Saturday 17th April 2021,

“Restaurant: Impossible” Episode Was Not a Reflection of the Urban Roots I Know

“Restaurant: Impossible” Episode Was Not a Reflection of the Urban Roots I Know

I get it. It’s reality TV. It’s designed to overdramatize, sensationalize, scandalize and tell other kinds of lies. It’s just saddening and maddening when it happens at the expense of someone you know and love. Such was the case for me while watching the Restaurant: Impossible episode last night featuring my beloved Urban Roots.

Let’s start with the description of the episode on the Food Network’s website:

“Chef Robert Irvine is in Oklahoma City to help Chaya and Michael, the owners of Urban Roots, a failing restaurant and entertainment venue. While there’s a lot of potential in the space, the food is thrown together, the staff isn’t pulling their weight and Chaya’s passion for cooking has gone out the window. Robert’s best hope for turning the business around is to get someone to help Chaya with the day-to-day operations and get her heart back in the kitchen.”

Once again, I get it. I won’t even begin with trying to describe what’s wrong with this statement. I don’t have enough time. I’ll just say that it is not a reflection of the Urban Roots I know, even before Captain Save-A-Nigga showed up from the Food Network to “turn the business around.” I’ve seen failing restaurants before. They don’t look like what I experience at Urban Roots. I can’t address the staff situation because I’m not privy to the ins and outs behind the scenes, but Chaya’s passion has always seemed very much alive and well to me.

I have always enjoyed the food at Urban Roots. The real problem with Urban Roots is that people, particularly us-folk, don’t buy the food at Urban Roots. We sit around and get entertained by live music, art and poetry, and then we turn around and leave. Musicians have to beg so-called patrons to eat or even drink during their performances. Even the tip jar is embarrassingly empty at the end of most nights. Everyone is quick to shout out Urban Roots on social media nowadays, but shout outs don’t pay the bills.

So in comes Chef Robert Irvine. I get it. His approach is to supposedly show tough love. My problem is that there’s a difference between showing tough love and being an asshole. Chef Robert Irvine, for the most part, was just being an asshole. At one particular moment as he barked at Chaya, I found myself talking to the television. “Who the fuck you talking to, son?” Then it got even worse. As he sat criticizing his meal, at one point he dramatically threw a biscuit against the wall to demonstrate how hard it was. I get it. It just came off like a spoiled child having a tantrum.

Sure, Urban Roots has its problems, plenty of them (yes, folks, in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been done for a while with flowery articles that make everyone sound like their shit doesn’t stink), but to see Chaya in tears on the episode was particularly heart wrenching for me. Urban Roots is Urban Roots, and we never see Chaya like that. Granted, we do not see everything, and there are bound to be frustrations when you are at the helm of a ship that occasionally veers off course. It just seemed to me like Chaya’s frustration was more at the Food Network chef’s treatment of her than at the staff or the business. As Chaya said on the episode: “I’m not used to being this angry. I don’t get angry. I’m really good about keeping my cool.” Yes you are Chaya, and we appreciate that about you. Stay exactly as you are. It’s working.

There were some lighter moments on the show. As Chef Irvine put it down on the grill, Prince Mason’s “party in my mouth” moment was particularly priceless. Seeing Adam & Kizzie get some national shine was a beautiful thing. Despite the chef behaving badly, hopefully the episode will attract new patrons to Urban Roots and bring back some old ones as well.

On the positive side, some cosmetic changes were made that have definitely enhanced the Urban Roots experience. Some of the menu changes are wonderful. Some old favorites are gone. I’m still lamenting the departure of my beloved Crispy Things, one of the few true vegetarian options on the old Urban Roots menu. The Roasted Beet Salad offers some consolation, but I wouldn’t be mad if Crispy Things were to come back. Just my opinion. By and large, however, Urban Roots feels essentially the same as before. In my opinion, that’s not a bad thing at all. In Chaya’s own words, “this absolutely represents my vision for Urban Roots.” we’re all happy about that. Now if we would only support the vision, and by support I mean eat and drink there and not just hold up the walls, it can live and thrive. Urban Roots’ biggest problem is that the establishment is too small. That too can ultimately be addressed if we get behind the business with our support.

