Chelsea seafood shack The Black Pearl is now closed, following a failed relocation from the East Village and a completely brutalizing attempt by Gordon Ramsay to "save it," via his Kitchen Nightmares show. The Black Pearl space is being taken over by MePa dive classic The Hog Pit, of course. But, before Black Pearl proprietors David, Greg and Brian fade into obscurity, they've got a little something about Gordon Ramsay they want to get off their chests. Gentlemen, you have the talking stick.
Well, after three years, we have fried our last clam and shucked our last oyster. On October First, we sold our lease and fixtures to someone who may be better equipped to handle the exceedingly high cost of doing business in New York City.
As you may know, in February, we filmed an episode of Kitchen Nightmares, at our restaurant, hoping for the best. We were naive, believing that the show was at least somewhat honest; we truly felt we could learn something from that jerk, and we anticipated a solid boost in sales from the publicity. The sad fact is, from the beginning, it was clear that the show was a joke. From the very first day they were initiated, the changes Gordy Ramsay made were ridiculed by the press, hated by our regular customers and were the direct cause of a 50% drop in revenues. And, we were never able to recover financially.
Our hope was that we would benefit from the publicity of participating in that horrid "reality tv" series, but the promised air-date of May 2008 turned out to be a lie, and we were not able to sustain ourselves until the end of September, when it was finally broadcast, especially with the damage inflicted upon us by the producers and star of KN. While the partners certainly weren't on the best of terms, I do admit that we exaggerated the issues we displayed on the show in order to convince the producers to feature our restaurant, but during the week of filming in February, it became clear that the show was a complete sham. KN is simply a series of set-ups staged to illustrate situations that fit their script, and, as you would expect, their expert editors tell only half the story--the part that makes their star shine brightest. All of my brilliant and pointed comebacks were left on the cutting-room floor! Darn the luck!
In fact, Gordo's menu changes were horrible, and mirrored the buffet offerings of a cruise ship in the 1950s--lobster bearnaise? Shrimp Louis with green goddess dressing? His ideas were laughable, and proved to be utter failures; his "innovations" had nothing to do with our concept of a New England Lobster Shack--something he clearly knows nothing about. For God's sake, he thinks the Canadian and Maine lobster are two different species! Maybe he thinks Canadian lobsters have an accent--"butter, eh?"
Finally, his big design change, the lobster arcade game, was nothing short of asinine. After the filmed "grand re-opening dinner" (attended by actors, we learned, who responded to the producers' Craigslist ad and were instructed to order the new Gordy Ramsay special!), very few ever ordered the lobster bearnaise again. And who can blame them? Greasy potatoes, buckets of oil, egg and butter . . . nice one, Gordo; real good idea.
But what really sealed our fate was his bastardization of our award-winning lobster roll. To "improve" upon our recipe, he cut the amount of lobster in half, added lemon, lettuce, celery, salt and pepper and way too much mayo. Of course, it didn't work. It served us right for allowing a potty-mouthed teabag to mess with our New England cuisine. We should have taken a page out of history, revolted and sent him packing and bleeding back to King George.
Anyway, enough sour grapes. While I hope Gordo meets an untimely death so that I can dance on his grave, it is time to move on.
The point is, we would like to thank you all for your support during our brief time operating what we thought was the best seafood shack in New York. My partners and I really did care about everything we offered at Black Pearl. From the inception, we did our best to keep the concept pure. We made every effort to be fair to our customers, our staff and ourselves. We remember fondly those crazy nights with Sherry Vine, Sean Lynch's Rat Pack Revue, the Rasta Christmas parties, and the brilliant musings of pianist Tommy Mandel. We were lucky to have you all aboard. And, of course, we thank our loyal staff for all their hard work, especially Heru, Charles, Lana, Lisa and Steve.
Perhaps we'll do it again (sound of my partner's bullets whizzing by my head), I don't know. If we do, we'll be sure to spread the word. For now, we'll take advantage of the new-found holes in our schedules to relax with our families and friends.
Love and best fishes,
David, Greg and Brian
· The Shutter: Even Gordon Ramsay Can't Save the Black Pearl [~E~]
Update: David Leonard writes us, with a request to clarify that this letter did not come from him directly.