‘Restaurant: Impossible’ starts Gusanoz rebuild
By Claire Groden, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, May 4, 2012
Food Network chef Robert Irvine and a team of designers will descend on Gusanoz Mexican Restaurant in Lebanon today to film an episode of “Restaurant: Impossible.” Over the course of two days, the team — aided by about 45 Dartmouth students — will revamp the “failing” restaurant with only $10,000, according to associate producer Erin Hilgedick.
Gusanoz applied to participate in the show and was chosen based on a variety of factors, including the menu, staff and owners’ personalities, Hilgedick said.
“One of the biggest things is that we’re really looking for people who have the will to change,” she said, adding that Gusanoz had both a need and a desire for change.
“Restaurant: Impossible” will revamp the restaurant in every area needing improvement, from the physical space to the menu. Hilgedick said that solutions for past restaurants have included changing the menu items, updating employee uniforms, running an employee boot camp and redesigning the restaurant. To facilitate the physical aspect of the renovations, a team of about 45 volunteers from the College will work in shifts ranging from six to eight hours on Friday and Saturday.
“There’s so much work on the design side, we always need more hands,” Hilgedick said.
She said that the show reached out to the College, especially to those interested in production, to give students new opportunities and experiences.
The show’s call for volunteers resulted in the “most students ever interested” compared to any other episode filmed near a college campus, Hilgedick said. Although the show initially took students on a first come, first served basis, it had to decline some students’ offers, as the number of interested students exceeded the spaces available, she said. Students will perform a wide variety of tasks, mostly manual, such as painting, cleaning and decorating and other creative exercises.
Roanna Wang ’13, who will be volunteering on Friday from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., said she is participating because of the uniqueness of the opportunity, as well as her appreciation for the Food Network.
“It will be interesting to get an inside view of what the restaurant actually looks like before and after,” she said. “I feel they probably exaggerate how bad a restaurant is beforehand. I also want to see how staged the whole process is.”
Yan Fan ’11, another volunteer who will work on Friday from 1 p.m. until 2 a.m., said she volunteered to help because she is a fan of the show. She added that it would be an especially interesting episode because of many Dartmouth students’ familiarity of Gusanoz.
Although students will continue to help with the renovations until Saturday evening, the owners will be asked to leave in the middle of the first day and not return until Saturday, the restaurant’s re-opening night, Hilgedick said. The re-opening night has already been completely booked, according to Hilgedick.
So far, “Restaurant: Impossible” has been “pretty successful” with restaurant survival rates, she said. The show has about a 94 percent success rate, with “only a couple” restaurants closed after they underwent the revamping.
There had previously been a second Gusanoz restaurant in Hanover, but it was closed last year due to a lack of consistent business.
Due to a confidentiality agreement in place until five days after the episode airs, the owners of Gusanoz were not able to comment on the show.