Fiesta Sunrise on Kitchen Nightmares

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Did you catch the Gordon Ramsay show last night? It featured Fiesta Sunrise in West Nyack. I’m trying to decide what was my favorite part. The cockroach-infested kitchen? The big gloppy bucket of spoiled refried beans that made Gordon close the restaurant and send poor unsuspecting diners home? The free tequila dispenser in the entryway? The burning nachos? Or maybe when the son-in-law exploded at Vic, throwing the table to the floor like an old Western: “I pay my bills! And I pay your bills, too B@TCH!”

Of course, in the end, Gordon saved the day: cleaned up the restaurant, brought in fresh food, new decor and Julieta Ballesteros of Crema in Manhattan (though they never said where she was from) to teach the staff how not to overcook rice. The family was back together, all smiles and happy.

Eagle-eyed viewers might have seen my cameo (it was a fraction of second). I was there for the “re-launch,” and so was Nyack mayor John Sheilds, who said he loved the “taquitos.”

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I’ve got photos from the meal, but unfortunately — right after the taping in February — I lost my notebook (with the menu tucked inside). So I don’t have much for you as far as commentary. I do remember almost everything needed salt. I remember some dishes being quite good (especially the pork and the hot chocolate) and some being decidedly average. But it was fun to see Gordon in action. He’s so tall.

Margarita:

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My dining companion Alex:

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My husband:

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Tortilla soup. A weird version, in my mind. I like a thinner broth:

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The waiter takes Alex’s order:

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Guac:

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This salad needed salt:

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This was OK, I seem to remember:

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My other dining companion Tessa:

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Enchiladas with rice and beans:

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Tortilla on la plancha:

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This pork dish was good. The white was hominy (which needed salt):

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Flan:

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Coconut tres leches:

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Chocolate and churros:

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In August, a New Jersey teenager was assaulted and stabbed four times after a fight there. A White Plains man was arrested in the incident.In September, the restaurant was closed for not paying its taxes. It re-opened again a few days later.

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About Author

Liz Johnson is content strategist for The Journal News and lohud.com, and the founding editor of lohudfood, formerly know as Small Bites. As food editor, she won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. She lives in Nyack with her husband and daughter on a tiny suburban lot they call their farm — with fruit trees, an herb garden, and a yardful of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, shallots, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts and carrots and four big blueberry bushes.

69 Comments

  1. Liz,

    I’m glad you mentioned the Kitchen Nightmares show featuring Fiesta Sunrise. I commented twice on chowhound and both times, my posts were removed. Apparently someone there thinks there should be no discussion about what was seen on the show. Talk about censorship. The show was on the air. Chowhound wants to pretend it doesn’t exist.

    I was mortified by what I saw on the show. I have concerns that a restaurant that has been given a “makeover” can completely change after the makeover squad has moved on. I worry about the food sanitation issues, the infestations, the food handling, etc…. The people working there now are the same people working there before. Does a makeover show really give them the proper training needed to truly clean up their act, night after night..

    What are your thoughts? You came to the restaurant for dinner for the relaunch when the entire makeover team was there. After you saw the show, would you be comfortable going back on multiple occasions, nearly a year later? I wouldnt. Im curious to hear your thoughts about the ongoing viability of Fiesta Sunrise.

  2. PS: I think you should take one for the team, go back to the restaurant, and take a new set of pictures of the same dishes… Show us the 10 months later photos and let us know what the differences are.

    I bet you are saying to yourself: NO WAY

  3. Liz-
    As you might know I am one of Gordon Ramsay’s biggest fans. This show had one major flaw….he brought in Julieta Ballesteros for one night only! Though he never says what happens to these restaurants in the long run until a wrap-up show at the end of the season, I can’t imagine that bringing her in for one night would make a major change in the disgusting way this family runs a restaurant. Thanks for mentioning the name of her restaurant in the city…..that’s someplace I would much rather go. I’d love to hear what you have to say about her place. After seeing how Fiesta Sunrise started out, I could never trust that the food there would be safe to eat. I’m gonna go back to my DVR of the show and look for you!!!

  4. Michael, I just saw what you mean. The post was up on CH for awhile, they took the whole thread referring to the kitchen nightmare show down, and left up the original post about giabraldi. I posted a comment by itself yesterday asking about the show, and that is still there. I think if you were to comment under my comment, they may keep it. Perhaps it’s just that the show didn’t pertain to the original topic and maybe they were just cleaning it up. I hope they’ve continued to clean up their act and do great going forward.
    & Liz – you looked great during your second.

