Blackberry’s Kitchen Nightmares Update (Soul Food) – Still Open After Ramsay?

Is Blackberry's still open?

Current Status: >> CLOSED <<
(keep reading to learn what happened)

Season: 5 | View All Season 5 Episodes
Original Episode Air Date: September 23, 2011
Blackberry's Address: 500 Watchung Ave Plainfield, New Jersey 07060
blackberrys update kitchen nightmares

Episode Recap

Blackberry’s was a Plainfield, New Jersey restaurant featured on season 5 of Kitchen Nightmares.

Though the Blackberry’s Kitchen Nightmares episode aired in September 2011, the actual visit from Gordon Ramsay happened earlier in the year.

It was Season 5 Episode 1 of Kitchen Nightmares.

In this episode, Gordon Ramsay visits Blackberry’s Soul Food restaurant in Plainfield, NJ, which is a bedroom suburb of New York City.

Note, it’s spelled as Blackberry’s Restaurant – not Blackberries Restaurant.

Oh, my Gordon! Dead rodents and gag worthy food are afoot when Nightmare’s Kitchen visits Blackberry’s Catering And Family Restaurant in Plainfield New Jersey.

This one has the makings of a food horror story.

Just goes to show you that when Gordon Ramsay is on the case, you never know what little shop of horrors we will see.

Shelly Withers the owner at Blackberry's on Kitchen Nightmares

The backstory of Blackberry’s almost could be one of the American Dream.

Shelly Withers, the Blackberry’s restaurant owner, was running a successful catering business and decides to take the next leap and open her own restaurant.

Note – some other posts refer to her as Shelly Winters. But her last name is Withers – not Winters.

Using her mother’s retirement fund (Mama Mary), Shelly begins what she thinks is the perfect restaurant.

She runs her dream with an iron fist, confused that what she thinks is the perfect location, and perfect menu cannot attract the customers.

Mother Mary from Blackberry's

$200,000 dollars in debt later, we call in our man Gordon Ramsay for the Kitchen Nightmares Blackberry’s episode.

However, I think this was one restaurant he wishes he had skipped.

Impressed with the town, but not the gaudy decor of Blackberry’s, he steels his courage and samples what the restaurant has to offer.

He then orders the smothered pork chop, the collard greens, chitlins, mac and cheese, chitlins, and red velvet cake.

Now being a good southern boy, my mouth was watering at the culinary potential that Gordon was about to experience.

Man, was I wrong; I am pacifist unto the Lord and not that big on the death penalty, but here I would make an exception.

This was a crime against culinary humanity.

The pork is dry, the pasta is mushy, the chitlins smell funny and the greens are bland.

Gordon Ramsay even asks for a prayer before he eats the chitlins because he was so worried about the experience (and their smell).

Gordon Ramsay eating food at Blackberry's

Spitting these straight out he runs to the bathroom and gags.

However, before that, he got in a chance to call the chitlins “shitlits”, which is a classic Gordon Ramsay witticism.

All is not lost, the Red Velvet cake is divine (one of the few times he liked the food on Kitchen Nightmares), so the disaster of a lunch experience is over.

To be honest, if I were Chef Ramsay, I would be on my way to the next client.

But either the producers wouldn’t let Gordon leave, or Ramsay doesn’t give up easy.

That evening he returns to the scene of the culinary crimes.

He is greeted at the door by one of Mickey Mouse’s dead relatives:

A dead mouse.

This is why Blackberry’s is also known as the Kitchen Nightmares mouse episode.

Right there, I am gone, but hey, they don’t pay me to be the chef on Kitchen Nightmares.

Now, everyone knows Gordon, a top-notch, respected chef.

A chef followed around by cameras.

So you would think that Shelly and the General Manager would just offer up an explanation or solution to keep it from happening again.

Not so here, my Gordo-fans.; they accuse our Shakespeare of the salty language of planting the dead rodent!

Gordon Ramsay finds a mouse at Blackberry's

Right there, I would have cut cameras and left.

But it just gets better.

The restaurant staff accuses Shelly of being the Restaurant Hitler and running the back with an iron fist.

She tells the ones that “rat” (sorry, couldn’t help that) on her to leave, but soon Gordon reaches the crux of the problem.

A combination of poor equipment (A pizza oven and a wok for Southern food, really?) and her domineering attitude are the root causes of the rotten Blackberry’s.

