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‘It’s bloody hard’: Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay touched by Ellicott City’s resilience during weeklong filming

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay on Friday finally revealed that, after three months in the making, he and his crew were in Ellicott City this week to film a special two-hour episode of “24 Hours to Hell and Back” that will air in May.

Ramsay confirmed Friday, during an interview while at Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, that the reality show episode will air May 12, almost two years after the last catastrophic flood hit the community.

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The episode will detail the renovations of three downtown establishments: Little Market Cafe; Jaxon Edwin, a barbershop, coffee bar and game room; and the new Phoenix Brewing Co., the merger of Phoenix Emporium and Ellicott Mills Brewing Company. The upgrades also feature exterior renovations to the Shoemaker Country store, done by celebrity interior designer Nate Berkus.

“It wasn’t about screaming at a chef who’s got crap in their fridge. It was about what do they need and how do they get back to where [they were],” Ramsay said.

Though the cameras, crew and the chef himself seemed to appear overnight in Ellicott City, Ramsay said Friday the town makeover has been in the works for three months.

“It’s a big team, but all my due diligence started here three months ago and all the research and everything we could have wanted and needed was planned really strategically. It had to be because it’s an enormous task,” he said.

Ramsay said opening his Baltimore restaurant in 2017 just 25 minutes from Ellicott City right after the first devastating flood made it hard to ignore.

“[Doing] something way more substantial was the key, so we got the green light from FOX. I pushed the button and it’s a multimillion-dollar investment, and we go for it,” Ramsay said.

In the early part of filming, he said he went undercover as a historian and explored the town. Afterward, his crew gathered residents to make some announcements.

Business owners with shops on Main Street are still rebuilding after catastrophic floods in July 2016 and May 2018 caused severe damage and killed three people. Over the course of the week, they’ve welcomed temporary inconveniences like road closures and limited parking for the chance at needed upgrades.

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Ramsay said he was particularly struck by the resilience and strength of Mark Hemmis, owner of the Phoenix Emporium.

“It was important looking at [the] worst affected and who needed the most help,” Ramsay said. “The Phoenix was a staple of the community. To be hit a second time was devastating.”

Ramsay revealed the renovations for the cameras Thursday at the former Ellicott Mills Brewing Company building, unveiling the newly merged restaurant.

In December, Hemmis announced plans to purchase and merge his restaurant business with Ellicott Mills Brewing. The Phoenix Emporium was supposed to close March 31 as part of the county’s flood mitigation plan for Ellicott City.

“I’ve never taken anything for granted, but shutting restaurants down through no fault of their own, due to climate [and] weather, it’s really hard to stomach especially when they’re that good,” Ramsay said. “That’s their livelihood. Moving up the hill, merging those two business, amalgamating those two teams is always a very tough gig. I helped them do that.”

Jeni Porter, owner of the Little Market Cafe which has been open since 2010, rebuilt from damage during the 2018 flood through a fundraising effort. Her renovation reveal happened earlier in the day Thursday while locals watched from a nearby parking lot.

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Ramsay described Porter as a “powerhouse” who made signs sending customers to other businesses on Main Street after the floods.

The renovations to Porter’s cafe include multi-level, 60-person seating on an exterior patio with white antique-style chairs on tables, and string lights and flowers hanging above. The interior has not yet been revealed to the public.

“This whole sort of team descended upon that gorgeous little town. I understood ... no one’s looking for a pity party — let’s get that right. They were just desperately struggling to bounce back the way they should’ve done, but who can on the back of two critical, serious adversities. It’s bloody hard.”


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Jaxon Edwin is a relatively new business in historic Ellicott City. Owner Jeff Braswell said the combination game room/coffee bar/barbershop has been open since November 2018, after the last deadly flood.

“It had this cool, stunning barbershop at the top,” Ramsay said of Jaxon Edwin. “I needed to bed him into the community. I needed to make him more of a less shyer person and then we create this amazing social house”

A few storefronts down from Jaxon Edwin, at Shoemaker Country, Berkus spent some time working on window dressings at the home goods store.

The glass windows at the store have stickers that read “These are your stories.” A television screen seen through the window features interviews with Ellicott City business owners.

Ramsay said when he called Berkus to assist, the designer instantly agreed.

“I love [Berkus’] style because he was respectful to the town,” Ramsay said. “He reclaimed furniture that was lost ... stuff that was important. He put this beautiful video together, which was quite emotional.”

Ramsay said he’s looking for ways to give back wherever he can in his work.

He also surprised contestants Friday at Baltimore’s version of the “Hell’s Kitchen” cooking competition in his restaurant in Horseshoe Casino. Contestants had 30 minutes to create an appetizer for Ramsay and fellow judges Sam Koch, Baltimore Ravens punter, and Christina Wilson, executive chef at Gordon Ramsay Burger in Las Vegas.

“We did some amazing turnarounds [in Ellicott City] last week. We just made it by the skin of my teeth. I’ve never done anything like [this],” he said. “We got hit with the rain halfway through, and we got set back and I got slightly anxious. And everyone gets nervous when it rains [in Ellicott City].”

At one point during the weeklong process, Ramsay said he realized they needed more manpower so he brought in staff from his Baltimore restaurant and flew in colleagues from Las Vegas and London.

“This whole sort of team descended upon that gorgeous little town. I understood ... no one’s looking for a pity party — let’s get that right. They were just desperately struggling to bounce back the way they should’ve done, but who can on the back of two critical, serious adversities. It’s bloody hard,” Ramsay said.

“I don’t care what it is, what time of day it is, [Ellicott City residents] have access to me.”

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.
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