Welcome to Eating...Our Words' Bartender Chat, in which we sit down with local bartenders and get to know their style. Whether they're slinging beers or mixing complex cocktails, bartenders are our buddies and confidants, but now we're turning the tables and the camera on them to find out what they're passionate about and what makes them some of Houston's best.
|Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg|
|Craig Mickle pours a drink in the new and improved Gratifi.|
This time last year, Gratifi Kitchen + Bar wasn't doing too well, and owner Kevin Strickland will be the first to tell you.
"A year ago, I changed the name," Strickland explains. "I was done with Ziggy's Healthy Grill. We changed the name and the menu, and it just wasn't happening. Making change here was so difficult."
Trying to keep the flailing restaurant running put Strickland in debt -- majorly, as he admits on the latest episode of the Food Network's Restaurant Impossible, which aired this past Wednesday. If you missed it, it's airing again Monday at 1 p.m. and the following Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Sad, tired and frustrated, Strickland applied to be on the restaurant makeover show, which ended up coming to Houston to give Gratifi a hand back in January.
"It was more than I expected," Strickland admits. "I expected it to be intense, and it was more so. The part I didn't take into account was that they literally threw me out. I couldn't come into the restaurant. It was very disorienting. So I hovered."
Strickland says even his hovering was an issue, as he was constantly being yelled at by producers for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He expected the show's zero-tolerance host, Robert Irvine, to be difficult, but he hadn't anticipated so much yelling from the producers.
"You do feel exploited," Strickland says. "Here's the kicker, though: When you watch TV shows like the Real Housewives, you always think, why do those people do it? Why would you always want to be caught saying such stupid things? And now I understand it. You get used to the attention. For three days, I was the center of the universe. After they left, I was like, what about me? Now I understand. You get sucked into that."More »