Shelly wants nothing to do with the changes and storms off, leaving Gordon to fix the problems with her mother and the General Manager.

Redecorating and new equipment soon shores up an improved menu.

Things are now rocking in the new and improved Blackberry’s and low and behold Shelly returns.

Gordon Ramsay at Blackberry's

Once again Gordon saves the day, though, and it seems like things are looking up for Blackberry’s Restaurant in Plainfield, NJ.

So was the Kitchen Nightmares Blackberry’s restaurant visit a long-term success?

Keep reading our update to learn what happened next and if it’s still open in 2024 and beyond.

Blackberry's Update - What Happened Next?

Now that we’ve recapped the Blackberry’s Kitchen Nightmares episode, let’s talk about what happened to the restaurant after Gordon Ramsay and his crew left Plainfield, NJ,

After the changes, real customer reviews for Blackberry’s were a bit hit or miss.

Some reviewers praised the restaurant, even calling it a “phoenix rising from the ashes”.

That’s a nice way with words!

While there were ups and downs, I would say that the Yelp reviews generally seemed to show some positive improvements, but there were still lots of negative reviews.

Sadly, it would not be enough to save the restaurant.

Is Blackberry’s still open in 2024?

Blackberry’s Restaurant closed its doors for good in March 2013, which was around 1.5 years after the Blackberry Restaurant Kitchen Nightmares episode aired on TV and a little over two years after the actual visit from Gordon Ramsay.

However, while the actual restaurant closed, Shelly does seem to still offer catering services via the Blackberry’s Catering brand.

When announcing the closure on Facebook, Shelly said that “Blackberry’s still offers private catering for all your special events, parties, and functions”.

Here’s a screenshot of the post in case it gets deleted:

Blackberry's still offers a catering service after Kitchen Nightmares

She’s still posting on the Blackberry’s Facebook page even in 2020+.

For example, here’s a Facebook post from September 2019 where Shelly confirms that the catering part is still active:

Thank you All for 25 years of providing you with professional catering services, we look forward too serving you for 25 more.

Here’s a screenshot of the post in case it gets deleted:

Blackberry's Catering is still active as of 2019

So – why did the Blackberry’s restaurant close?

Well, in an interview explaining the closure, Shelly, the Blackberry’s owner, had this to say:

I want to say we just no longer saw room for growth.

We were so stagnant.

We were maintaining, barely, but not able to generate the clientele we wanted.

I think we gave it 10 good years.

We had a wonderful time and are looking on to bigger and better things

In another message, the Blackberry’s staff said that the restaurant was unable to content with an economic downturn and struggled because of a lack of parking.

As of 2023, the old Blackberry’s Plainfield, NJ location has been filled by a bakery called Un Nuevo Renacer Bakery.

Reviews seem average but the restaurant has been successful so far where Blackberry’s failed.

To give you a chance to explore the area, here’s what the old Blackberrys location looks like in the most recent picture from Google Maps street view:

Blackberry’s Catering And Family Restaurant reviews after Kitchen Nightmares

At the time that Blackberry’s closed, it had a 2.5 star rating on Yelp, which includes reviews from both before and after the Gordon Ramsay Blackberry visit.

Obviously, that’s not very good.

Again, there were some positive reviews after Gordon’s visit, but also a lot of negative ones.

So, while Blackberry’s might’ve been able to somewhat improve, it was starting from a pretty low point.

Here’s a sampling of a few customer reviews that were written after the visit from Gordon Ramsay…

4 star Yelp review from December 2012:

I thought the food here was excellent!

After seeing this place on TV I went with my buddy to check it out.

The prices are a little steep, but you get a lot for your money.

Based on the portion sizes it was a good value but expensive none the less.

We had the uptown drink and it was out of this world.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a drink taste so good!!!

I will definitely return, the place was quiet but Fridays they have live blues entertainment.

4 star Yelp review from November 2012:

When I get a hankering for fried chicken, Mac and cheese, collards and potatoes, I head to Blackberries.

Friendly staff and the best fried chicken.

Order an uptown which is half iced tea half lemon aid, it’s really sweet, cut it with water..

I had their red velvet cake for dessert and I left their pleased.

The dining room decor is clad in purple and gold, old school vinyl album covers are hung from the ceiling.

The place feels warm and welcoming like your grandmother is cooking for you.

1 star Yelp review from May 2012:

Jersey native here with a history of Blackberrys.