  5. Hi Michelle,

    I posted an innocuous comment under yours simply mentioning the show in one sentence, and it was deleted immediately. Someone at CH is heavily censoring and its annoying me. Possibly to the point driving me to steer clear of CH completely. I didnt say anything that wasnt broadcast over national television. The censorship is unwarranted. There should be a discussion of what we saw… We’ll bring it here instead! Thanks Liz

  6. For years I have enjoyed Mexican food at Fiesta Mexico in Orangeburg. Several years back my husband got served burned shrimp at Fiesta Cancun my the margarita was terrible. Every single time I have gone to Fiesta Mexico in Orangeburg, NY the food and service has been excellent. It’s not a problem to drive down 303 a few miles for a pleasant experience where I don’t have to worry if the roaches have returned.

  7. Fiesta Mexico in Orangeburg, NY is managed by Patricia. In fact Fiesta cancun, Fiesta Sunrise and Fiesta Mexico are owned within the same family.

  8. Chef Julieta was there for 1 month

    Excerpt from comment posted by patty the owner:

    http://insiderockland.lohudblogs.com/2008/02/25/kitchen-nightmares-visits-west-nyack/

    # patty November 25th, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    i read all your comments and find them amusing and informative. we have let 2 cooks go and employed new ones. chef julieta gave us free cooking lessons for 1 month not one day.A gift from chef Ramsey. she brought in an assistant who stayed with us for 3 months after that- Miss u Victor. We had to let him go because he wanted a salary increase, We have cleaned up our kitchen and improved our food. I hope you will give us a second chance. thank u!!

  9. Hi Everyone,

    I JUST saw the infamous fiesta sunrise episode….OHHH my goodness!!!! I just kept thinking are you seeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrriousss!!! =O I have to say this, as much as I was holding down my vomit through the first half, I kept thinking afterwards, “BEST episode EVER” I have seen to this day, and I am not a regular viewer of K.N., but I might consider checking out past and future episodes. This episode had it all: abominable restaurant, airing every poor condition possible churned my stomach; family drama, the throwdown between Don and Vic was Sweet!, although for entertainment value, I wish they didn’t break them up so early on; the villain without a clue, COME ON! The fact Vic stayed all day at the restaurant makes it worse, he’s the manager! He should have had those chefs in check; lastly, I feel the twisted comedy was the montage between looking through spoiled food and the customers shoving that food down their mouths….yes at first I kept thinking, “AaaaaHHH food poisoning!!!”…BUT in retrospect, that scene would be re-enacted comically so well on something like MadTV….nauseatingly good…
    ahahahahahahaaaa…LOL…pure drama, twisted comedy, with enough gruesome to go around….*sigh* sweet sweet “reality” tv.

  10. Ok now for my curiosity…is this place still open? Yes, people SHOULD consider at least giving a second chance for karma sake…blah blah blah…..BUT the first half of that episode was BRUTAL, and REALLY impressionable. As much as people will say they have improved, you cannot blame people for being REALLY apprehensive. Yes, there’s second chances, but there are also reruns of this episode of K.N. and web episode reruns. All I REALLLLLLY want to know is…IS FIESTA SUNRISE STILL OPEN? After reading the blogs, I’ve learned there was a stabbing at the location, which is NOT good advertising for the establishment. Oh, and the restaurant shut down momentarily due to non-tax payment, but was reopened soon after because the situation was resolved. I don’t know how Patti didn’t let Don lose on Vic? or let herself throw some punches…Ooooooh I wish they would have “How are they doing now?” episodes….Ooooh I wish I wish I wish upon a foodie star….

    Wishing everyone Happy New Year!

  11. COME ON YOU GAYS KNOWS THAT CHEFF RAMSEY IS FOR THE SHOW AND MONEY , HE DID A GREAT JOB TO DESTROY THIS RESTAURANT,
    NOT TO HELP , SHAME ON YOU CHEFF RAMSEY..

    THE OWNER IS AGREAT PERSON AND THE STUFF, THE PLACE IS GOOD TO.

    ME AND MY FAMILY STILL WILL GO TO THIS GREAT RESTAURANT..

  12. the bugs, the dirt, the rotten fish, the refried beans……. enuf said. too many other places for me to try…….. I’d never get those thoughts out of my head

  13. The places is shut down again 1/09 …. Big Orange stickers… I don’t think they can pay their bills or taxes.. Who knows… with Vic ruining the place, how they can even attract diners is unknown. He should try another venture like working for an exterminator service spraying for cockroaches.

  14. It is shut, big Siezed signs all over. If the owner does read this blog, that show turned me off from ever going into any Fiesta restaurant. How showing spoiled food and raches helps word of mouth is beyond me

  15. Well, it comes as a suprise that Fiesta Sunrise is now part of the “Kitchen Nightmares” Curse. So far in the series, three restaurants have either been closed or sold.

