Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is set to breathe new life into El Cantito Cafe, a Puerto Rican restaurant in Yonkers, as part of his revived “Kitchen Nightmares” series. Scheduled to air on Monday, Nov. 13th, the episode will showcase Ramsay’s efforts to help the new restaurant owners overcome challenges brought about by the pandemic–and turn their dream into a successful community restaurant.
In March 2020, just before COVID-19 caused widespread restaurant restrictions, El Cantito Cafe’s owners, siblings Julio and Adelvi Santana, opened the eatery. The menu boasts authentic Puerto Rican cuisine; featuring dishes like empanadas, trifongo, pork chops, and mofongo de yuca. The pair dedicated the restaurant as a tribute to their late mother, Gloria Santana, who passed away 13 years ago. All of the recipes served are hers, and demonstrate the Santanas’ strong connection to their mother and Puerto Rican roots.
Genuine Flavors and Streamlined Operations
In El Cantito’s first three years operations, they have experienced financial strain caused by the pandemic. They sought out alternative ways to attract customers and increase cashflow, including hosting drag shows. However, that move resulted in swift cancellation due to licensing issues.
Despite facing critiques from Ramsay, El Cantito Cafe garnered praise for its genuine and robust Puerto Rican flavors. Visitors online have commended the restaurant’s amazing and fresh food.
Puerto Rican food in Yonkers is hard to find, so don’t bypass this place up the block from the Will Library. My friend said, ‘it was a taste of yesterday’ that brought her back to her grandmother’s cooking.Linda B., Yonkers (Yelp Review)
Return of Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares
The episode featuring El Cantito Cafe is part of the eighth season of “Kitchen Nightmares.” It marks the return of the popular show after almost a decade on hiatus. The series follows Ramsay as he works with struggling restaurateurs to revitalize their businesses.
Ramsay, who filmed in Yonkers in June, implemented operational changes and a comprehensive remodel of El Cantito’s interior. While specific details are kept under wraps until the episode airs, the Santanas emphasized their positive relationship with Ramsay and their satisfaction with the end result. The changes included streamlining the menu, introducing new kitchen appliances, and organizing both the front-of-house and kitchen systems.
The Santanas focus heavily on preserving the authenticity of Gloria Santana’s recipes, with Ramsay providing guidance on operational efficiency rather than altering the traditional dishes. Despite the emotional challenges of the transformation, the siblings felt pleased with the outcomes.
He didn’t touch my food […] he just guided me on how to be successful with what I was doing.Julio Santana