Lela’s Gets a Fox Reality Facelift

By Lisa Rose Weis

To viewers of the Fox Reality TV show, “Hell’s Kitchen,”
celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey may seem like the boss from hell. His
constant yelling and sometimes unachievable expectations have
earned Ramsey a reputation for being one of the meanest characters
on reality television. However, Thursday night Ramsey proved that
his onscreen persona is just that, a character.

Amidst a crowd of photographers, television crews and Pomona
Mayor Norma Torres, Ramsey saved a small Pomona cafe from imminent
closure. On Thursday night the celebrity chef unveiled the changes
he made to Lela’s restaurant that is located in the Arts Colony of
downtown Pomona.

The restaurant opened in August and since that time has had
trouble filling the tables.

Enter Gordon Ramsey. On the show “Kitchen Nightmares,” Ramsey
travels through the country saving restaurants that are close to
failure. Think extreme home make-over for businesses. Lela’s is one
of the restaurant’s receiving a Ramsey facelift.

According to the restaurant’s Web site, the goal of Lela’s was
to serve international cuisine at American prices. Ramsey’s first
order of business was to change the mission of the small cafe.

“I had to come in here and say, ‘Look, no one is going to spend
$27.50 on a meal in Pomona. You want to have people who come in
here once a week for a hamburger rather than once a month on
special occasions,'” said Ramsey.

Ramsey worked with the owner Lela Guillen and her staff for one
week. He revamped everything from the artwork hanging on walls to
the menu.

The new menu has nachos and burgers to appeal to a younger,
hipper crowd. With 21 simple items, the menu is no longer
intimidating to the target audience, college students. The crowning
achievement of Ramsey’s reconstructed menu is the homegrown Pomona
salad and the Pomona burger. The salad consists of butter spinach,
beans, and fried chicken, foods that Guillen and Ramsey deemed
culturally and agriculturally important to the region.

“It worked with the Nicoise salad in France,” said Ramsey.

When creating the menu, Ramsey used ingredients found locally.
He visited the Tuesday night farmer’s market and wanted to build
the menu around food that represented the area.

“Downtown Pomona is so vibrant and young,” said Ramsey. “I
wanted the restaurant to have that feeling and the food needs to
reflect the lifestyle.”

Lela’s executive chef Ricky Brewer said at first it was a hard
having Ramsey come in and tell them everything they were doing
wrong. But he knew they needed a change and he looks forward to the
future of Lela’s.

“The Pomona burger is the best burger I’ve ever tasted,” said
Brewer. “I’m excited to get more people in here to enjoy it.”

Not everyone was as pleased with Ramsey’s intervention.

“He’s kind of mean,” said Vanessa Morales, a part-time waitress
who has worked at Lela’s since it opened. Still, Morales does admit
that the change brought more people in.

Mean or not, all 19 tables were full of happy diners for the
reopening of Lela’s.

Armed with its new menu, logo and mission, Lela’s looks poised
for success.

Lisa Rose Weis can be reached by e-mail at arts@thepolypost.com
or by phone at (909) 869-3744.

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