After Restaurant: Impossible appearance, future looks bright at Besse’s on Clear Lake

By Jalen Maki

Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor

Brenda Graff, owner of Besse’s on Clear Lake, W6060 Northern Lights Circle, Tomahawk, says she had been a fan of Restaurant: Impossible long before her supper club’s appearance on the Food Network program.

After being featured on an episode of the show in late August, the future at Besse’s looks brighter than ever, but the road to where the supper club is now hasn’t been easy.

Graff explains that employees weren’t getting along, and the business wasn’t doing well. One night, after an argument between two employees, Graff’s husband filled out an application to be featured on Restaurant: Impossible. Two days later, she received a call from one of the show’s producers.

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After a long phone conversation with the producer, submitting photos of the restaurant and Skype interviews with employees, Besse’s was chosen to be on the show.

“Obviously we were crazy enough for them to pick us,” Graff jokes.

Restaurant: Impossible features chef and restaurateur Robert Irvine, who has two days and a budget of $10,000, along with volunteers from the local community, to renovate a struggling American restaurant and return it to profitability and prominence.

When talking about her experience working with Irvine, Graff doesn’t mince words. “He was very mean,” she says with a laugh. “He brought out so much emotion in you. He had you screaming, yelling, crying.”

However, Graff notes that she understands why Irvine has to be tough on restaurant owners. “That’s his job,” she says. “To make you realize what you’re screwing up, and how to make things change.”

She added that, being a fan of the show, she thought she could handle Irvine’s brashness. “I’m like, ‘I so got this.’ But then when it came down to it, I was like, ‘I don’t got this,’” she quips.

Although Graff and Irvine butted heads at times while filming, she notes that he passed on a lot of valuable knowledge during his time at Besse’s. “(He taught me) not to be such a pushover with my employees. … Food cost was huge. I didn’t realize until he was here that I was losing money on every single item on my menu.” She adds that she learned a lot about cooking and plating from Irvine as well.

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Although Irvine originally implemented a new menu, Graff brought back some items from the old menu that were customer favorites, adding Irvine’s unique dishes help Besse’s stand out among area supper clubs.

Graff says she’s watched the episode three times. When asked about what it was like to see herself, her staff and her business on TV, she offers the same response most people would: “It was really weird.”

“I cried through almost the whole thing, because I knew what I went through,” she continues. “You see an hour-long show, when it was really three days of 16 to 18 hours of filming.”

Even though being on the show was a difficult and emotional experience, Graff says she’d do it again. “At the end of the day, I love everything they did on the inside (of the restaurant). I love the things that they taught me,” she states.

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Graff notes that Irvine has called her a few times to check in on her and the progress at Besse’s. She says she appreciates that Irvine and producers take the time to see how things are going after filming is wrapped.

“The first time I talked to him after the show, he was so nice,” she says. “He said he was really proud of me.”

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