Can’t express how disappointed I am with what I thought would be a successful black owned soul food restaurant.

Had Blackberrys on several occasions before Gordon Ramsay hit em up.

They are not consistent!

I truly believe it’s the fault of the daughter.

The mother is beautiful and so are her cakes.

Moms is old school and knows what quality means and it’s a shame the daughter is running the business into the ground.

Ramsay only prolonged the inevitable!

I truly believe he was used to remodel and advertise Blackberrys.

Then, he leaves and they go right back to crap!

I wasn’t gonna write this, but I’m pissed off and don’t have over $60 bucks to just throw away.

My wife went there last night for takeout.

Chicken wings no seasoning, just bland.

Mac n cheese, bland.

Cornbread, nothing special.

Collard greens, terrible.

I had a fried chicken breast that was crispy, but the taste that went with it could have been poison.

…[review continues]

1 star Yelp review from May 2012:

Blackberry's review

What happened to Shelly Withers from Kitchen Nightmares?

Shelly Withers was the Blackberry’s owner from the Kitchen Nightmares episode.

Again, her last name is Withers – not Shelly Winters.

After Blackberry’s closed, she got a job at Aramark working as the Kitchen Manager/Lead.

If you’re not familiar with Aramark, it’s a big company behind a lot of food places (e.g. college cafeterias and stuff).

So it appears that Shelly Withers is still involved in the food industry, even if she doesn’t have her own restaurant.

However, I can’t be 100% sure if she’s still working there or if she just hasn’t updated her LinkedIn profile in a while.

In addition to that, Shelly also still offers catering via the Blackberry’s brand, as I mentioned in the section above.

Shelly also has a side business making custom rhinestone t-shirts, named Absolutely Bling.

You can see her Facebook post about it here.

What happened to Mateen from the Blackberry’s Kitchen Nightmares episode?

Mateen Booker was the sous chef at Blackberry’s who was actually competent.

I know – that’s pretty rare to find in the kitchen of a restaurant that appears on Kitchen Nightmares.

Mateen has remained in the restaurant industry since Blackberry’s closed.

Currently, he’s the executive chef at OTG management, but he’s also worked as a chef at The Standard Hotels and Sunset Beach.

He’s been with OTG Management since 2016, so Mateen seems to be doing well there.

Mateen Booker sous chef at Blackberry's

You can learn more about how Mateen is doing on his LinkedIn page.

Mateen also has his own Instagram page where he calls himself a “celebrity chef” and offers meal prep services.

Final Thoughts on the Blackberry’s Episode

Blackberry’s Soul Food restaurant seemed to have somewhat improved reviews after Gordon Ramsay’s visit.

Sadly, it would not be enough to save it as Blackberry’s closed in March 2013.

That makes sense because the reviews were pretty bad to start with.

So, even if Gordon were able to improve things somewhat, it would still be hard to save the restaurant.

However, Shelly, the Blackberry’s owner, continues to offer catering services under the Blackberry’s Catering brand.

I can confirm that she was offering these through at least 2019, and nothing seems to have changed on that front.

Shelly also got a job working at Aramark in 2013.

As far as I can tell, she’s still working there, though that could just be because she hasn’t updated her LinkedIn profile.

She also seems to have a few other side hustles beyond the job and catering.

Mateen Booker, the sous chef, is working as an executive chef and also had a side business offering meal prep services.

If you want to se some other New Jersey Kitchen Nightmares episodes, you also might want to read my updates for Hannah and Mason’s (Cranbury, NJ), Mike and Nellie’s (Oakhurst, NJ), Campania (Fair Lawn, NJ), Spanish Pavillion (Harrison, NJ), and Flamangos / The Junction (Whitehouse Station, NJ).

Gordon Ramsay has spent quite a lot of time in New Jersey because it’s near New York City, which is where a lot of the episodes are filmed.

And if you want to share your thoughts on the Blackberrys restaurant episode, you can do so using the comments section below.

Thanks for reading!

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Last updated: 2023-12-14 08:11

47 thoughts on “Blackberry’s Kitchen Nightmares Update (Soul Food) – Still Open After Ramsay?”

All comments are the sole opinion of the commenter and are not endorsed by RealityTVUpdates.

  1. I agree with you 100%. Some people have to be seen to be believed. Obviously used to getting her way, it is humanly painful to watch . They deserve the best, you know!
    I wish everyone well. And Chef Ramsey, you are a trouper!

