A 'total shock': Food Network's 'Restaurant: Impossible' remodels Balanced Chef in Rome

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The Food Network show "Restaurant: Impossible" features renowned chef Robert Irvine traveling across the country fixing restaurants to save them from failing. In November 2022, it was time for The Balanced Chef in Rome to go under Irvine's scrutiny.

Over the course of three days starting Nov. 9, Irvine and a crew of staff and volunteers from the area and as far as New York City or Rochester were all hands on deck and completely remodeled the space. The upgrades were unveiled in a grand reopening.

Watch the episode at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 23, on Food Network.

Earlier in 2022, Brian Donovan applied to be featured in the show after coming across a Facebook post on the Food Network's page following challenges derived from health issues, the COVID pandemic, and increased costs.

The Balanced Chef in Rome will be featured in an episode of Food Network's Restaurant: Impossible, hosted by celebrity chef Robert Irvine. The episode will air sometime next spring.
The Balanced Chef in Rome will be featured in an episode of Food Network's Restaurant: Impossible, hosted by celebrity chef Robert Irvine. The episode will air sometime next spring.

"Shock" is what Donovan said he felt when filming of the episode was confirmed 20 days in advance.

"I knew what I was signing up for, kind of to be slaughtered, you know, on national TV," he said. "But I was okay with it because I knew what the outcome would be."

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Donovan said he "took many hits to the chin," from Irvine, but said he agreed with most of the chef's feedback.

Filming 'Restaurant: Impossible' in Rome

While the three days of shooting the episode were long, Donovan said the Food Network team was kind and informed him about what to expect each day. Now that Donovan has met Irvine in person, he said he was the same off camera as on camera — including the screaming.

The first day, the restaurant had a full dining room, Donovan explained, and Irvine watched and "nitpicked" at everything: the food, the timing, and the customer service.

"The first tasting, which was when the restaurant was the way it was before was brutal, you know. He just picked apart my food, spat it out in front of me, he told me that I'm a failure, you know, in a dining room full of people," Donovan said. "It is crazy, but I don't want him to treat me differently than someone else, I want the raw, real experience. If I'm not going to take this rocket that he set up for me, and, you know, go up to space like he said, again, then I have only myself to blame."

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Focused on 'quality, not quantity'

Despite the criticism, Donovan said it had been "an unbelievable experience." The eatery will switch from a breakfast and lunch restaurant to offering a lunch and dinner menu with in-person dining.

The space has received a total facelift, which includes a new cash register area, new tables and chairs to add seating capacity, a remodeled kitchen, and a new menu that focuses on "quality, not quantity."

Some of the dishes featured in the episode that the restaurant has added to the menu are a couscous royale made with chicken, zucchini, chickpea stew and herb yogurt; a chimichurri steak sandwich or pan-seared salmon with spaghetti squash, brussel sprouts and coconut red curry.

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"At the end, I wouldn't trade anything because the menu that they gave me, not only is it absolutely delicious, but our staff said it was very easy to execute and they're excited to cook it," Donovan said.

Donovan is seeking staff to help with the new phase as well as investors who can support the future of The Balanced Chef.

"Since Food Network has been here, it's still like a total shock," he said. "Like even digesting what they did, it's kind of like a dream."

If you go

  • Where: 242 W Dominick St., Rome

  • Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday

  • Phone: 315-356-7129

Maria M. Silva covers food, drink and culture in the Mohawk Valley for the Observer-Dispatch. Email her at mariamsilva@gannett.com or follow her on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Observer-Dispatch: 'Restaurant Impossible' films episode at The Balanced Chef in Rome NY