Kitchen Nightmares (US) S05 E17: Zocalo, University City, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – CLOSED

Kitchen Nightmares (US) S05 E17: Zocalo, University City, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - CLOSED

In this version of The Kitchen’s Nightmare, Chef Gordon Ramsay visits Greg Russell and Mary Russell’s Authentic Mexican restaurant Zocalo in University City, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Both Greg Russell and Mary Russell, being in the culinary profession, and working at same restaurant, fall in love and marry. They buy Zocalo in 2008, assuming that running the restaurant is a very easy job, but it proves a nightmare with huge debts, personal conflicts and pressure.

The loving couple has glorious memories about the place and is very possessive of the restaurant, but can’t handle the ongoing burden of debts with a substantial drop in sales.

Kitchen Nightmares Zocalo

Conflicts and Decline

Zocalo’s Sales decrease significantly and that makes the joyful couple depressed, especially Greg, who not only looks after the finances but also runs the Zocalo’s kitchen as a chef. There is no doubt that Greg works very hard with no leaves or vacation and his co-workers admit he is around 24/7.

On the other hand, Mary comes to the restaurant only for 2-3 days a week and has less interest in working in the restaurant. She is always nagging and criticizing Greg and everyone around including her two daughters who work in the restaurant.

Ironically, the restaurant that brought this couple together now tearing them apart. Greg spends all his time in the restaurant and Mary spends all her time complaining.

This conflict arises and the decline starts which the working couple fails to understand and both keep whining at each other.


Episode Related Info:
Kitchen Nightmares (US) Season 05 Episode 17 (Including Re-vists)
Restaurant Name: Zocalo, University City, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Filming: November 2011
Air Date: 30 March, 2012
Restaurant Close Date: January 2015
Current Status: CLOSED

Is Chiarella’s, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania closed?

Yes. Zocalo closed in January 2013, without any apparent news, post by the owners.

Chef Gordon Ramsay Arrives at Zocalo

The Chef Gordon Ramsay arrives at Zocalo and meets Greg and Mary. He is impressed with the perfect Mexican ambiance and praises it.

Chef Ramsay listens to Greg and Mary talking about the routine work and finds that Greg is working hard to sustain the place and is very specific about his responsibilities, but Mary fails to describe her job descriptions.

They tell Chef Ramsay how painful is the burden of debt and burst into tears, blaming each other for the stress they are in. The couple is confused about faults and responsibilities.

Chef Gordon Ramsay Criticizes the Food

After a discussion with Greg and Mary, Chef Ramsay tries to find some optimism in the food.

He says the server to recommend something and finds because of the high price, the staff can’t taste the food. He orders for Queso Fundido with flour wraps, Chile Relleno, Cochinita Pibil with corn tortillas, and Molcajete.

Gordon Ramsay doesn’t like the food as Queso Fundido is greasy and microwaved. To him, Chile Relleno tastes salty and sponge-like texture. Cochinita Pibil is dry without seasoning and the last is served Molcajete, to which he comments on something from Harry Potter.

Gordon Ramsay meets Greg in the kitchen with detailed feedback and talks about the high pricing. Greg blames Mary for the over-pricing to generate more revenue, and again, they start a row on this issue. Chef Ramsay is disappointed with the attitude of Mary but has found out the issue with a solution to make the couple work together.

Kitchen Nightmares Zocalo Greg and Mary

Chef Gordon Ramsay Observes the Dinner Service

While the owners blame each other for Zocalo’s problems, Chef Ramsay knows the dinner service will be more enlightening than anything this husband and wife have said so far.

Chef Ramsay observers that the kitchen equipment is worn out and outdated, and Greg does whatever he has to do to run the operations. Greg prefers working alone, which slows the food deliveries.

Customers complain about over-priced greasy food, poor presentation, bland taste, and slow service. Mary adds fuel to the fire with her negative behavior, and the dinner service becomes a horrible mess.
Greg doesn’t want to listen to the customers’ comments and ignores everything, putting his focuses on closing the dinner service.

Ramsay Plans to Reunite the Fractured relationship

Gordon Ramsay feels sympathy for Greg and lets him know about his findings in private, encouraging him to speak openly. He even sends the camera crew out to make him more comfortable. He scrutinizes Mary as an obstructive force and is a reason for Zocalo’s problems.

Chef Ramsay feels that the splintered relationship between Greg and Mary needs to be addressed immediately.

He plans an activity with a hidden camera to bring out the loving feelings of the family. He makes Greg sit before the monitor and listen while Gordon goes inside to talk to the family.