    DO you think Kitchen Nightmares” will liove to see a Third Season? I doubt it.

  16. Joe,

    The show is about Kitchen Nightmares. Some of these places are too far gone to ever recover. Fiesta was one of those.

    I actually like watching the show. Its amusing.

  17. When half of all restaurant close after their first year of opening, and Kitchen Nightmares dealing with the worst of those, I’d say the record is stellar. Turning a single one of these places around for good would be not only more than they could have accomplished by themselves, but truly amazing even with the amount of help they are given.

  18. These people should be ashamed. That was the saddest excuse for a restaurant that I have seen yet on KN. The fact that they were all Mexican and couldn’t get their act together is amazing. I mean, what do they eat at home?

    Also. Those ladies should kick Vic to the curb. Obvious that he has no idea how to run a restaurant. Patti’s husband should have knocked that punk on his ass. $800k in debt? Dear God!

  19. kevin mcgirr on

    I have just seen the show here in the uk.Its a shame people dont do there jobs properly,what i saw was shocking.But people should have a second chance,i have had many over the years.Good luck to all Fiesta Sunrise.Kevin Mcgirr, Oxford England.11/04/09

  20. Like you Kev I’ve just watched it and believe it was the chefs / manager who were not doing the job properly. I really wish we had a few more decent Mexican places over here, its one aspect of international cuisine of which we see too little.

    The juniors in that place and the husband just didnt do enough for the place, its a shame the wife and daughter had to pay the price for their incompetent management.

    If as said above that they have closed its a true shame, considering the effort put in – lets hope the daughter and her husband have a more fortunate life and recover after that experience.

  21. My sis in Ireland also watched this episode on Channel 4. I took her there when she visited me in Orangeburg a couple of years ago. Now we know why the food didnt taste good – makes my skin crawl thinking about it!

  22. Every person in that town would have watched or at least heard about this episode. Who would EVER visit the place given what was shown (the filth, as much as the bad food)? I don’t think this guy deserved a second chance but there is no way back after Kitchen Nightmares has done a hatchet job.

    Crappy cooking is one thing, but WHY don’t these people clean their kitchens and chuck out mouldy food before Ramsay visits? It’s unbelievable

  23. Likewise saw the episode in the UK. Recently one of our newspapers did a story on Kitchen Nightmares and how quite a few have shut down since with some of the owners blaming Ramsay.

    But those restaurants were train wrecks before Ramsay came in, heavily in debt and heading for closure. A recession is hardly going to help either.

    Obviously a lot of the programme is cleverly edited and does the restaurant no favours to make Ramsay out as an all-conquering hero.

    But even so, his arrival gave them a boost, attracted new trade because of the fact a local restaurant would be on TV and gave them a chance of survival, however slim.

    From there on in it’s down to the owners to maintain standards both in and out of the kitchen.

    Sure, Ramsay did Sunrise Fiesta a lot of damage by exposing the shocking standards there but from what I saw he also did diners a massive favour and gave the owners the wake-up call they so desperately needed.

  24. A week of Gordon Ramsey in your failing restaurant is not going to turn a lousy restaurateur into a stellar one.

    If a restaurateur doesn’t have basic restaurant operations knowledge and high standards for food preparation, service, and cleanliness, nobody can save them. They shouldn’t be feeding the public.

    There is a basic responsibility when operating a restaurant to feed your guests fresh food that is vermin free. If you cant do that, get out of the business.

  25. If you search for the name of the restaurant and the word CLOSED, quite a few of Gordon’s Rescues havent worked. The Black Pearl for instance has closed due to the 3 owners feeling their heart wasnt in it, this Fiesta one has closed but that was due to Vic not paying taxes (apparently it opened again a couple of days later but now is closed again. Just check on some of these.

    Liz, as we are a little behind with the Kitchen Nightmares US here in the UK, can you confirm if this is still open?

    Kind Regards

  26. Paul - SCOTLAND on

    This show was just aired friday 10th April 2009 here in Scotland. I am of the same view where Vic and the Kitchen crew should have gone. I have worked in hospitality for more than 10yrs and it takes major incompetence to achieve that level of decay and infestation. Its a shame on the owners for what Vic has done however in the same respect they should have realised this much sooner.

