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Mad Cactus Owner Can Finally Talk About TV Makeover

Calls Chef Irvine 'a hothead' and says crews tricked him

Tom Krukemeyer and Food Network Chef Robert Irvine didn't exactly get off to a great start.

Within minutes, the TV chef was hopping mad.

"I'd never even met him until two minutes earlier," said Krukemeyer, who owns the , focus of a Restaurant: Impossible makeover this August.

Here's how it happened: Producers had Krukemeyer and Irvine walk to their places to be introduced on-camera. 

But the director changed his mind and asked them to switch places.

Irvine went ballistic, Krukemeyer said, calling the director names. Then he demanded his coffee, even though it was sitting on a table a few feet away.  

"He actually waited till the producer came and picked up his coffee for him," Krukemeyer said.

After the scene, Krukemeyer went to the kitchen, where his anxious staff was waiting to hear how it went.

"I said, 'we're in big trouble. This guy is a jerk,'" Krukemeyer recalled.

Then he realized his microphone was still on.

Oops.

"Robert came flying out of the production trailer," Krukemeyer said, grinning. "He got right in my face, screaming."

That's why he was stunned when the and Irvine

"We were shocked. The whole staff was surprised," Krukemeyer said. "The intensity when they were here just didn't come through on the show."

A Few Tricks

Krukemeyer has been prohibited from talking -- until today -- about the in which Irvine visited the 25-year-old Tex-Mex restaurant on Pearl Road, revamping the menu, rating the staff and giving the decor a $10,000 overhaul.

Now, he can tell the world how Irvine repeatedly blew up at him, his staff and Food Network producers.

"I never met such a hothead," Krukemeyer said.

Twice during the ordeal, Irvine set up the Mad Cactus to look bad in front of the camera, Krukemeyer maintains:

1. Irvine asked the staff to set up a mock buffet for the cameras, so they quickly set some trays of food into the slots. "You're putting hot food in cold water," Irvine blasted when the cameras rolled.

2. The fans in the kitchen were too loud, so they shut them off, but the temperature climbed to 100 degrees. So the producers told them to shut off all the equipment to let it cool. Again, Irvine pounced. "This food is cold," he announced to the cameras.

"They need stuff like that. They trick you," Krukemeyer said.

The Aftermath

Still, he thought his restaurant came out looking good on the episode.

"We thought they were going to drill us," he said. "Then they turned it into a show about needing a general manager."

, too -- plenty of publicity, a 20 percent increase in business, new paint and flooring, and more streamlined menu, better communication among the staff, and a popular new salsa bar.

"I know by talking to the tables that people love the new look and the salsa bar," Krukemeyer said. "Now it's up to us to keep it going."

Of course, he changed the menu shortly after the TV crews left, keeping Irvine's "puffy tacos," but returning ribs, chicken wings and a taco salad to the fare, and replacing Irvine's quesadillas and nachos with the Mad Cactus' original recipes.

What would Robert think? They'll probably find out soon -- Irvine will be in town this weekend for the Fabulous Food Show at the I-X Center, and Krukemeyer fully expects him to stop in.

"We'll welcome him and serve him up some good food," he said. "He'll be proud of us."

bob mcmillan January 03, 2013 at 08:54 AM
I think you should be thankful no matter what they did to make a good show,after all it is tv and you got a much needed free makeover not to metion a ton of free publicity.and I you should of got robert his coffee,he helped you out.
kimberly January 03, 2013 at 08:58 AM
I agree! Completely!! They have no right to complain, and they obviously are VERY Ungrateful, as they reverted back to their old nasty recipies and it's apparent that it's not working for them, because they have crappy YELP reviews! http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-mad-cactus-strongsville Too bad they took someone else's slot who might have really appreciated the show's help...Esp in this economy!
Gerry Shamray January 05, 2013 at 08:10 PM
I'm currently re-watching it on the Food Network right now to refresh my memory. Weak episode. The redesign was a disappointment. I remember the poor paint job when I visited after the fact and I now see it was a mad dash to get it done by the staff. Too bad they didn't get one of the other designers like Tanya. Reading this article I'm surprised anyone would run to tell their staff the first chance they got to call the guy who just arrived to help save the place a jerk. I'm sure the producers created some of the drama for the show, that's to be expect, but I agree with a lot of the things Irvine said, especially about cooking food fresh instead of letting it sit for 6 to 7 hours. The salsa bar was a great idea too.
DC January 17, 2013 at 01:10 AM
Just saw a rerun of this episode. I ate there one time and the food was terrible, now I know why. I doubt it is any better considering the attitude of the jerk off owner. How ungrateful are you Tom????
Michael J. Martinez July 28, 2013 at 05:33 AM
So Grammer you liked eating over dust and canned goods and taking the chance at getting sick or food poisoned? Sounds like you have real good taste there buddy. You and whoever else says the place was better before didn't like the mad cactus you guys liked the cheap steak and cheap prices that broke him cuz he didn't listen and point fingers at everyone that helped him cuz he can't be a man and say he messed up. You sound just as smart as Tom. Fools!

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