  2. I just saw the episode for the first time today. Shelly can say what she wants to, but her attitude and her unwillingness to embrace change was more than likely the down fall of the restaurant after the show aired. The public saw how you were with your staff, and mother and Gordon Ramsey who completely renovated your entire kitchen an upgraded your tacky decor just so you can act totally ungrateful. Who the hell cooks greens in a WOK!!!

  3. Chef Restauranter Ramsay has the same unfortunate job of surgery on a dying cancer patient. His long-term success record is better than the oncology surgeon’s and better than the average restaurant’s life. It’s an extremely tough industry.

  4. Shelly was so ungrateful and fake. She felt her poop doesn’t stink. Her mother was a sweetheart and so embarrassed of her daughters antics. Sorry for Mom but Shelly needs an attitude adjustment. Shelly is so ungrateful.

  5. I think it’s a shame that her mother used her retirement money to help her daughter open that restaurant, and she couldn’t even appreciate it enough to work with her staff to keep it open. I feel real bad for her mother.

  6. Years later and I’m going to post my opinion. To me the worst part of this was her mom investing 200k her entire savings. How heartbreaking. Then her staff oh wow what a disaster I hope all of them have found something worthy. The best thing that could have happened was that place close down. Shelly herself said it best at the end of that episode “ The truth is the light”.

  7. Lets be honest! It WAS a planted mouse. Note NO other mouses were observed during the episode. Complete plant.

    • Bahaha it’s Shelly. What other educated person is dimwitted enough to say MOUSES seriously? Planted. Yea I’m so sure that a man of his stature with a respectable reputation, would need to PLANT a mouse. I literally can’t with this comment! Ignorance and lack of education shows bud. And all I have to say about Shelly… Karma. YOU GET WHAT YOU GIVE to the world. If u disagree, then I have to say that you are “just another Shelly”. Or to be politically correct in this day and age, it would be said as “just another Karen” 😉 This episode is one of the ones I have trouble with, all that help and to act like a child that didn’t get the toy the begged for while at the store… Ramsey is THE MAN. a very successful man. Where do y’all think Shelly is now? Oh and I did think this was the worst of the worst…. But then the ABC episode aired. No comment. Left me without a single word, that’s how taken aback I was by the behavior I witnessed!

      Add me on Instagram: LilMissPuma

    • The workers admitted there were mice all over the place. The way Ramsey saw the mouse was a little suspicious . Anyone else would have walked right by it. If he was searching for something wrong it would have been easier to accept. Then again, If the exterminator put out poison instead of traps finding a dead mouse is more possible.

    • I don’t think so. It was likely poisoned and ran in to find water.

      Shelly was one of the most unpleasant people to ever appear on this series

    • The staff said there were mice. One of them even admitted to lying to Ramsey about not ever seeing a nice and even gave a specific example.

    • Was it as heck as like. They had exterminaters on speed dial. Ramsey would never risk his rep by doing that.whats wrong with you

  8. I’ve worked in Reality TV so I know that it’s not exactly what it seems. Events get ginned up. While there’s no script, there’s often an outline. However, personalities do come thru & very often that’s exactly what the production is aiming for. When you see people like Shelly, they’re often very fragile people, but they are also people who are not really hungry for success. They’re actually playing & may, in fact, be afraid of success. One thing you get from Gordon Ramsey’s bio is that he’s a man who was starving for success… & still is. People with talent + starving for success + the business sense to achieve it in more than one field are a rare breed. It’s why I watch Chef Ramsey.

    • Beautifully said. I know a few of these people who are frightened of success and sabotage every attempt to help them. Also it wasn’t her money. People always love to fail with other people’s money. I truly pity the mother.

  9. She had it coming, ramsay came to help her (people would kill for that opportunity) and she decided to be rude about it. Totally deserved. I feel bad for all her personnel tho, i really hope they are doing fine

  10. I felt so bad for shelly’s mother and her staff the entire episode. I’m not surprised the restaurant closed down. I wouldn’t want to go there after seeing her behavior.

  11. I hope Mary is doing okay currently. Shelly is absolutely ungrateful, if I had the chance of getting Gordon to fix my restaurant I would jump at it. But sadly, some people are just entitled and not cut out for the restaurant business. Sad.

      • James Trees, the sous chef that was dating Shelley, also appeared in several Food Network shows, Chopped (2007), Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell (2012) and Knife Fight (2013).

