards to perfection. Will Wolverton from Seattle, he can do anything effortlessly. We all became a team we gingerly refer to as #teammisfits.
It's now about 5pm and tables are being set, napkins are being placed Chef Irvine is running around in his socks, camera crews are everywhere. We're all touching up paint, sweeping, dusting, fixing and hanging the last art pieces as dinner guests are lining up outside. And then we hear from Chef Irvine say "that's it, we're done, everyone in the design tent". We file in the tent everyone excited. Chef Robert Irvine greets us all with gratitude and tells us the story of Zoogs. And how we have all helped to restore hope and inspiration in this families lives. He thanks us and specifically acknowledges anyone who has served in the military. We cheer and then the picture frenzy begins! Photos with the whole crew!
I learn it's time for the reveal, we race to the production tent and watch wide eyed as Zoogs and his family see their new restaurant for the first time. They are blown away, overjoyed and overwhelmed, we all tear up with pride for our work and a sense hope for this family.
I race out of there to get cleaned up as my mom and I are heading back to Zoogs for dinner.
As we are sitting in the dining room in front of the newly designed beautiful fireplace with my mom and friends, I relay Chef Robert Irvines response when I shared with him my history to this restaurant, "The memory of your father will be continued here".
I think to myself, thanks dad, if it wasn't for you, I would of never had this experience.
Stay tuned for:
Restaurant Impossible Part 2
Dog & Pony Ale House, Renton, WA
Our little misfit group