Tough love, bad luck. Restaurant: Impossible returns to Rosie’s Cafe for an emotional visit

Kaitlyn Rose Pillsbury, left, and Chef Robert Irvine in a screenshot of their visit together at Pillsbury's rehab room on Restaurant: Impossible Thursday, May 28, 2020/Screenshot

(Updated Wednesday, June 3, 2020: Rosie’s Cafe, the Escondido diner featured last month on the Food Network series “Restaurant: Impossible,” has thrown in the towel for good, its owner announced in a Facebook post Wednesday afternoon. Despite the fundraising carnival that Food Network threw for owner Kaitlyn “Rosie” Pilsbury in February, she was never able to recover financially from the restaurant’s two-month shutdown during the pandemic. She also continues to recover from injuries suffered in a near-fatal motorcycle accident last December.)

Unfortunately, it had to come to this in the world of Food Network reality TV’s Chef Robert Irvine and Restaurant: Impossible. Rosie’s Cafe was back in the limelight Thursday night with an emotional tear-jerker of a follow-up episode on the star-crossed Escondido cafe and its hard luck owner.

“This is a journey for me,” Irvine begins after lending the tragic backstory to a follow-up visit looking for the bright side of the dark cloud lining. “Most of you know that I act this tough guy on television and I’m pretty intense. But when you’re family and I classify Kaitlyn and her mom Maria as my family, and the Restaurant: Impossible family, it’s hard to see one of your family members suffer.”

As Irvine ends the introduction, removing his signature black glasses filled with emotion before exiting his vehicle, he adds: “If any of you have been on this show, you know, you’ve seen me cry, you’ve seen me angry, it means something and this is a prime example of why we are back in Escondido because this young lady, Kaitlyn Pillsbury, touches us all.”

During a long day’s journey into night, Irvine and his crew visit Pillsbury who is recovering from a horrific Christmastime incident in which a still-at-large hit-and-run driver struck and seriously injured her while she was riding her motorcycle near a Vista gas station entrance.

Irvine stages an emotional and uplifting visit with Pillsbury, 33, at her recovery center where the plucky survivor says, “I’m grateful. I’m alive.” He shares her recovery bed for inspiration, and her inspiration of him as much as his for her. It’s touching reality TV as Marie Pillsbury, the mom, wipes tears from her eyes.

Funny selfies and a few hugs later, Irvine visits with Marie Pillsbury. “You re an amazing human being, a great mom, but more than that, you take care of my friend,” Irvin says. “She is a miracle, you know,” Pillsbury says as the two have a frank conversation about the limits of the medical insurance coverage.

On the evening of December 21, 2019, Rosie’s Cafe owner Kaitlyn was seriously injured when her motorcycle was struck by a hit-and-run driver in an SUV near her home in Vista. According to the report, Kaitlyn suffered extensive injuries, including broken bones in her legs and one arm that required surgery. “She also had some bone breakage in her spine as well as brain swelling that left her comatose for several days.”

When Robert learned about Kaitlyn’s situation, it became his mission to help get Kaitlyn back on her feet. On February 17, 2020 Robert threw a Carnival Fundraiser on Grand Street in Escondido featuring games, food, and other entertainment – with all proceeds going directly to Kaitlyn to help her bounce back.

Irvine and Marie Pillsbury discuss the nuts and bolts of the fundraising effort that took place on Feb. 22 at Grand Avenue. The restaraunt is losing money. First step, bring in the bookkeepers. Then, he checks out the kitchen where Kaitlyn’s boyfriend, Jason, is back.

Actually, Jason, who was head cook at Rosie’s despite having no previous restaurant experience — believe he was a building contractor, or something — was a sore spot during Irvine’s first visit to Rosie’s Cafe, which aired in January 2019. But, despite the couple breaking up in the interim, he is back to lend a hand this time “because I love Kaitlyn,” he says.

“For somebody like you to stand up and come and do this, to me, is a very special move,” Irvine says, as he calls over to Stephen, another cook to thank him for being there. “Thank you for being here,” Stephen says. “Seriously, man,” and if you didn’t quite hear him, the show, for some reason, provides subtitles.

And the food on the grill looks scrumptious.

‘I just think it’s very heartwarming’

Irvine says as he emphasizes the episode’s hook about 18 minutes into the show. “It’s pretty cool,” he continues. Standing in a nighttime Grand Avenue tableau, the renowned makeover chef, vows “to do something really big to help pay those (medical) bills.

Now it’s going to get good as the stakes are raised, a strong story feature in unscripted as well as scripted television.