  27. I have just watched the episode in the UK, and although yes the show is edited to show GR in a good light, and yes it may cause restaurants to close rather than save them, i am glad these restuarants are exposed, if i saw so much as one bug in a restaurant i would leave and never return, unfortunately for this restaurant the cleaners/cooks showed no signs of reforming, they should all have been fired and new ones hired, it takes some of the taint off the restaurant. But i just think it is unacceptable for paying customers to be served out of date, roach infested food by chefs who obviously have no hygiene, food safety or chef training. Salmonella can kill….i do believe in second chances but if these people let it get like that in the first place it could happen again, and although i feel for the mother and the daughter they must have had some idea of what the kitchen hygiene was like, they were not entirely blame free. Plus i would NOT allow anyone to get me £800 in debt before seriously questioning the person in charge of finances.

    Sorry for the rant, and i do feel regardless of KN’s these restaurants would have closed. Sometimes it is like he is trying to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted. Substandard food, competition, current financial climate and existing debt are too many factors.

    Rachel, England

  28. Paul, England on

    i would say it really depends on the reason for why Gordon Ramsey is called in as to why the restaurants failed after he left. Generally if the menu is poor but hygiene in the kitchen is good then once people try the new menu then it doesnt have too much of a negative effect for customers.
    But in this example Fiesta Sunrise had roaches and disgusting food, i wouldn’t go near a place like that again even if it looked like they had sorted the problem and it seems like most people feel the same way.
    Everyone knows that local restaurants can go up and down depending on the chef (i personally worked in a restaurant where one chef served excellent food but the other chef served crap that kept on getting sent back) so as long as the food is good people will come back. But Hygiene and cleanliness is something that people remember and if the owners cant keep a place clean once they probably won’t or can’t keep it clean after!

  29. Princess W on

    There is some talk about Vic and Yolanda being up in Stony Point with Fiesta Cancun. This does not surprise me. It is now safer to go to the Taco Bell in Haverstraw. I am convinced of that for sure. Yuck… that is all I have to say. They were probably there when we got the toasted shrimps and disgusting margarita.

  30. Taco taco buritto buritto.

    I’m gonna finger bang bang you into my life!

    YEAH

  31. 2008 the failure rate of a restaurant was at 75%
    do the math…of the establishments GR has attempted to revive(key word-REVIVE-these restaurants had basically already failed), 50% ultimately closed their doors.
    so is KN really a “curse”? not completely
    is it a golden touch for the restaurant? not completely
    the restaurants have the same fate with or without Ramsay’s make-over
    it does, however, make a good TV SHOW.

    ****i have to say that with the current economic status, credit crunch, and with as much debt all these restaurants had dug themselves into, i’m surprised they haven’t all closed

  32. I agree that Vic is useless as a Manager but it doesn’t say alot for the two female owners either. They were both more than happy for the blame to be passed to Vic, to a large extent rightfully so as he is the Manager, but as an investor, how about taking some time to ensure your investment thrives. If matters are not as they should be, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

  33. 1) psycologists should differenciate between ignorents, mental distorted, and mentally challenged people.

    Vic so far is clearly mentally challenged and should have been removed promtly from the restaurent. Unfortunaly both mother and daughter are weak investors who doesn’t enforce demands.

    2) we should teach kids in school about management, just a shame they waste time teaching so many other useless stuff.

  34. So true, HexHammer. There is so much we could be teaching our children in school. Spelling, grammar and punctuation were the first things to spring to mind when I read your post.

    Be that as it may, it’s been said before: These restaurants have, in essence, already failed. Those that survived did so because they were able to cope with the changes and adapt to GR’s advice and direction.

    As for those that shut?

    There’s an old myth that 90% of restaurants will fail in the first year. That’s really not true.

    According to H.G. Parsa, an Associate Professor in Ohio State University’s hospitality management program, his study in 2005 showed that about 1 in 4 restaurants close or change ownership within the first year. Over three years, it gets to be 1 in five. His findings correlate with similar research.

    The Small Business Administration and Bureau of Labor Statistics found a 60% failure rate.

    Given this information, and given that many of the establishments that GR went to help had been within their first five years of business, I find it hard to believe that GR’s visit would be anything but a brief boost of quick income to ride out the rest of the death of the business with a few of the bills actually paid.

    Finally, as comes to Fiesta Sunrise – if it were me, I’d just avoid any restaurant that’s got a name starting with “Fiesta.” It’d be smart for them to disassociate from the word “Fiesta,” but they’re doing the public a favor in keeping it. LOL

  35. Dont drop the ball now…. these inept owners took over Fiesta Cancun in Stony point and I think changed the name to Las Magaritas So if you go there it wont be the friendly Manuel who knows how to clean and cater to his guests… it will be the old Fiesta Sunrise mangement and what do you think will be going on in the kitchen now WITHOUT the cameras and lights???? yea, I think so too that is why I am warning all to stay away and hgead to Nanuet, rt 59 across from the car wash for the great food and hospitality you loved at the old fiesta cancun.

