LAPORTE | A struggling family-owned restaurant in LaPorte is bubbling over with new hope after receiving a makeover from chef Robert Irvine, host of the popular Food Network show "Restaurant Impossible."
Irvine, 48, and his Food Network crew spent Wednesday and Thursday giving a major update to the menu and interior of SEVEN at 502 State St. in the city's downtown.
In addition, Irvine -- with his famous no non-sense approach and physically fit stature -- seriously adjusted the attitudes of owners, Tonya James and Chad Cook, along with their employees toward service as an additional magnet to expand the customer base.
"Instead of expecting something we have to deliver if we want people to come," said Cook, who added the biggest eye opener, perhaps, was finding out "we really didn't know how to operate a restaurant."
But, now they do.
"I'm feeling so much better that it will get better. It's a great opportunity for us," said 15-year-old Vanessa, the daughter of the couple.
Eighteen months ago, Tonya and Chad purchased the former Reed's State Street Pub offering the same traditional good food and service familiar to generations of loyal customers.
What she quickly learned from Irvine, though, was major changes were in order to better appeal to the tastebuds and eyes of today's restaurant goers looking for something more than just the traditional pork chops, burgers and plain surroundings.
Producers of the show were not allowing the couple or anyone else inside to catch of glimpse of the newly decorated interior aimed at thrusting Seven into the modern era.
Outside the restaurant, exotic samples were offered from the revamped menu such as tempura shrimp, watermelon salad and bread crumb crusted salmon.
"What he's preparing for us for the menu is going to be absolutely amazing," Tonya James said.
Irvine did not field questions from the media but urged the community to support the restaurant for the family with seven children ages 6 to 15.
"We need to make this restaurant work. All they have to do is deliver a great experience," Irvine said.
Chad Cook guaranteed that customers will leave with a completely new experience.
"We're doing things in a creative way. There's going to be a lot more color on the plate. Some real life behind it that I think we lacked before," he said.
The show is expected to air before Thanksgiving, according to producers.
Greater LaPorte Chamber of Commerce president Mike Seitz said the changes along with exposure from the show should make the restaurant and the downtown, in general, more of a destination.
"A lot of people watch the show. A lot of people make a point to go and visit the restaurants on this show. The interest this has generated locally has been phenomenal," Seitz said.
Tonya James said she applied online for Irvine to perform his makeover.
Show producers were not revealing why Seven was chosen.
LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo walked away impressed with the onion salad and watermelon salad she sampled from the menu.
"I think this is a great opportunity for the community," Milo said.