“This project is so big,” Irvine continue, “that I have to break every rule in television. I need each, and every one of my team, that normally does a different job, to be part of it.”

With that, about 20 Restaurant: Impossible team members gather inside the Cafe for one-part inspiration and one-part innovation. Time for planning the Carnival with a $50,000 fundraising goal, to which Marie Pillsbry says with astonishment, “Oh, wow.”


The carnival had a New Jersey theme, in honor of Cafe owner Kaitlyn Rose “Rosie” Pilsbury’s heritage, and included food booths, arcade games and rides. General admission tickets were $20. Children under 3 were free. All proceeds went to the Pilsbury family.

The event itself raised over $120,000 for Pilsbury, 33. Of that, The Food Network donated $50,000 and Irvine donated $20,000

Time to call the mayor — that’s you Paul “Mac McNamara. Prepare the menu and assign the tasks. “It’s a team effort,’ Irvine says as he hold up an iconic picture created during the last visit of Kaitlyn Rose, with her in a Rosie the Riveter pose.

“This young lady touched us all in so many ways,” Irvine adds. “She is Restaurant Impossible. We take care of one our family.”

Chef( Irvine explains his menu suggestions to Kaitlyn Rose during Restaurant Impossible’s Jaanuary 2019 visit./Twitter

Everyone is ready as Irvine goes full Drew Brees — Saints fans, and you know who are, this is for you, but we digress — as everyone goes hands-in and and goes “family on three.”

Family gets going with numerous shots of team members calling around for stuff. ‘Mac’, referred to there, as “mayor, gets call one. No read-out available, unfortunately.

Irvine does a brief Shakespearean soliloquy, then its off to fast montage of shopping and quick emotional cuts followed by, what else, advertising. Ads range from Questlove self-promotion t Corona, yes no joke, Premier Bee, french fries, fast cars, something Chinese food-y, Midas oil changes, Anderson Plumbing and whoo, TMI, y’all.

Finally, Day 2

Irvine begins with a local TV news interview, interestingly a far right-wing station that is the ONLY San Diego TV station not to share embeds, so it can’t be posted here.

“This is going to be a long, hard and fst day,” Irvine says and, we’re off…

It’s time for planning for Carnival Time.

Then, it’s reality time for menu planning and speed shopping, a very impressive feat especially appropriate for shopping in the Age of Coronavirus

“I’ve never before seen this much food, much less purchased it,” an unidentified female team member says with visible amazement.

Irvine speaks on mobile phone to Rosie at the rehab center who — suspend disbelief — is surprised and delighted. “I am totally supportive and so grateful,” she says. “Thank you so much.”

The grocery market bill comes to $1,900 and fast cut to the Carnival with hundreds of Escondido peeps cheering followed, by, what else, commercials.

Amy Shumer. Geico. Tremfya (huh?), and, lots of them, never mind; back to the show.

Recap for those with short attention spans. Aea and celebrity chefs itch in. Irvine takes command. It’s on, baby.

In addition to the block party, Irvine’s team has put together a pop-up $100 a plate special dining experience inside the Cafe.

Marie Pillsbury arrives. A Kaitlyn Pillsbury reel. “It makes me so proud that she is loved by so many people that this could even happen,” Marie Pillsbury says.

It’s not all Oysters Rockefeller and Steak Tartar, however. The nasty business of business makes a cameo appearance in the visage of “The Bookkeeper” to wrangle those unfortunate losing financial statistic into some form of the black.Business School 101, but the Carnival, Mon Dieu! Irvine is about to address the multitudes, but more commercials, Por Dios!

Carnival Time on Grand avenue, Feb. 17, 2020/Facebook

Irvine grabs the megaphone. “This is for a very special young lady,” he says. She had a very, very bad accident and we’re here to make some money.” This dude knows how to fundraise. Grand Avenue turns into a Carnival land of wonders, and one with great food to boot.

“I’ve said it before,” Marie Pillsbury says, “the love is just palpable. You feel it.” Followed by a lot of good eating by Escondido people and inspirational mobile phnoe chatting. The crowd is large and enthusiastic as Irvine wields his hone around the big show.

Kaitlyn Rose Pillsbury is in tears. “This is all ve and I am so gratefu,” she says. “I will honor all of you. I promise.”

The VIP $100 a plate experience inside the Cafe attracts  down-home crowd with big hearts and nice checks. Irvine gives a shout-out to Jason, “an amazing guy.”

Croquettes for everyone, added giving for take-out, mouth-watering entrees and what’s not to love. “I hope they like it,” Irvine says,”that’s all I care about.” Restaurant possible, that stuff looks amazing the TV cuts show people lapping it up like they’re at the Beard House.

