Hi, it’s Cheryl, the veteran designer from Restaurant Makeover, the feisty addition to Restaurant Impossible.


I thought I had seen it all, until I got to the Shamrock & Thistle! A run down Irish pub that was on its last legs and in desperate need of second chance. Mick, the resto owner, needed a wake-up call and he managed to get the toughest experts on Restaurant Takeover. Top Chef Andrea Nicholson and I decided that it was necessary to go into “tough love” mode. So here we go with some fun “Behind the Scenes” moments that you don’t get to hear about on TV.


Day 1 – THE AMBUSH: Director Dean Davis hands us our pen cams. First of all, they are much bigger than a pen, it feels like you’re holding a mini flashlight! Super awkward to hold but wow…so much fun to use! I literally tried to hide it in my hair at one point as Shamrock customers watched the two of us order plates and plates of food. What you didn’t see was the mound of food that I collected which ended up going in my NO THANK you pile. Was I being over dramatic? YES! Boring and undercooked food is not acceptable and we wanted to show Mick that we could do better.  The decor was even worse; talk about a space that needed more than just a makeover. Holes in the walls, broken glass, a microwave in the kitchen, and every surface was literally falling apart before our eyes.  Eekkkkk!



Chef Andrea and I are UBER passionate about what we do and that’s why I love that saying, “We scare because we care!”. We dished the dirt about some of the issues with their food, the tiny kitchen and how we needed to get him on the same page so that we could work our magic and give him the restaurant of his dreams! So here’s the thing…Mick wanted an Austin, Texas theme which was inspired by many trips there with friends. He loves the music, the food, the energy, the whole nine yards. But here’s where the problem begins for me…I’ve never travelled there, so how do I create an authentic Austin space just outside of the GTA? And to tell you the truth, that doesn’t really go with my signature polished elegant style either. Well, the good thing is that I love a good challenge and Chef Andrea was the perfect partner in crime. So I prayed to the designer gods for a double rainbow or at least a lucky charm to help me with this unique project. I had one chance to get this right.


DAY 2 – DEMO DAY: There was nothing to demolish! Seriously, the place was already at its lowest point and Igor agreed! Mick expressed his love for the existing bar so that would be an RTO record breaking time of 10 seconds of Igor’s demo time, which was basically enough time to walk through the restaurant. And why was Igor wearing that hat?! I bought it as a prop and had no idea that Igor would love it so much! Very cute.


DAYS 3 to 6 – RENO TIME:  So let’s get started! I had dreams of black and white sketched cows on the wall (a very cool wallpaper from www.newwall.ca), mixed with new age rustic flair, I wanted to throw in some aged metals found from Toronto’s best architectural salvages, contrasted with my love of modern sleek polycarbonate dining chairs in all shades of Texas, accented with cool industrial bar stools from West Elm. I tried to share my vision with Igor, and he literally laughed in my face when I gave him the scope of work!  Basically, the laundry list included repairing surface in the resto, and then completing the daunting task of getting my design completed within the next six days. This is not the usual circumstance, but we had no choice. After working with Igor a few times, you know what makes him happy and what makes him want to run. Luckily, I chose this awesome Vinyl Plank flooring (Karndean) that resembles reclaimed wood. Perfect for the look that I was going for and I scored some major brownie points with Igor too.



The staining of the bar, the floor, the shutter divider wall…ha! What didn’t we fight about?


My duty as a designer is to introduce new and exciting things to a space. So I was approached by this fabulous company called Picture Panels that produces multi-functional sound panels that can help to reduce the amount of noise in a restaurant. This was the perfect solution to help make Mick’s dreams of having a lounge/stage area in the resto. Now the bonus was that you can customize these panels by choosing any image that you want. What we couldn’t control was the fact that the panels were stuck in customs and literally arrived the day before the reveal!! I’ll let you do the calculations here…400 sqf of sound panels, a crew of 3 people, 1 scaffold and a restaurant that is 60% done. Talk about stressful!!  A big thank you to Igor, Graeme and the RTO Team for staying up all night. I owe you big time. The end result was so worth it!!



When Andrea and I did our “Modern Family” debrief chat on the couch. We both did our best evil laugh after the money talk and it somehow it made the cut!


I had to stand on a table in heels for one of my debrief interviews so that our lovely camera man could get the perfect shot! Don’t worry, safety first! Our production assistant was holding my hand the whole time.
Andrea I both love to dance, and did multiple takes of us doing a country jig…or maybe it was a line dance? Either way, it went on for at least 5 minutes with the entire crew was on the floor laughing because we were sooooo bad. Needless to say, that didn’t make the cut, but it was so much fun!

I love this pic! My vision came together with the use of sleek modern dining chairs (Alma Design, available at C-Living Inc.) contrasted with the vinyl plank flooring (Karndean), the reclaimed wood dining tables and of course, we can’t forget the awesome cow wallpaper (New Wall Inc.)! A designer twist to an Austin Texas Chic bar that will definitely be the coolest place to have a nice cold beer and Po’ Boy at the end of a long day!


And the drum roll please….here’s the amazing transformation of the SHAMROCK becoming the newest addition to the Dundas West Strip, Etobicoke…6th STREET!