BALTIMORE (WJZ)– A Baltimore “Hon-troversy” heats up in Hampden. The embattled Cafe Hon restaurant gets national attention as a kitchen nightmare.

Kai Jackson shows us how a celebrity chef is trying to solve the fight over the “Hon” trademark once and for all.

Cafe Hon owner Denise Whiting said going on national television was the last thing she wanted to do, but perhaps the best thing she could have done.

It’s all things Cafe Hon on Chef Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares” on Fox, which was shown in the restaurant.

The show serves up a heapin’ helping of ways to improve restaurants while stirring the pot of controversy.

“I didn’t like this fella Gordon Ramsay. He looks like a tough cookie,” Jerry Hockstein from Catonsville said.

Yet in Friday’s episode, the issue of food was practically on the back burner.

“I think that to trademark the word ‘Hon’ was not a great idea,” Diane Fefferneas from Kingsville said.

Ramsay’s focus was on owner Denise Whiting and her decision to trademark the word “Hon.”

“It was business decision. It was a bad decision,” she said.

Supporters believed Whiting’s decision showed business savvy.

“She wanted to sell her mugs, her t-shirts.”

Critics called it self-serving.

“She trademarked the term ‘hon,’ which is a cultural icon in Baltimore,” a host on Fox Radio said.

As gut-wrenching as it was, Whiting believes she, her staff and Cafe Hon are better for having been on prime time TV.

In the long run, Whiting’s nightmare wasn’t in the kitchen. It was in the area of public relations.

She eventually gave up the “hon” trademark, and with Ramsay’s help, revamped the menu.

“I think it’s an opportunity for us to have a rebirth,” Whiting said. “It’s like opening up a brand new restaurant.”

This week, Cafe Hon is 20 years old.

The show spent a week filming inside the restaurant.

Comments (16)
  1. TEAJAY says:

    Her staff is great and she’s very lucky to have any of them. Her humongous ego overpowers everything and should have closed her down years ago. Please reach behind you and pull out that over sized horseshoe that’s in there..

  2. Joshua says:

    worst food I have ever had hon

  3. Daniel says:

    Too little, too late. I watched the show with much anticipation on a Friday night when I’d usually be out dining with friends. . .somewhere other that Cafe Hon, by the way. I felt the ‘aha’ moment that Denise shared, stating ‘I get it now’ was totally disingenous and would never have happened had she not been and likely will continue to be, in a financial mess that she herself brought on.

    The show started with Denise lying about not pursuing legal action for her selfish trademark and ended with her lying about being sorry. . . She didn’t understand how important the word meant to Baltimoreans???? Gimme a break hon! Anyone with half a brain could see right through her and the fact that the only thing she’s truly sorry about is the impact it’s had on her failing business.

    I just hope her staff find jobs where they can be truly happy serving their customers for someone who appreciates their dedication and hard work.

  4. Killa Cam says:

    Look, The food sucks. Thats all that matters. If she can still make it with food that astronomically priced for its quality than let it happen. If not, take her out. Until that day lets just put it out there for what it is, mediocre food for the price of a Bentley. I, personally will NOT be going there for multiple reasons, but if they get business then cheers for them and GOOD LUCK!!!! You need it………

  5. CJ says:

    she is a lying piece of dirt and a phony!

  6. KayCee says:

    How many times did she say “It’s just a word” referring to HON?

    She’s shallow, fake, and has no clue what it takes to run a successful business. Here employees seem to be the only ones who “get it” and I feel sorry for them if she drives the business into the ground.

    She sounded like her old, selfish, self-absorbed self on the radio last week. She will never change and I’m going to go research whether she truly took any action on the patents.

  7. karenl says:

    I went there a few weeks ago. The new menu is horrible. They took so many of the great items off the classic menu choices. I was highly disappointed. Service was slow and the overall experience was not good. My children had limited choices. We won’t be returning. It’s past it’s prime…

  8. Charles says:


  9. eesh says:

    I’ve not seen the show, Ive never eaten there, in fact I don’t even know where it is. BUT at least she is in business, at least she has the guts to go it alone. She messed up, we all deserve a second chance, why is that such a hard thing to do? Have you ever needed a second chance? Its tough out there for any business so come on everyone lighten up. At least she’s not big corporate.

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