Sights and sounds from Gordon Ramsay's video crew for "24 Hours to Hell and Back" filming volunteers staging a clean up of Ellicott City.
Just before 5 p.m. Tuesday, Mark Hemmis walked through the doors of his Phoenix Emporium at the base of Main Street in Ellicott City. Inside the long-standing and beloved restaurant and bar, all the tables and chairs had been removed.
A few minutes later, a television crew hurriedly led a group of volunteers that had been sweeping the streets, laying mulch and washing benches down Main Street to assemble beneath the second-floor balcony above the restaurant’s entrance.
Celebrity chef and TV personality Gordon Ramsay and Hemmis emerged from the restaurant’s balcony doors and the volunteers erupted with thunderous applause and chants, shouting, “Mark, Mark, Mark!”
While a drone buzzed above and a train chugged by on the nearby tracks, Hemmis and Ramsay addressed the crowd. Afterward, they nailed a piece of plywood to the front door of the restaurant, which is supposed to close March 31 as part of the county’s flood mitigation plan for Ellicott City.
A staple from Ramsay’s Fox network reality series “24 Hours to Hell and Back,” the Hell on Wheels truck, camped in parking Lot D off Old Columbia Pike beginning Monday afternoon.
Ramsay, 53, who rose to cooking stardom in London and is known for flashing a fiery temper and snapping wit as much as his kitchen skills, was first spotted Monday in Ellicott City. He and his crew returned Tuesday for yet more secretive filming. This time, he was joined by more than 100 volunteers from Ellicott City and Howard County, some were wearing green T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Dig Plant Soak Repeat,” the same shirts worn by area nonprofit environmental group Howard EcoWorks. Other volunteers on the set wore plastic ponchos, or both.
At various times throughout the day, volunteers spread out along Main Street cleaning benches, sweeping the streets and laying mulch. At one point, Ramsay appeared before them to loud cheers.
Business owners with shops backing up to the parking lot have said they welcomed the temporary inconvenience for the chance at needed upgrades to Main Street, an area still rebuilding after catastrophic floods in July 2016 and May 2018 caused severe damage and killed three people.
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Police officers also patrolled traffic and shut down portions of Main Street on Tuesday for filming. By late afternoon, traffic started crowding Main Street, at one point causing a small fender bender.
Later in the day, TV crews were going in and out of the front doors of the Ellicott Mills Brewing Company, which was closed for the day. Through the top windows, volunteers could be seen cleaning and employees were carrying in new high-top chairs. In December, Hemmis announced plans to purchase and merge his restaurant business with the craft brewery and pub.
According to county spokesman Scott Peterson, the added police and security presence is not being paid for by the county.
Peterson also said the overall special event came at no cost to Howard County.
Clarksville residents Holly D’Zmura and Divya Duraiswami both had the day off Tuesday. They said they saw Ramsay was in town and, as fans of his shows, decided to venture into Ellicott City to see what the excitement was about.