Real. Frightening. Confusing. Those are words that you could use to describe any of Rudy Guiliani's recent television appearances, but they're also the words that test-players used to summarize the hour that they spent in a newly opened escape room in Queens, New York.
The Real Kitchen Nightmare welcomed its first guests on Friday the 13th, which was thematically appropriate on a number of levels. The owners of the Esscape Room—yes, there's an extra s—say that their terrifying new attraction is the first restaurant-themed escape room in New York City. (Apparently, getting out of Roberta's without making eye contact with your ex doesn't officially count.)
Melanie Lemieux and Kyle Radzyminski told The Long Island City Journal that they were inspired to open their own escape room because, well, they love them. During a recent vacation to western Europe, they managed to visit—and get out of—six different escape rooms. "We’re escape-the-room fanatics," Lemieux said. "We’ve done so many of them all over the globe.”
She said that when she's a participant, she appreciates when the rooms are totally realistic looking, and that's what she's tried to do as an escape room designer as well; she and Radzyminski own two bar-slash-restaurants, The Huntress and The Baroness, so they were able to outfit their own spot with real fryers and other kitchen equipment.
As far as the story goes, they've tried not to spill too many of the details. The general idea is that an all-around creepy chef named Francois "The Butcher" Hellerstein had to close his restaurant after his sous chefs started disappearing. He's able to reopen his spot thanks to the arrival of a group of sous chefs—the participants themselves—and the hourlong game involves Hellerstein "training" his new staff.
"Without giving too many details away, there are many logical and mathematical challenges, along with cyphers to meander through," Radzyminski told VICE. "It's not a 'linear' escape room like some out there, which tend to be a bit boring…. Amongst looking for clues and figuring out puzzles, there is an overtone of mystery, desperation and, for lack of a better word, dread." He also noted that the ending has "a cool M. Night Shyamalan-type twist."
On Instagram, Lemieux and Radzyminski warned that The Real Kitchen Nightmare "isn't necessarily for the timid or the inexperienced," and they're not kidding. In the almost two weeks since the escape room opened, only one group has managed to get out.
"After building it out, we took a month of testing the room with many participants—friends and family and some strangers—and they came with all levels of escape room experience. One couple has done over 230 and didn't get out of this one," Radzyminski said. "We want a 10% success rate. We want people to have a need to see what's behind the next door, and if they don't complete it in the allotted one hour, they'll want to come back and finish it. It's immersive, theateresque."
If you're brave enough to "work" for this Nightmare chef, the room is open from Monday through Saturday, and reservations can be made through the Esscape Room website. A new group of between 2 and 6 players is admitted every 90 minutes from 1 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. on Mondays, and from 1 p.m. through 10 p.m. from Tuesday through Saturday.
As unpleasant as this entire experience might be, it could be worse: You could be working for an Instagram influencer.