(keep reading to learn what happened)
Season: 3 | View All Season 3 Episodes
Original Episode Air Date: March 19, 2010
Mama Rita's Address: 360 Via Las Brisas Ste 110 Newbury Park, CA 91320
Mama Rita’s was a Mexican restaurant in Newbury Park, California featured on season 3 of Kitchen Nightmares. The Mama Rita’s Kitchen Nightmares episode aired in March 2010, but the actual filming and visit from Gordon Ramsay took place almost a year earlier in May 2009. It was episode 8 of season 3.
In this episode of Kitchen Nightmares, Chef Gordon Ramsay takes us to Mama Rita’s, in Newbury Park, California, where we meet the owner, Laura Papenfus.
Laura’s business started off as a successful catering business. Due to customers encouraging her to open a restaurant, Laura decided to do so, but now that she has the restaurant she is serving less and less customers day by day.
The first week after the restaurant opened it was very busy, but after about three weeks the customers started to dwindle and the restaurant is now struggling to stay open.
Currently, Laura has accumulated an incredible $2.2 million in debt and is at risk of losing her house if the restaurant doesn’t improve.
Side note – Mama Rita’s has the most debt burden of any Kitchen Nightmares restaurant that we’ve written about, so the odds are definitely stacked against Laura and her restaurant.
When Gordon arrives he orders off the menu, ordering the tamales, chimichanga, and a burrito.
When the tamales arrive Gordon compares them to soaking wet newspaper, with a very dry filling.
The chimichanga arrives next and Gordon can tell the chimichanga had been microwaved and then fried leaving the chicken very dry to the taste. Last to arrive is the steak burrito and he compares it to wet cardboard.
Wet newspaper and wet cardboard in one meal? That’s not a great start!
Gordon then gives his feedback to the kitchen staff, communicating that the good was disgusting.
Gordon decides to observe the kitchen during a dinner rush.
He notices the food goes out quickly to the customers but the customers are never happy with the food they receive.
The customers complain about the dryness of the restaurant’s food and immediately send it back to the kitchen.
Gordon then decides to look in the freezer and pulls out a lot of frozen food.
He then empties the fridges and all the freezers which were filled with tray after tray of pre-cooked frozen food.
Gordon estimates that they have $12,000 worth of frozen food in the freezer, with a lot of the food dating back almost a year ago.
After interviewing some customers who had dined at the restaurant in the past, Gordon discovers that some of them experienced horrendous food poisoning.
Gordon invites chef Naris Mardirosian as a consultant to help in the kitchen. The menu is then revamped to include dishes made from fresh ingredients. The staff then taste the food from Gordon’s new menu and they love it.
The night of relaunch, Chef Naris is overseeing the kitchen, but the cooks are standing around doing nothing, while the customers are facing a long wait for their food.
Dishes are also being sent back for burnt chips, missing beans and cheese, and the steaks are served undercooked.
Thankfully, Chef Naris is able to take over and handle things and the relaunch generally ends as a success.
Mama Rita's Update - What Happened Next?
At the end of the Mama Rita’s Kitchen Nightmares, we learn that Naris was supposed to stay on as the head chef for a few weeks to ensure a smooth transition and handle things instead of Perla, the original chef.
However, Laura actually kept Perla on as the head chef after she was trained by Chef Naris.
What’s more, Laura also went back to using the restaurant’s old menu instead of the changes that Gordon made.
I mean – why not stick with the menu that got you $2.2 million in debt, right?
With that being said, the Mama Rita’s Yelp reviews were generally pretty solid after Gordon’s visit. It ended with a 3.5 star rating, but a lot of the newer reviews were good.
However, the reviews weren’t good enough to overcome the debt burden and Mama Rita’s closed soon after the episode aired in December 2010.
Laura did keep the catering business going, but the restaurant was no more.
Is Mama Rita’s from Kitchen Nightmares still open?
Mama Rita’s restaurant closed in December 2010, around nine months after the Kitchen Nightmares episode aired. However, Laura continued to operate a catering business for a few years after closing the restaurant.
Why did Mama Rita’s close?
We don’t have a specific reason why Mama Rita’s closed but we have a pretty good idea that the $2.2 million debt burden played a big role. Even with Gordon working his magic, I just don’t think it’s possible for a restaurant to overcome that debt.
What happened to Laura Papenfus from Mama Rita’s?
After Mama Rita’s closed, Laura started another restaurant called Mission Oaks Cafe in Camarillo, CA. It had a so-so three star rating and eventually ended up closing in 2019.
Laura’s Instagram username is mamarita4ever, so she definitely hasn’t forgotten about the restaurant.
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Last updated: 2022-01-01 07:31