Whatever Happened To Zeke's From Kitchen Nightmares?

When goofy and lovable James Flynn "Zeke" Unangst, passed away shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit, he left behind Zeke's Restaurant in Metairie, a beloved seafood joint that was very popular with the locals. Darryl and Ellen Cortello bought the restaurant in 2006 and kept the name, but made changes to the menu, ingredients, and how the restaurant was run. By the time Gordon Ramsay arrived in Season 3, Episode 10 of "Kitchen Nightmares," staff morale was low and regulars had stopped coming. Despite the positive direction things seemed to be going after his appearance, Zeke's was sold and closed for good by October 2012.

Ramsay faced challenges with the Cortellos, who seemed to care more about money than the food or their staff. When he tried a few of their signature dishes, he was disgusted to discover that Darryl insisted on using frozen shrimp, even though there was a market with fresh fish and seafood a mile away. But he said that chef Emil's bread pudding tasted delicious, one of the rare times Gordon Ramsay was impressed by the food on the show.

When Ramsay learned the "special" lasagna was made a week earlier, frozen, and reheated for the night, he informed the whole restaurant. Most diners walked out, but the Cortellos still insisted that there was nothing wrong with reheating the food or using frozen ingredients instead of fresh. Their denial was so strong, that it didn't seem like they were willing to change to make Zeke's successful again.

Zeke's Oreo beignets live on

By the end of the episode, Zeke's had a new menu and decor, and Darryl Cortello finally realized he was stifling his chefs' creativity. Despite Ramsay having to remind Darryl to refocus, slow down, and work one order at a time during their first dinner, everyone felt optimistic and excited. "We still have some improvements to make, but you can see it's on the right track," Chef Jason said. After doing the show Zeke's positive reviews shot up, with customers mostly expressing satisfaction with the food and service on Yelp. But some menu changes seemed odd to one reviewer, such as calling a stew "gumbo." The eatery also notably served fried chicken with sage and honey apples.

The Cortellos had hoped to pursue other restaurant ideas after selling Zeke's, but Ellen was diagnosed with cancer the year it closed. "I went from this, in 2012 in the fall, from being an owner-slash-partner in two really good neighborhood restaurants that did well ... to three months later, no job and a wife going through chemotherapy," Darryl told Feroshia Knight.

They finally opened a new restaurant, LUCA Eats, in 2016. It appears to be very popular, boasting 4.6 out of 5 stars on Yelp and over 180 reviews. Besides specializing in hot-pressed sandwiches, the restaurant sells a favorite dessert from Zeke's, Oreo beignets. The beignets are considered some of the best in New Orleans and have won at least three times at the annual Beignet Fest.