  36. Dave Mags: Someone should trace your IP and ban you. Why so deceptive?

    You know I would love to have my own restaurant. Been thinking about it for years, just don’t know where to begin as far as financing something like this.

    Then I see these places and it really makes me wonder how these people even get the money to run anything. Seriously, are these people loaded to begin with? What bank would put that kind of risk into financing failure after failure. To go into debt $850K, there has to be some money somewhere.

    Where does the money come from to pay the back taxes if they are that far into the hole? Oh, I get know, they serve week old food to save on expenses and take money that should have been spent on fresh ingredients and use that to keep the business running on empty.

  37. I liked this place for the short while it was open. Then again I didn’t get a tour of the kitchen… I can’t believe I missed this episode!
    As for Mexican food in Rockland, my old friend owns Fiesta Mexico in Orangeburg. They have a very good reputation. Once again, I have to give a shot out to “El Bandidto” in Spring Valley. 30+ years and counting, speaks for itself!

  38. mrtomkelty:

    nothing to worry about. someone posted under that name who wanted you to click on his name to see pics of what Fiesta Sunrise looked like now. However, this was a weak attempt to generate clicks for a psychic hotline website.

  39. Just saw this 15 Mar 2010 in Australia. That was by far the WORST KN restaurant I’ve ever seen. Vic was an utter jerk. What a slimy loser. And I feel sorry for the women, but really, I honestly can’t believe their lack of involvement in the business. It was made clear that Vic’s previous business failed, so I just can’t believe how stupid and naive they were to invest. Ridiculously stupid.

    I hear it’s closed – no surprise. That kitchen needed a great head chef to take charge, but they would have been too damn stupid to organize it I guess. And Vic was just a lazy jackass who would probably never change anyway. It wasn’t his money so why should he care?

    Someone commented here earlier about teaching management in school. I agree. It should be at least a good few weeks compulsory for every high school student. And to show what not to do in life, they should be forced to watch this episode!

    ps: My girlfriend wretched and almost threw-up when she saw the slimy chicken. I’m not joking. That was disgusting and an utter disregard for their customer’s health. Appalling.

  40. Ramsay is an excellent chef, great teacher, and one hell of a man’s man. But he is not God, he cant perform miracles, and as long as Vic is there that place is doomed.

  41. Scruffy the Janitor on

    interesting… just got done with the episode and really its no wonder it was close when EVERYTHING was wrong with the place and the bug spray cost Chef Ramsey valuable time… and even if he had say 3 more days to fix the place i’d bet money they wouldn’t have succeeded because the look on the customers faces on day 1-4 wer all appauld… and they didn’t even see everything! The point being the amount of damage Kitchen Nightmares does is minimal overall, but when its something everyone remembers and people at home are sickened by it, theirs no way in hell that that resteraunt is going to be sucessful no matter what you do. The cleanlyness of that resteraunt was appauling, and i believe if proper health inspections were run across the country we’d find places like this and shut them down long before this show aired, but too often i’ve seen were health inspector get paid to not notice certain things, don’t care, are conducted rarely and sparsely, and have lax standards to begin with that even worst than this show goes under the radar.

  42. Valerie Roeder on

    I’m watching this episode and wondered if this restaurant was still in business….apparently it isn’t….and small wonder!!!! I feel so sorry for the daughter whose credit was used, abused, and destroyed by her stepfather. But if he had a restaurant that he lost before, I wouldn’t have financed a new restaurant for him.

    I guess the first sign that the guy didn’t know what he was doing was the fact that he didn’t even change the old logo on the front of the restaurant. If you go to a restaurant and don’t know where you are…

    I can also understand why the women weren’t involved. In their culture, men consider that women don’t know what they’re doing and their opinions are inconsequential.

    What an awful kitchen! So that’s what cockroaches look like!!!

  43. Just saw this episode ON DEMAND and wow I felt like tossing my cookies part way through. That Vic character should be banned from ever running any sort of restaurant. So where are the health inspectors these days it is unbelievable what was going on in the kitchen. I really, really feel bad for the step daughter she really got screwed over! Wow just watching some of these shows makes me want to really avoid eating out although as twisted as it seems at the same time I feel like eating some Mexican food. It would be at a good and healthy place though.;)

  44. Vic is a pig on

    I just saw a repeat of this episode on bbca… Vic is a retarded pig! Please tell me this guy isn’t involved in any other restaurants. Hopefully he was deported!

    I saw on other blogs something about him being arrested? Was that true?

    Once a pig, always a pig.

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