BRADENTON -- The staff at Food Network's "Restaurant Impossible" was given an edict: come up with something new for the show's 12th season, which begins airing in October.
And they did.
This year the show, starring the tough-as-nails host and chef Robert Irvine, is dropping in on a restaurant badly in need of help. The difference: They aren't telling the owner first.
Theresa's Restaurant, 608 Tamiami Trail, Bradenton, was selected for the first episode, and this past weekend "Restaurant Impossible" overhauled the eatery.
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Jodi Boucher, who has owned Theresa's for nine years, waited nervously outside the restaurant Sunday afternoon, unable to go inside to see what the construction team, the "Restaurant Impossible" crew, and her staff were doing.
"I don't know anything. It's been a crazy, crazy day. I'm excited," Boucher said as some of her staff brought tables out of the restaurant and parked them outside.
"The restaurant is 33 years old. It has some floor and plumbing issues," she said.
The refurbished Theresa's, normally a breakfast and lunch place, reopened for dinner at 7 p.m. Sunday with a new menu. A second serving to first-come, first-served diners was set
for 8 p.m.
Fans of Theresa's and "Restaurant Impossible" lined up early, hoping to get a seat and maybe a glimpse of Robert Irvine.
Teri Johnson of Bradenton was one of the lucky ones who had a reservation for the 7 p.m. meal.
"I usually have Jodi's chicken salad in a croissant," Johnson said. "I think this is great. Jodi is a hard-working woman."
Susan Milewski came to Theresa's Sunday night with her husband, Greg.
"I like the show and watched every episode available. Even if I can't get in I would like to meet Robert," Milewski said.
Jim and Jeanne Hoey, friends of Jodi Boucher, received an invitation to the first meal at the made-over Theresa's.
"Jodi called and said she was ambushed. I thought it was a criminal thing, and then Jodi explained," Jim Hoey said.
Marc Summers, executive producer of the show, confirmed that a friend of Boucher's, Miriam Beard, contacted "Restaurant Impossible" and suggested that Theresa's badly needed help.
"Jodi had no idea we were coming," Summers said. "This woman had not a clue we were coming. We only come to places where we feel the people are deserving of a makeover.
"We have 25 people we bring on the road, and then we pick up local volunteers," Summers said.
"Restaurant Impossible" had completed 138 restaurant makeovers at the conclusion of its 11th season.
"Chef Robert Irvine faces a daunting new challenge: save America's most desperate restaurants from impending failure in just two days with only $10,000. Robert uses creativity and resourcefulness along with a lot of muscle in his fight to rescue these restaurants and give hope to the owners and their employees," according to the chef's website.
Moments before the 7 p.m. meal, Irvine came out to greet Boucher and escort her into the restaurant. Plastic covers that screened the restaurant and the changes that had been made inside were pulled aside to let in the first diners, all of whom had been sworn to secrecy and instructed to put away their phones.
"We're so excited for her," Jeanne Hoey said, moments before going inside to experience the changes made by Irvine and company in two intense days.
James A. Jones Jr., Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.