The owner of a Sydney cafe that has lost thousands after a disastrous makeover by Channel 7’s Kitchen Nightmares Australia has pledged to keep the program changes as he slams his celebrity chef host over his proposed ‘simple fix’.
Virginia Cheong, owner of new Lebanese homebush restaurant Cafe Tabouli – formerly Cafe de Vie – has reached out to the network and host Colin Fassnidge for support, saying she is determined “to make it work” despite suffering a massive financial hit claimed for their business since the overhaul.
In a surprise move after days of public controversy since Ms Cheong first spoke out about the changes, the owner has invited Fassnidge to visit the restaurant to “see how we’re doing” and pledged to keep the changes , which they believe has caused them to lose thousands in trading every week.
The cafe owner says she’s fed up with the hurtful messages and is determined to “do my best”, telling news.com.au she’s starting to find her feet and has “no regrets”.
Ms Cheong has also revealed to news.com.au how much her business has suffered since making a crucial change proposed by Fassnidge – and subsequently downplayed – and what it would cost to undo it.
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According to Ms. Cheong, the program’s decision to move her coffee maker away from a corner where she could serve passers-by sapped a large chunk of her weekly income.
“We drank between 30 and 38 kg of coffee per week on average. In the first week it dropped to 5 kg. Maybe a little more around 7kg the second week,” she told news.com.au earlier this week.
“We lost $4,000 in the second week, so we made a few thousand dollars, but that’s about it. We couldn’t go any further.
“So it was constantly down, down for almost two months.”
But Fassnidge, who channeled the format’s founder Gordon Ramsay, reached out to Nova FM Fitzy & Wippa show on Tuesday this week to defend his transformation.
“It was a Chinese owned cafe that served terrible middle eastern bread and Italian food. It also lost,” the chef said.
As for the problem with the coffee maker? Quite simply, according to Fassnidge – move.
“(Her) husband is a tiler and his wages kept the cafe running. So this thing that they’re losing all this money because we moved the coffee maker, mate — push the coffee maker back,” he told the radio show.
Ms Cheong now told news.com.au the solution would not be that simple and predicted tens of thousands of dollars worth of work to get the coffee maker back to where it was.
“Colin explained in his radio interview that I should respond and put the machine position back to where it was originally – I’m not sure if he’s aware I’d have to install brand new cabinetry, electrical and plumbing, between 10,000 and 15 US dollars would cost k,” she told news.com.au.
“With the amount of debt we’re getting, we can’t afford it.”
But despite Fassnidge’s harsh words – who described Ms Cheong off-camera as “quite adorable” – the owner says she has no regrets about being part of the program, nor does she harbor any bad feelings towards Fassnidge or Channel 7 about the Transformation.
Determined to make it work, Ms Cheong said she would appreciate the continued support or advice from the network and Fassnidge.
“Come out and see how we’re doing, we did what you told us to do and I want it to work,” she said.
“I lack the skills to provide a traditional Lebanese experience.
“I’ve asked for help, I’m getting Zoom lessons from chefs in Lebanon and I’ve hired a Lebanese food consultant.”
Despite apparent friction between Ms. Cheong and the show in recent days and a subsequent spate of hate mail, Cafe Tabouli is determined to make it work.
“I feel the messages are hurtful and not good for anyone’s mental health,” Ms. Cheong said.
“The hard work is starting to pay off. I now feel confident with our menu.
“I struggled with the concept for a while and now I think I’ve found my way.
“I was asked if I regret going on the show. My answer is no because I have no regrets.
“I want to find out. I don’t give up without trying my best.”
Her establishment, Cafe de Vie, appeared in an episode of nightmares in the kitchen last week. It aired five months after celebrity Fassnidge revamped it for the show, which aims to reverse the trajectory of underperforming restaurants.
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