Reality Check for Denise Whiting: Chef Ramsay’s Coming Back to Baltimore

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The Sun reported yesterday that Chef Gordon Ramsay plans to haul his “Kitchen Nightmares” reality crew back to Hampden in coming days to check in with restaurant owner Denise Whiting and complete a progress report of sorts. If you screened the Café Hon episode in November – I couldn’t resist – you’ll remember that Ramsay bestowed upon the tourist-geared place an artistic interior redo, rewrote the menu, too, and offered Whiting heaps of rather scripted-feeling advice about dropping the Hon trademark. Whiting sobbed; local writers quickly weighed in on whether they thought we ought to forgive her former selfishness.

An editorial in The Sun argued that letting bygones be bygones is a very “hon thing to do,” while reporter Rafael Alvarez’s take at contradicted the peace-love-and-understanding approach: “Denise wouldn’t listen to us — the people who live here — but she had a change of heart in front of someone who will put her exploitation of real Baltimoreans in several million living rooms,” he wrote. “Once an opportunist, always an opportunist.”

I, too, was super turned off by Whiting’s trademark-tyranny and televised, tear-soaked repentance. Not that I lost a second of sleep over either.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, when I attended Dance Walk, a wacky workout event at Druid Hill Park, some acquaintances and I were chatting about the fact that Whiting had recently joined our Facebook group, and even pledged to join our dance event that day. (She didn’t make it to the track after all.) I made a crack about how it would be quirky/likeable PR for her to dance-walk her bespectacled self all over town, but the other participants responded with less cynicism. I found it interesting (and downright sweet) that most everyone else seemed to hope she would show.

“I think she’s truly sorry,” one woman said. “I don’t have a problem with her anymore.” How very “hon-like.”

So how about you, Baltimore? How are you feeling about Denise Whiting at this stage in her high-profile game? Have you sampled her new Ramsay-recommended menu? Or have you sworn off Café Hon for the long run? Let us know!

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  1. You can’t 86 a lifelong personality disorder with crocodile tears and seasoned fries.

  2. Of course, Cafe Hon isn’t great food – it was never intended to be. It just supposed to be a fun, quirky place to eat. I do give Denise credit for taking a huge risk in opening the restaurant. There wasn’t much to Hampden before she opened shop, and the neighborhood has done much better since. So, she made a mistake and overreached with the Hon trademark. Plenty of other businesses have done lots worse.

  3. I won’t go out of my way to check out the Ramsified menu, even though I don’t live or work very far. I was turned off before Ramsay and remain turned off.

    • Don’t be a bunch of children! Communities need reputable businesses and give Cafe Hon a chance at least.
      My family on my dads side are all native Hampdenites from the 1800’s. Patronize the place and help it survive. Your community will benefit.

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