And for his part, Chef Robert Irvine can take his brand of reality TV somewhere else. Don’t you ever do my people like that. Oooooh.

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About The Author

Brian C Scott is the founder and Executive Editor of Culturocity. He is an author, poet and stage actor. He is a true lover of the arts in all forms, as well as a staunch advocate for the African American community. He is also a professional software engineer with over 24 years of industry experience. He holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Information Systems. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he resides in Edmond, Oklahoma.


  1. Andy April 10, 2014 at 9:34 am

    I was greatly impressed by Urban Roots on the show. Usually Irvine screams and is overly hostile. There was no real drama in this episode. The owners were kind and there was no conflict. The kitchen was spotless and showed no signs of neglect. Usually on this show there is some horrible heath code violation.
    I have not eaten at Urban Roots. I have driven by with the intent several times but they were not open. I am hoping to get there in the near future as chicken and waffles are on the top of my favorite foods list.

  2. kaye April 10, 2014 at 11:08 am

    Because of that show last night I will definitely be coming to urban roots to eat. Looked delicious!

  3. L. White April 10, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    I didnt see the episode your article refers too, but I hav seen the show. I look at his attitude toward the people asking for help IS meant to get them angry and fired up. Not for the sake of ratings (it does help), but to help them find or rediscover their passio . If a person’s heart isn’t in their work, it shows.

    Personally, I wasnt aware that Urban Roots was a restaurant. When I hear mention of Urban Roots, the word poetry is tied to it. I’ve been to a poetry reading and was very pleased with my experience. While there I did notice a small menue and when I inquired about an item, I was told they were out of a few things. The impression I was left with was a limited quantity of food would be prepared during the readings and once out, that’s all. The person behind the counter did tell me they served lunch during the week. I stopped by at a later date, only to find their placed closed. This confirmed my first impression that Urban Roots was not a restaurant.

  4. Susan April 11, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Urban Roots asked Restaurant Impossible to come help them out. How many restaurants would love to be chosen to get the kind of help Robert Irvine and Restaurant Impossible can give? A lot. I’m guessing the Urban Roots owners were familiar with how Irvine works. I assume they’ve seen Restaurant Impossible before, no? Irvine pushes people to get a reaction out of them. Yes, those reactions make for good TV and this is something I think most people in this day and age would expect to experience when they apply to be part of a reality show, but pushing for reactions also gets people to feel something other than defeat. How lovely for Mr. Irvine, he gets called to come help people who know what his show is like and then gets dissed and called names for doing exactly what he always does in every episode of his show for years.

    • Brian C Scott April 11, 2014 at 11:26 am

      I didn’t call him. That’s for sure. I also never watched his show before. Is that a prerequisite for forming an opinion of what I witnessed? I watched the show. This is my perception of what I saw. Rude is rude. Just because someone does it all the time or is asked for help doesn’t change that fact. Hopefully there is a positive outcome from the show airing. I would still question whether the end justifies the means.

  5. Susan April 11, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Yes, I think being familiar with a show should be a prerequisite if someone plans to condemn that show’s methods and call people names in a public forum, but such is the internet. Disclosure: I’m a Restaurant Impossible fan and watch quite a bit. Mr. Irvine was mild with Urban Roots. To be honest, there weren’t nearly as much emotional fireworks in this episode as usual. I understand that you didn’t like seeing your friend cry, but your friend asked to be on the program and as I said before, I assume she knew what she was getting herself into. I could be wrong. I didn’t think Mr. Irvine was mean spirited at all. Now, Chef Gordon Ramsey…HE can be mean and disrespectful. I loved the remodel that Urban Roots received from RI. Beautiful. As an OKC dweller, I had no idea Urban Roots was a restaurant. I’ve passed by it, but didn’t know what it was. When I saw the RI episode I wanted to call up friends and go visit it right away, so….great exposure and I hope they do well. They seem like great people.

