Tag: denise whiting

Cafe Hon’s Recurring “Nightmare”

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Restaurant-revamping chef Gordon Ramsay was back at Hampden’s Cafe Hon months after featuring the once maligned eatery on Kitchen Nightmares last November. The show usually portrays Ramsay coming to the aid of a restaurant with awful cooking (and a healthy dose of interpersonal drama), but at Cafe Hon the focus was primarily on healing bad blood between owner Denise Whiting and city residents after Whiting attempted to enforce a trademark on the word “hon.”

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.

Cafe Hon’s "Kitchen Nightmares"

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This has got to be the most counter-intuitive PR gambit available to American restaurants: invite Gordon Ramsay to film an episode of Fox’s Kitchen Nightmares at your establishment, get berated by the foul-mouthed celebrity chef on national TV for serving rotting food and keeping unsanitary conditions, and hope that all publicity is good publicity.

Apparently, it’s a gambit that Cafe Hon owner Denise Whiting was willing to take. The well flamingoed Hampden eatery’s episode of Kitchen Nightmares is slated for February 24 at 8 p.m., and Cafe Hon’s website sports a banner proudly announcing the fact. It strikes me a little like a crooked auto shop advertising their appearance on 60 Minutes, but, hey, what do I know?

Typically, Ramsay comes to restaurants that are so mismanaged, they’re on the verge of shutting down: disgusting food, pests in the kitchen, that kind of thing. Refresh my memory; was Cafe Hon failing? Is it unsafe to eat there?

Maybe this episode won’t center around bad food and unhealthy conditions. Maybe we’ll see Ramsay tear into Whiting with a string of expletives over her infamous hijacking of the city’s most sacred colloquialism. That would sure be a cathartic experience for a lot of Baltimoreans.

With a $12 burger, it’s not like I’m heading there anyway. But I’d definitely wait for the report from Kitchen Nightmares before heading Bawlmer‘s kitschy, spensive torst trap.

Hon Gets a Restraining Order

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“Hon” hullabaloo reached new heights (or depths) this week when Denise Whiting, proprietor of Cafe Hon, Hon Bar, and Hontown, and founder of Hampden’s Honfest, was granted a restraining order against a vocal and active critic of her trademark-happy behavior, 25-year-old Steven Akers. Whiting’s complaint cited Akers’ “harassing, terrorizing, unpredictable, obsessive, stalkerlike behavior,” which included shouting “No one owns Hon!” into Cafe Hon during Honfest and scribbling mildly confrontational comments on the Internet. Akers views the restraining order as unfounded, since he was “just passing out fliers.”

While Whiting’s hijacking of a classic Baltimore colloquialism is rather unneighborly, as well as unfair to other local businesses, the vitriolic protests seem a little out of place. They raise the “hon” issue to a level of seriousness that it just doesn’t deserve, and might slightly misrepresent the extent of the trademark’s meaning.

Many seemingly generic words and phrases are trademarked. Marvel Comics and competitor DC jointly own the term “superhero.” Paris Hilton owns “That’s Hot!” And Emeril Lagasse owns “Bam!” (Jackass star Bam Margera has a claim on the word sans exclamation point.) None of these trademarks (even the clearly anticompetitive trademark of “superhero”) stops anyone from using the phrase in everyday speech.

As far as the restriction Whiting’s claim places on products with the word on them, the challenge should come from local businesses whose activities have been unfairly curtailed by the trademark.

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