• Chef Jason Santos

Marblehead B&B Fish Owner Heads Back Into 'Hell's Kitchen'

Scott Souza, Patch Staff

Posted Mon, Jan 4, 2021 at 3:00 pm ET|Updated Mon, Jan 4, 2021 at 3:05 pm ET

Celebrity Chef Jason Santos discusses the success of the new Marblehead takeout location amid a punishing time for the restaurant industry.

Celebrity chef Jason Santos, owner of the new B&B Fish in Marblehead, said it's "bittersweet" to look back at scenes of full dining rooms and bustling restaurants amid the coronavirus pandemic. (B&B Fish)

MARBLEHEAD, MA — Jason Santos admits it will be a bittersweet trip back in time to a much different place when the 19th season of "Hell's Kitchen" debuts on Fox Thursday night.

The Boston celebrity chef, and owner of Marblehead's B&B Fish that opened in September, filmed two seasons of Gordon Ramsay's hit show three years ago when everything involved with the restaurant business was much different than it has become in the past 10 months of the coronavirus health crisis.

"The business has changed forever," Santos, who is a sous chef for one of the teams in the show, told Patch on Monday. "They talk about things getting back to normal. But it's well past that at this point.

"It's going to be cool to watch the dining room full. But it also reminds you of what you don't have."

Santos said he now has a very successful Marblehead location that has been embraced in the town and is thriving with its mostly takeout model. For his flagship Boston locations, however, navigating the state's shifting capacity restrictions and conflicting public messages about the safety of indoor dining amid virus surges have made operating those locations a matter of survival over making money.

"It's just slim margins in restaurants," he said. "We went from wanting to make a profit to that you just don't want to lose people. I am in business to keep my staff working and feed people. We aren't making money. That I can keep everyone employed and not lay people off is the goal now. You just want to sustain enough to cover costs.

"It's not just the 25 percent (temporary capacity restriction). It's also the message it sends. It scares people and makes it worse."

Gov. Charlie Baker said on Monday the two-week restrictions, which are set to expire on Sunday, will be revisited later this week.

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