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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Firebrand Chef Gordon Ramsay Gives Baltimore’s ‘Hon Culture’ A Make-over

Cafe Hon, before the make-over by British chef Gordon Ramsay. (Courtesy Baltimore Sun/Amy Davis)Cafe Hon, after the make-over. Here Chef Gordon Ramsay and owner Denise Whiting take part in a press conference. (Courtesy Baltimore Sun/Amy Davis)

Every city has its iconic restaurants. In Baltimore, tourists flock to Cafe Hon. The eatery has always been more famous for its kitschy take on Baltimore’s so-called “Hon Culture” (immortalized in John Waters films) than its comfort-food fare. Cafe Hon celebrates bee hive hairdos, cat’s eye sunglasses and the blue collar charm of its neighborhood, Hampden.

But now, the restaurant has undergone a make-over, under the direction of the foul-mouthed, hot-tempered British chef Gordon Ramsay and his “Kitchen Nightmares” program.

Part of the make-over included a marketing blitz to help rid the restaurant’s owner, Denise Whiting, of some bad publicity.

Last year, neighborhood residents turned on Whiting after it was discovered that she had trademarked the Baltimore endearment, “hon.” So before the Cafe Hon was reopened, Whiting and Ramsay announced that she had rescinded the “hon” trademark.

Baltimore Sun restaurant critic says the new menu is “perfectly fine.” Faint praise from a culinary perspective, but he does give Whiting and Cafe Hon credit for hiring locals.

Gorelick said the restaurant’s bright, loud decor is a great place for families and tourists. And he points out that it employs about 30 local people.

“Sometimes a restaurant, if that’s the best thing you can say about it, that it employs local people, that’s pretty good that it’s employing people,” Gorelick said.


  • Richard Gorelick, Baltimore Sun restaurant critic

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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