Don Luis After the Cameras: We Talked to the Owner
The fleet of buses, cameras and reality TV film crew members have been gone for a little over a week now after the Restaurant Impossible team rolled into Billings to tape an episode of the series at Don Luis Restaurant. The premise of the Food Network show is that host, chef Robert Irvine, and his crew spends "48 hours and $10,000" revamping restaurants that need help.
I'll be honest when I say it's been a number of years since I previously ate at Don Luis, a longtime Mexican restaurant on N. 26th Street. I do remember their menu being large, with a ton of "Mexican-American" style dishes. That has all changed.
I was able to catch up with Carmen Salazar, the energetic owner and wife of the late Don "Luis" Salazar, just a few days after the restaurant's post-makeover reveal. The interview (edited for clarity) follows.
Me: Tell me how Restaurant Impossible ended up coming to Don Luis. Did you reach out to them, did they reach out to you?
Carmen: One of the producers or whoever was in the region was reaching out to restaurants. And they reached out to me, I accepted. Yeah. And here I am today.
Me: I was lucky enough to be able to attend the grand re-opening of Don Luis during the reveal and Robert Irvine seemed like a genuinely nice person. You obviously spent a lot of time with him... did you get the same impression?
Carmen: He is sincerely a tough guy, but the overall picture I have of him, he really does care. He made sure that he let me know, "I want you to be happy. I want you to know you can trust me." And he is just this strong, strong man. And he expects people to do exactly what he says.
Me: Chef Robert says he has a 75% success rate with the restaurants he visits. Do you plan on sticking to the changes Restaurant Impossible made to Don Luis?
Carmen: I will embrace it. And I will, exactly to the utmost ability that I can and that my Billings community will allow me, right, yeah, I will do exactly what he's requesting. I don't want to look back, I want to go forward.
We talked about how the menu has been trimmed from 93 items down to one page of flavorful, Latin infused entrees, the new brighter decor, if he made her cry during filming and more. Listen to the rest of the interview below.
Don Luis is open for lunch and dinner Monday - Saturday. The episode is scheduled to air sometime in January on the Food Network.