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Maggie's Farm owners talk about Thursday's 'Restaurant Divided' episode

Richard Gorelick

The Baltimore Sun

7:50 AM EST, November 7, 2013

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Baltimore's own Maggie's Farm will be featured on tonight's night's episode of  "Restaurant Divided," a new Food Network show hosted by Rocco DiSpirito

The episode premieres at 10 p.m. on the Food Network.

The show, which debuted in September, is a variation of the popular reality-show concept in which an expert or team of experts swoops in to help a struggling business.

In "Restaurant Divided," the restaurant is literally divided into side-by-side concepts, which are judged by what publicity materials describe as "real customers and real critics." Then, DiSpirito decides which concept the battling owners should use.

In the case of Maggie's Farm, there are three owners: longtime boyfriend and girlfriend Andrew Weinzirl and Laura Marino, and business partner Matthew Weaver. The threesome bought the Chameleon Cafe from Jeff Smith last spring but kept the old name for several months before re-christening the Lauraville restaurant Maggie's Farm.

Even after the name change, Maggie's Farm stuck with the Chameleon's basic farm-to-table concept.  The changeover was well received, the owners say, but there was a problem. They weren't making enough money. The owners agreed about this, but not on how to change the restaurant, or how quickly.

"With three owners, nobody is anybody’s boss," Marino said. "We all had ideas, and we were all headed in different directions."

It was Weaver who replied to the Food Network "casting notice" looking for troubled restaurants.

The producers responded, and after a series of Skype interviews with the producers, the owners learned they had been chosen.

The owners said the taping was not what they were expecting.

"I thought we were getting a week off," Marino said about the taping schedule, which effectively shuts down the restaurant. "We were busy the whole time."

Weinzirl and Marino said they were both impressed with the amount of taping that went into what would end up as a one-hour show, and with the crew's professionalism in general.

And they were happy that the respect seemed to be mutual.

"They didn't make us redo things," Marino said. "They didn't try to trap us or create problems."

And they were relieved that the producers, and DiSpirito, didn't disparage Weinzirl's food.

"The reasons why we were on the show were business-related," Weinzirl said. "It was not because of the food. The show is about whether we might fall short as business people."

Weinzirl said he was happy to have DiSpirito's support.

"It was validating for me and Sarah to have somebody who has the stature of Rocco DiSpirito appreciate our food," Weinzirl said. "He was genuine. He talked to us when the cameras weren’t rolling in the same way he did on camera."

Diners can make reservations (recommended but not required) at Maggie's Farm for tonight up until 8:30 p.m. After that the owners and staff -- and anyone else who wants to come along -- will be watching the show at a party to be held at Freddie's Ale House, 7209 Harford Road.