The Family expresses sympathy and love for Greg and appreciates his efforts not knowing that he is watching and listening.

Chef Ramsay calls Greg inside and the family comes together again, shrugging all negatives and vows to help each other.

Kitchen Nightmares Zocalo Greg and Gordon

Gordon Surprises Greg & Mary

Having released the tensions between Greg and Mary, Chef Gordon Ramsay gives them a surprise with a brand new 10-ringed oven. Clearly, this new oven will be a major help to the kitchen.

Chef Ramsay surprises them with an automated POS system that is integrated with the kitchen to make their job easier.

He succeeds in managing internees to properly staff the kitchen with the help of Drexel University.

He shortens the menu and dishes with a unique style that attracts and appeals to everyone. The food tastes great, and the presentation is much improved with rational pricing.

Successful Relaunch of Zocalo

With these smart changes, Chef Ramsay plans a relaunch of Zocalo and as expected, the place gets a throbbing rush.

Orders come in and quickly the kitchen gets busy. To chef Ramsay’s disappointment, Mary starts bullying everyone, which slows the workflow.

Gordons has to jump in to make Mary understand and she quickly realizes and becomes cheerful and helpful.

At the end of the shift, Gordon gives very positive feedback to Greg and Mary and tells them to be supportive of each other to get consistent success.

Zocalo’s nightmare is over with happy family reunification. Gordon says they are on the road to success.

What happened to Zocalo, University City, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania after the relaunch?

After the relaunch is done, the dinner service got somewhat better however that did not reflect in the reviews after relaunch. Students enrolled as trainees, became part of Zocalo and the relationship between Greg and Mary improved a bit for some time. Gordon’s menu stayed and price was reduced from previous numbers.

Mary spoke to The Philadelphia Inquirer about her experience with Gordon and whole makeover. She seemed happy with the whole relaunch and talked positively about the changes done.

Food reviews across all food boards were average at best with many pointing out drinks menu as a good one. Business wise restaurant was doing okay, however one fine day in January 2013, it did not re-open after holidays.

Zocalo closed in January 2013, without any apparent news,post by the owners. They did mention about closure in one of the tweet in June 2013.

As per Phillymag:

In the weeks that followed, the dinner services at Zocalo became smoother and smoother… And most importantly, Greg got what he always wanted: his family’s support and Mary back as a true partner.

So much for happy endings.

The Russells did not respond to a call and email seeking comment, and it’s unclear exactly when the restaurant closed. But as of this week, most of Zocalo’s contents appear to have been removed. The website is still up, but the phone number is not working.

A quick review of court records reveals some major problems: a Philadelphia tax lien for $40,000; federal tax liens totaling over $28,000; and a “confession of judgment” relating to the business against Greg Russell for $39,000. And that’s without peeking into the restaurant’s revolving debt, which, at this point, is likely massive.

Social profiles on linked says that Greg ( Gregory Russell ) is currently General Manager at Joe Squared LLC, Baltimore. Mary as per her profile (outdated) is commercial actress.

After closure of the restaurant, Greg and Mary divorced. Greg married Maria, the waitress who served food to Gordon during food sampling.



1. Restaurant Profile on Yelp
2. Restaurant Profile on Foursquare
3. TripAdvisor Zocalo
4. Zocalo IMDB episode info
5. Mary's interview to The Philadelphia Inquirer
6. PhillyMag report on restaurant closure
7. Tweet from Zocalo on restaurant closure


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Episode Related Info:
Kitchen Nightmares (US) Season 05 Episode 17 (Including Revists)
Restaurant Name: Zocalo, University City, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Filming: November 2011
Air Date: 30 March, 2012
Restaurant Close Date: January 2015
Current Status: CLOSED

2 thoughts on “Kitchen Nightmares (US) S05 E17: Zocalo, University City, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – CLOSED”

  1. Restaurants work on systems. after watching this eposide, i was surprised, that husband and wife were not working together. Ie: Wife says “i had no idea of the price change, the food was bad etc. ” Regardless, they both go home. What happens then? Silience in the house or is this all staged for GR KN?? Sinple principes for running a restaurant. 5 star or side street cafe or fast food. Simple 101. So why does it all go wrong?? Love to know. Cheers

    1. Most likely they are asked by KN team to show their most pathetic state. So when Gordon comes to them he looks like the savior to save the day.

      Or maybe, these owners lose the plot that much, hence they are in this spot..

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