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.