        Thanks for the updates! I’ve been checking in a lot lately as I rewatch!

  12. I just have to wonder what happened to the mother. She put her retirement savings into the restaurant. After her ungrateful childish daughter stomped her workers down and made sure of failure she didn’t seem worried about her mom. To treat Ramsey like that then telling customers how she likes it was gross

  13. I’ve noticed when the articles get updated the old info rarely gets deleted so it becomes hard to tell what is new info until you reach the comments.

  14. Shelley doesn’t deserve success and certainly didn’t deserve the greatness that episode bestowed upon her. She belongs in kindergarten.

  15. I think before Ramsey showed up the only edible things from Blackberry’s came from Mother Mary, an update on her would have been nice but I’m happy Mateen Booker is doing well!
    I also believe the restaurant could never stay successful as long as Shelly was involved.

  16. She kept laughing wasn’t serious at all. What I don’t get is WHY folks wait so LONG to ask for help??? They often wait until it’s too late……Shelly is overbearing Uber dominate & that’s not easy to be & be part of a TEAM

  17. Also, Gordon sadly missed the possibilities of using woks and pizza ovens to make soul food. A wok could be used to sauté collard greens, and a pizza oven could be used to make pizza which is an important part of soul food in Italy and nowhere else.

  18. I just saw this episode SMH!!! The sad truth is Shelly had a breakdown right there on the screen. Bless her ungrateful heart. Hopefully she learned a lesson looking back.

  19. Shelly put her mother in debt, she couldn’t even cook, her food terrible and there she has an amazing chef but she never used him. What a Narcissitic selfish, ungrateful spoilt woman she is.

    Unfortunately, I had a feeling it will resort right back to shelly nonsense routine, terrible food and her micro management.

    It didn’t have a chance at all with shelly leading it. Her mother should have kicked her out of the business so she could grow it, not be in debt and even make it into a success but if you spoil your children, if you give them money they never worked hard for they will be ungrateful and ruin you

  20. I think that forcing Shelley to stop using the wok was not as much about the wok itself but to try to break Shelley out of her stubborn ways and force her to delegate responsibility. She was doing large batches of greens herself in her wok, preventing the three other cooks from doing their jobs effectively. She was still messing with the other cooks’ food during the last dinner service and when Ramsey confronted her, she shut down and refused to join the staff after service. As a head chef, you set the standards in your kitchen, but you also have to trust and listen to your staff, and she could not bring herself to do either one. She had a really loyal and capable kitchen staff, like many of the restaurants on KN, it’s a shame she refused to change her ways.

  21. Blackberries was a disaster that Chef Ramsay couldn’t fix, simply because of one person that was hell bent on completely destroying it.
    That one person, you guessed it . . . Shelly.
    She never was cut out to be a leader of anything.
    If you cannot submit to authority that is out to help you succeed, the only direction for you is down.

  22. Big Kitchen Nightmares fan (seen all UK & US eps multiple times), big fan of Gordon’s, but you will never convince me that mouse wasn’t planted.

  23. I haven’t commented here but with this one I had to. I’m literally watching this episode today as we speak & man I completely have forgotten about it tbh. The employees DID admit to seeing mice around the restaurant. It wasn’t just one it was two & one of them was talking & chuckling about it with two other women who worked at the front. The general manager was a HUGE Shelly boot licker, I know he was dating her & getting paid but was it really worth it to make an ass of yourself just cause you’re whipped? Idk the whole place was a mess from the decor to the food to the management & basically everything. Who the hell cooks soul food in a shit load of woks & pizza ovens??? Only a mad woman would approve of that to use those kinds of pans for soul food. The baked goods did look good tho, so I can’t complain of Ramsey only loving the red velvet cake. All of the food was dreadful, with peppered soil collard greens, old Mac n cheese, dirty gooey chitlins(sorry if it’s spelled wrong), overcooked pork chops & I still can’t believe she topped the greens with Doritos. I’m telling you she was a crazy irresponsible woman & the restaurant was bound to be fail over time.

  24. I’ve seen every episodes and seasons but somehow I missed this episode. Thank goodness because Shelly is cringe to watch. She’s beyond ungrateful and fake. The bussiness Fail is solely because of Shelly. I feel bad for the mother and all the loyal employees who had to put up with Shelly’s bad personality and leadership.


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