When Robi Hutchinson left his job as a producer in Hollywood and moved home to Brunswick two years ago, he knew he had to find a good breakfast haunt.

"I got on the Internet and the only place that had any kind of ratings was Jen’s Place," he said. "This was the spot."

Jen’s Place is tucked inside a low one-level corrugated metal building on Brunswick’s Stanwood Street. It is neighbored by the Northern Chi Martial Arts Center, sidelined by the railroad tracks, and across the street from a fleet of lawnmowers parked on the grass outside of the Brunswick Home and Garden Shop. The restaurant serves breakfast seven days a week and opened its doors four years ago this month. It is frequented by Bowdoin students, but tucked just far enough from campus that most of them come via car or bike.

Hutchinson liked Jen’s Place so much he started coming twice a week.

"I’m a creature of habit," he said. "I get two eggs over easy—which I call two ovaries—over a f*cked-up cow, which is basically corn-beef hash. I get two ovaries over a f*cked-up cow…and an English muffin. Toasted."

He met the family—the owner, Jen Burton, her sister Cory Miller, their mother, their father, various children and friends of children who help flip pancakes and wash pans in the open 10-by-18 foot kitchen, and who wait on customers in the adjoining 50-seat dining room. Burton's 10-year old nephew Jacob comes in on his school days off to take orders at his grandmother’s side.

"They’re salt of the earth," said Hutchinson. "They’re total country-bumpkins. There’s nothing negative about them."

Hutchinson comes from a background in movies and commercial television. He did advertisements for Old Navy and Geico, and, after learning Mandarin and going to college in China, produced the country’s highest-grossing movie, which he calls “their equivalent of The Christmas Story…every New Year it floods the airwaves.” 

But like any opportunistic movie-man, he has an eye for reality television too. The more he ate at Jen’s Place, the more he learned about the behind-the-scenes lives of the family. He started wishing he had a camera. 

In the last year, the Jen’s Place family has faced heart attacks, threats of house repossession, and the deaths of multiple close relatives. Burton, the namesake and founder, is still recovering from biweekly spinal taps—treatment for the brain tumor doctors discovered two years ago. There are gaps in her memory. She doesn’t remember graduating from high school. Although she underwent an operation with a 50 percent mortality rate, she lost just a sliver of vision in her right eye. When they walk together, her sister Cory flanks her right side so she doesn’t bump into things. 

 “And yet...the minute you walk into the restaurant all that stuff is gone, and you just have that incredibly supportive real family…most people would probably curl up in bed and not crawl out,” said Hutchinson. 

He liked their stories and he liked the way they ran the restaurant—like a big family dining room. Hutchinson watched as the family  jovially commanded Bowdoin students to sing when they left their cell phones on the table. He noticed that Mike, a regular, hadn’t been in for a while, and after asking around, learned that he had recently lost a fight with cancer. A few weeks later, he noticed Mike’s framed picture on the wall. 

In mid-July, Hutchinson called Larissa Michieli, a connection in Los Angeles. She is the executive producer of the recently announced “Pageant Wives,” and a former producer of E!’s 1997-2003 celebrity-hosted travel show “Wild On!” 

“One day [Hutchinson] came in, and he said ‘family meeting,’” said Burton. She refers to him as their adopted brother. “We all went outside and he goes, ‘I think that this place could make a really great reality TV show’…we’re all like, ‘Oh, wow. This isn’t really happening.’”

Soon after the talk, the family had a Skype meeting with Michieli. 

“She immediately got it,” said Hutchinson. 

Michieli booked a cross-country plane ticket and arrived with a crew in Brunswick the last week of August. They did interviews with everyone in the family, and filmed goings-on in the restaurant from the 5 a.m. opening to the 1 p.m. closing time.

“We had told customers before then a little about what was going on,­they were so excited,” said Burton. 

Currently, editors in Los Angeles are condensing those six-to-nine hours of footage into a three-minute clip to entice potential networks. 

“[Michieli] is really confident that somebody is going to pick this up,” said Burton. Hutchinson hopes it will be either TLC or the Food Network. The network will decide how many episodes to film, and then their reality goes on air. 

“We were told at first that the cameras were just going to be placed in the restaurant, now they’re saying three to four cameras on the walls and one to two film people in there, all the time,” said Burton. She adds that a camera could appear in her car too. “I’m really nervous about that. I am a disgruntled driver.” 

Before her marriage, Jen Burton was Jen Miller. Even since her divorce fifteen years ago, she remains a Burton, the name her community knows her by. Yet Jen’s Place is run by Millers, and she aligns herself with her family name. Executives told Hutchinson his dream title—“Miller Time”—was too litigious and tied up with the beer branding; the show’s working title is “Jen’s Place.”

“We don’t even get a choice. The networks pick it,” he said. 

The family has a month before the testing reel is shopped around networks, then it could be a year before filming. 

“Now we’re just holding up our end here, life goes on. We act the same no matter who is in here. It’s not a big putting-on-a-show for a camera. This is just our life,” said Burton.