LOUDONVILLE – It may have been embarrassing at times, but James “Jimmy” Landoll II is glad that his business was put through “Hotel Hell.”
Famed chef and businessman Gordon Ramsay focused his attention on Landoll’s Mohican Castle in Loudonville for several days last December as part of his Fox show. The results were aired for the world to see Tuesday night on the season finale of “Hotel Hell.”
Landoll, 29, and his mother, Marta, did not see the episode before it aired, so they watched with anticipation, along with members of their family and their staff during a viewing party Tuesday night at the hotel's restaurant, The Copper Mug Bar & Grille.
“It was better than I thought it was going to be, which is surprising, because it was pretty bad,” Jimmy Landoll said.
The stunning castle was built by Marta's ex-husband and Jimmy's dad, Jim Landoll, starting in 1996. It was Jim's dream project to convert the old barn on the property into a castle, and that dream was realized when the hotel opened in 2002.
On Tuesday's episode, Marta said it cost around $6 million to build the turreted mansion, nestled in the forest south of Loudonville in southern Ashland County.
In 2008, the hotel's restaurant burned to the ground. Months later, Jim and Marta separated and Marta took over ownership of the castle, in spite of her lack of experience in the hospitality industry.
Jimmy Landoll joined his mother at the castle two years ago, helping her by performing a variety of duties including serving as general manager and pitching in as a chef in the kitchen. But he also had no experience in running a hotel or restaurant.
Despite their situation as newcomers to the business, the Landolls felt they were doing an OK job and didn't have problems that would attract Ramsay and his team. But once he arrived, they realized their situation could use some improving.
When Ramsay refers to your kitchen as the most dysfunctional one he had ever seen and says that your beef stroganoff looks like prison food, it could be a little embarrassing. “Disgusting,” was the word Ramsay used to describe the hundreds of dead flies and pieces of trash he found in one of the castle’s towers.
Some staff were shown saying Jimmy Landoll was the general manager in name only and Ramsay quickly observed how much work his mother did that an owner should not be doing.
Other scenes showed Jimmy Landoll forgetting the correct pronunciation of a wedding couple's last name and the general manager saying he had never fixed some items on the menu because no one had ordered them when he was working in the kitchen.
But Landoll admitted the chef’s comments and observations were accurate and chose to learn from them, instead of rebelling like some hotel owners have done in previous episodes.
“I think he was pretty spot-on on everything. We didn’t realize we had the issues we had because we didn’t know any different," Landoll said. "We just got up and went to work and that was the way we knew how to do it.”
To gauge how the staff worked together, Ramsay brought in a couple to have their wedding at Landoll’s Mohican Castle. The couple was brought in by the production staff from the Toledo area, and it was a real wedding, Landoll said.
One of the major changes Ramsay and his crew made was renovating the banquet room where wedding receptions are held and changing the food service in the banquet room from buffet to table service.
During the episode, Ramsay urged Jimmy Landoll to step up and take the weight off his mother, who was handling too many responsibilities on top of serving as owner of the hotel.
Ramsay asked Marta to write a letter to Jimmy about what she needed him to do. The scene where his mom read the letter and he “cried like a baby” was the hardest scene to watch for Jimmy Landoll.
“It’s not because I didn’t know those things. It’s just it was tough because I do know them,” Landoll explained. “I know how hard she’s worked. She doesn’t work like that anymore.”
Landoll said his mother gets the weekends off now and is rarely in the restaurant.
“She pretty much just handles the accounting for the business now. So it’s a lot less stress on her.”
He admits that they didn't have the proper staff before, but they have brought in an executive chef and a marketing manager.
"Both of them have been a God-send here and have taken a lot of the stress off me and that has let me take the stress off my mother,” Landoll said.
After leaving, Ramsay arranged for Landoll to receive training in hotel management, a move the general manager welcomed.
“I learned a lot," Landoll said. "I heard from the producer of the show this morning and she said that Gordon reached out to her last night and said that he’s very proud of me and it’s incredible the changes I’ve made. So that was nice to hear.”
Overall, Landoll has been very happy with the experience and is appreciative of all Ramsay did.
“It was fun. I think it’s good for the area. It’s good for Loudonville," Landoll said. "It’s definitely good for us.”
Landoll said the results were immediate, with more than 8,000 people checking on availability on the hotel’s website last night after the episode aired.
“We’ve had a ton of calls already for weddings this morning,” the general manager said on Wednesday morning. “I guess the big thing was wake up and get to work. That was the exciting thing this morning was to be able to go to work and see how this is going to impact us.”
It's an impact that was unexpected for Landoll, but one he is embracing as he looks to the future.
“I don’t think I was prepared for it to be this life-changing for me,” Landoll said. “It’s changed the future of this business and my family and everybody that works here. We’ve got big things planned still. We’re not stopping here.
“We really want to be a very unique destination here in Ohio that people want to bring their out-of-town guests to, that is a really fun different experience for people in the area.”