“It’s so good,” an unidentifed male diner says. “It’s the best filet mignon I’ve ever had.”

Desert is some kind of interesting looking cherry tart. No comments on the taste, but a shot of some little kid gyrating in a whirling dervish kind of sugar rush way. Good times.

Five ore minutes of annoying commercials set up the grand finale. which is to say SHOW ME THE MONEY. “Are you sure,” Irvine says. And then the big reveal.

The day’s Carnival haul: $48,549. Restaurant Impossible gave $50,000 and Irvine chipped in $20,000 to get to $118,549. Not a bad. “We are so blessed,” Marie Pillsbury says and hugs and tears for all.

And so it ends on a bittersweet note, as Irvine signs off over credits and tears, “We’ll see you on the next Restaraunt Impossible.”

The end.

Epilogue, and wrapping up

Chef Robert Irvine, left, giving a pep talk at Rosie’s Cafe as his crew records the “Restaurant: Impossible”episode in February. The Food Network premiered it May 28./Food Network

The Food Network is not immediately listing other showings, but may be watched through on-demand on Direct TV Channel 1231.

The show itself was pretty sweet, if short. However, as Paul Harvey used to say, now for the rest of the story.

Rosie’s future, in real ife, appears to have come to an end. Coronavirus turned that trick. Rosie’s shut down for late February and early March. Staff re-opened the restaurant for a week in March, then closed without a re-opening date on March 25.

The phone number for the restaurant is no longer operational, according to The San Diego Union Tribune. On Thursday, the restaurant remained locked with no signs announcing a reopening. Two repairmen could be seen working in the kitchen.

In an interview last April, Irvine said that reinventing Rosie’s Cafe at 117 W. Grand Ave. was one of his favorite episodes of “Restaurant: Impossible,”a series that aired on Food Network from 2011 to 2016 and then re-launched last spring with the Rosie’s episode as its premiere. The British chef is known for his tough-as-nails personality and he said Pilsbury was equally tough and resistant to change, but he eventually won her over.

“Makeovers are tough, period, but this one was tough emotionally because I truly believe in her and she’s inspiring to me. It’s the first one in many episodes where I really wanted her to succeed. I wanted to teach her. I wanted to get through to her,” Irvine said.

Bit of Rosie’s backstory

Rosie’s transformation into new Rosie’s on Restaurant: Impossible ended Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, following three days of Irvine’s makeovers. He spent one day getting the lay of the land, then put his crew to work for 36 hours before the cafe re-opened. The show aired last April as the kick-off for the show’s 14th season on The Food Network.

Rosie’s Cafe opened in December 2016. Rose was an Oceanside resident formerly attached to French Bakery Cafe, a well-known bakery and fancy American comfort food spot off East Vista Way in Vista.

The 117 W. Grand Avenue location had been owned and operated as a restaurant since at least the early 1920s. Hoffman’s Pharmacy was across the street. JC Penney was down the block.

“It started out as a cafe known as the ‘Chat ’n’ Chew,’ then changed hands and names several times before it was taken over in the 1970s by Ted and Violet McCain, who introduced Ted’s grandfather’s signature cinnamon rolls to his customers,” according to Pam Kragen in the San Diego Union Tribune.

Enter Oscar and Eva Champion, who turned it into Champion’s Family Restaurant.

Champion’s old menu read like a trip down memory lane with page after page — 28 pages in all — of historic photos and references mixed with food choices and history.

“There have been millions of cups of coffee served at 117 Grand Avenue for the past ninety years,” the menu, with page after page of food choices and historical photos, said. “First called the ‘Chat-o-Chow,’ the lunch counter served as the center of the city gossip and small town politics from 1923, when Escondido’s population was 1,734 residents, to 1948.


Editor’s Note:

The story was composed real-time with social media and available updates. It took longer than the usual story due to all the social media, but was a great experiment in new journalism.  It kind of looked like “The Mstery of Picasso,” a 1956 French documentary film about the painter Pablo Picasso, directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, and showing Picasso in the act of creating paintings for the camera.

Not that the work here is Picasso-like, just the concept.

Further efforts could include use of live streaming, but maybe not just right now since this process was much more labor-intensive than the usual dash and slash stuff I do normally. Following are the live notes I posted.



(Had some strange glitch with loading a Carnival Time video I liked, so had to spend time working with it to figure out what was wrong. Ended up loading it through an embed code, something I never have to do usually with YouTube videos that can be added through a widget. Will have to look into that to see it it were due to the specific video or is some glitch, temporary or otherwise.)

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