Murphys Hotel ready for week in ‘Hell’

Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat

The Murphys Hotel closed Thursday to enter a week of hell.

"Hotel Hell," a Fox reality show starring notoriously ill-tempered chef Gordon Ramsay, began filming Thursday and the hotel's doors will remain shut to the general public through Wednesday afternoon.

The visit comes less than six months after the Travel Channel series "Hotel Impossible" aired an episode in which the Hotel Leger in Mokelumne Hill received a makeover.

Murphys Hotel co-owner Brian Goss - who bought the hotel, restaurant and saloon operation from Dorian Faught last fall with partners Kevin Clerico and Joel Lacitignola - said he is ready for whatever advice, or abuse, Ramsay has to dish out.

"We're all excited here on our staff," Goss said. "As new owners, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a cussing out, I mean, some valuable constructive criticism from Gordon Ramsay. I hope we can use it for the next 25 years."

Goss said about 60 of the show's crew members had descended upon the hotel Thursday morning and he expected about 25 more later in the day.

Typically, Ramsay has plenty of material to work with in tearing apart poorly run establishments before building them back up. The Murphys Hotel filming will become a second-season episode following a six-week rookie run last August and September. No air date has yet been set, according to a Fox representative.

Though known as a Michelin-starred chef with a foul mouth and perfectionist style, Ramsay is not a novice to the hotel industry. He studied hotel management before entering the restaurant business in his native Britain and worked for numerous hotel-based eateries.

Scouts from the show approached Calaveras County Visitors Bureau Executive Director and Film Commissioner Lisa Boulton in January at the Los Angeles Travel and Adventure Show. Boulton said that, given the show's requirements - including having a kitchen and parameters on staff size - the Black Bart Inn in San Andreas first seemed like an ideal fit. However, its owners passed.

She said Goss and company jumped at the chance.

Boulton said the choice of the Murphys Hotel is a bit unusual in that the hotel is actually one of the county's stronger operations, not the typical mess seen in earlier episodes.

"There's definitely some confrontation usually going on in their shows … but the Murphys Historic Hotel is actually doing quite well," she said. "I'm hoping the show is going to reflect the hotel is doing well and its young, new owners are eager to take it to the next level."

Boulton said the "Hotel Impossible" crews were taken aback by locals' enthusiasm about pitching in on the Hotel Leger makeover and the episode became unique in featuring the town as much as the hotel.

"I don't know what their angle's going to be (for "Hotel Hell")," Boulton said, "but I think they'll find something for the Murphys Historic Hotel, too, and it won't be quite like other episodes."

She said the crew asked for suggestions of where to shoot B-roll to air between scenes and she gave an extensive list of Calaveras sights.

"That's really an opportunity to showcase Calaveras County," Boulton said. "If we get coverage for Murphys, it's going to benefit the whole county."

Anyone hoping to share in the hotel's proverbial 15 minutes (actual run time is 43 minutes) of fame can enter a lottery for a slot at dinner Saturday, Sunday or Tuesday night, by emailing, Goss said.

He said he's been told to expect to meet Ramsay for the first time either tonight or sometime Saturday.

"Other than that, they're keeping me in the dark," Goss said. "I think it's supposed to be a surprise."

The hotel is largely in the show's hands until filming is done.

"They asked for full control of the hotel and that's what we're giving them," Goss said.

The Union Democrat
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