    • Brian C Scott April 11, 2014 at 11:51 am

      The previous history of how someone communicates is no justification for their treatment of someone. There are a lot of things that have happened historically that have needed to end, although many would disagree. There is definitely a way to offer constructive criticism to a person in a helpful manner without being disrespectful to them. The fact that it may be mild in comparison to how he has treated others in the past is also no justification. If it works for the establishment, great. If they got what they wanted, wonderful. I still didn’t care for his treatment of Chaya at times. I am very much entitled to convey that opinion. I am not a representative of Urban Roots. I am a viewer. I wasn’t aware that one couldn’t watch a program and form an opinion unless he or she had seen every prior episode. What I am very familiar with is Urban Roots. It is a wonderful establishment. I hope you decide to visit.

  6. Susan April 11, 2014 at 11:59 am

    I will definitely visit. I was soooo excited that RI was doing it’s thing in OKC. And yes, you are entitled to your opinion, of course, but it’s not like Irvine walked in uninvited and started tossing his weight around. He was asked to come by your friends who knew what he did, so I don’t understand the vitriol directed toward Irvine.

  7. Lisa Brown April 11, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    I watch Restaurant Impossible a lot and his tough love, to me, was verbalizing some of the desires of Chaya that may have needed to be addressed out loud. (They did apply to be on the show) I thought this was “very light” because I have seen him really go off on non-Blacks, so I disagree with that part. He does carry on like a “boot camp” sometimes. Some of those others really needed that type of treatment to get their act together. If she was truly doing all that, she did need some help and support.

    I do want to commend Urban Roots that they did not have the cleanliness, stealing and sabotage that some of the other restaurants have. It was great to see her husband supporting her all the way and wanting her dream for her and the light put back in her eyes. Sometimes, we do need to rekindle the fire in all things. I haven’t been there but I do want to go….soon. I hope the “makeover” works for them both. She was smiling in the end…and seeing their sons enjoying it too, made it Restaurant Possible for them.

  8. Kim April 13, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    Mr.Scott, I disagree with your take on this situation. I think you have forgotten that it is Urban Roots that called Restaurant Impossible to come in and help, not the other way around. While reality TV must dramatize reality, it is still reality. And I don’t think you can assume Robert Irvine’s treatment of anyone at Urban Roots is motivated by anything other than ratings and a passion for the business. From what I’ve seen, he treats everyone, regardless of their roots, the same. With drama. With tough love. But with compassion. Reality TV style. He wants them to succeed. It’s a win-win situation. I was touched by Urban Roots’ story and passion. I wish them well and would love to visit them if and when I ever make it to Oklahoma. Hope to see you there.

  9. Brian Campbell April 19, 2014 at 8:14 am

    Interesting play on the race-card when someone is trying to help save a failing business. Yes, your friends (some friend!) business was failing. The RI crew works their asses off for these businesses along with volunteers from the community. The “rudeness” that you perceived was merely Robert trying to get Chaya worked up enough to confront her staff, something her former manager would have done. Injecting racial comments into your opinion seems out of place, especially if you’ve made any effort to watch previous episodes of the show, wouldn’t you agree? And before you repeat it, of course everyone has a right to their opinion, no matter how asinine it may be.

    • Brian C Scott April 19, 2014 at 12:25 pm

      I assume by “play on the race-card” you meant my referring to the beloved chef as Captain Save-A-Nigga. Those familiar with our vernacular understood exactly what I meant. Context is important here. Irvine could have been black as midnight and I would have used the same term, which in my opinion is slightly friendlier than the exponentially more popular “Captain Save-A-Ho.” The emphasis is on the saving aspect, unless you put it somewhere else as you have chosen to do. You’re defending what hasn’t even been prosecuted. Familiarity with a culture goes a long way when criticizing their manner of communicating. I don’t have much familiarity with the show. Being very familiar with Urban Roots, however, I can state that it was far from failing. That is due to the owners and the community. As for her former manager, if you think Robert Irvine really came in, waved a magic wand, and Zulu magically reappeared, you are delusional. If you were a part of this community, you would have known that and found it laughable when the good chef brought him in. It was a farcical moment. As I stated at the outset, I get it. It makes for interesting television, and obviously for spirited debate as well. You’re familiar with Irvine’s way of doing things. I’m familiar with Urban Roots. You speak of making an effort to watch previous episodes of a show. Perhaps you should make an effort to understand the history of an establishment and a community of people before leveling criticism at them for setting the record straight.

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