Like many restaurants featured on Chef Gordon Ramsay's "Kitchen Nightmares," Blackberry's was plagued by internal conflict. Located in Plainfield, New Jersey, the soul food establishment was a true family affair, as owner Shelly Withers leveraged her mother's entire retirement fund to launch it. However, Withers' tyrannical operational style and unpalatable food failed to draw customers, which led Ramsay to develop a brand-new menu (along with giving the restaurant an image makeover). Sadly, even Ramsay was not able to rescue Blackberry's and it closed in 2013, per its Facebook page.
According to a statement posted on the social media platform, the establishment would continue to offer private catering services and planned to move to another location at some point in the future. While it appears that the catering arm of Blackberry's was still active in 2019, the new location never materialized.
In the episode, Withers appeared extremely reluctant to heed Ramsay's advice, even when the rest of her staff was on board. And based on reviews that were posted online, that reluctance seemed to be her undoing.
A Restaurant With Squandered Potential
According to Yelp, Blackberry's earned an average customer rating of 2.5 during its run. The majority of diners gave the establishment one star, with one review stating, "This place is a horror show... We left with headaches and a seasick, nauseous feeling." Another customer had inquired about what really transpired with Ramsay on "Kitchen Nightmares," prompting a server to state that the show had been accurate, and that Blackberry's owner, Shelly Withers, hadn't changed her habits or attitudes since the show, claiming Withers "feels she's always right and everybody else is always wrong." Yet another reviewer summed it up succinctly by stating, "Worst. 'Soul food.' Ever."
Among the sparse five-star reviews, one customer stated, "Had great time. Great food, good music and very friendly atmosphere with charming owner. Will definitely be back!" Another diner praised the "fall off the bone, deeply seasoned, slow-cooked pork ribs" and described the restaurant as "one of the warmest and friendliest atmospheres I've ever had the pleasure to walk into." Based on these reviews, it's clear that Blackberry's definitely had potential. It's also clear that Withers played a large role in its demise given her stubborn ways. So, where is the intractable restaurateur today?
Still Thriving Despite The Closure Of Blackberry's
According to Linkedin, former Blackberry's owner Shelly Withers is currently employed by Aramark, a company that supplies food services, uniforms, and other items to businesses. Per her profile, Withers has maintained the position of kitchen manager/lead since 2013. As stated on her personal Facebook page, she also creates customized rhinestone T-shirts under the Absolutely Bling banner, which has been in business since 2017.
Withers is not the only Blackberry's alum to find success after "Kitchen Nightmares." Mateen Booker (pictured), former sous chef at Blackberry's, is now listed as an executive chef at OTG Management, a hospitality business that operates dining establishments in numerous airports, per his LinkedIn page. According to Booker's Instagram account, he also describes himself as a "celebrity chef" who offers private meal prep services to clients.
The restaurant business is tough, especially when people are set in their ways. While Blackberry's didn't last, the professionals behind the establishment have proven their tenacity and talent with their new ventures.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.