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Escondido’s Rosie’s Cafe to get ‘Restaurant: Impossible’ makeover

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Kaitlyn Rose, owner’s of Rosie’s Cafe on Grand Avenue in downtown Escondido, serves a customer not long after she reopened the former Champion’s diner in 2017. The restaurant will undergo a televised renovation next month for the Food Network show “Restaurant: Impossible.”

Rosie’s Cafe, an old-fashioned downtown Escondido diner known for its fresh-baked cinnamon rolls, will undergo a dramatic overhaul next month for an episode of Food Network’s reality renovation series “Restaurant: Impossible.”

On Jan. 9, the TV production crew will arrive at the Grand Avenue cafe, which opened two years ago in the space occupied for 44 years by Champion’s Restaurant. Show host and chef/consultant Robert Irvine will spend a day assessing the restaurant’s operations. Then it will close on Jan. 10 for a 36-hour makeover valued at more than $10,000.

In order to accomplish the whirlwind television event, producers have put out a call for local construction and renovation companies that would like to participate in the renovation. Local diners are also needed to take part in post-opening meals.

The TV series — which ran from 2011 to 2016 and was renewed this month — sends the veteran British chef into a failing American restaurant where he studies its menu, business practices, decor, concept and cleanliness and teaches the owner how to rightsize the menu, rework the recipes, market the business and better train the staff.

As part of contractual obligations, Rosie’s Cafe owner Kaitlyn Rose, 31, is not allowed to comment on her participation in the series, why she applied for the revamp or what issues she hopes will be addressed as a result of the project.

Rosie’s opened in December 2016 at 117 W. Grand Ave., which has been occupied as a diner since the early 1920s. It started out as a cafe known as the “Chat ’n’ Chew,” then changed hands and names several times before it was taken over in the 1970s by Ted and Violet McCain, who introduced Ted’s grandfather’s signature cinnamon rolls to his customers. The McCains passed along the cinnamon roll recipe to the restaurant’s next owners, Oscar and Eva Champion, who renamed the space Champion’s Family Restaurant, according to Sally Connor, who is the McCains’ daughter. When the Champions retired, their daughter Annette took over, but she closed the restaurant in fall 2016. A few months later, Rose leased the building and Annette Champion shared the McCains’ recipes with her.

Volunteers who would like to take part in renovation painting, crafting, constructing, cleaning or decorating are invited to apply for a position on one or more of the three work shifts: Noon to 7 p.m. Jan. 10; 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Jan. 11; and 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 11. Applicants must be 18 or older and must wear work clothing with no visible logos. Workers will not be paid but will receive free food. To be considered, apply by noon Jan. 4 to this email address: rivolunteer@levitylive.com with full name, email address, mailing address, cellphone number and skillset related to the renovation.

Reservations are also being taken for local residents who would like to dine at Rosie’s Cafe when it reopens at 7 p.m. Jan. 11. For consideration, apply by noon Jan. 4 to this email address: rivolunteer@levitylive.com with full name, email, cellphone number, party size and the names of the people in your party.

Although participants will be filmed, there is no guarantee they will be seen on-air.

“Restaurant: Impossible” will return to Food Network on April 20. The air date for the Rosie’s Cafe renovation has not been announced.

pam.kragen@sduniontribune.com