It has been a long while since I posted anything about the infamous Kitchen Nightmares visit to Amy’s Baking Company. According to the website TMZ, Samy The Hammer attempted to attack someone outside of their restaurant. Details are sketchy but it appears the man was a drunk patron that Samy was waving a knife at (this is being disputed as a pen). A video of the incident can be viewed here at TMZ. KPHO is reporting that police were called at approximately 5 pm local time to investigate a disturbance.
Witnesses said Samy Bouzaglo, who operates Amy’s Baking Company with wife Amy, was waving a knife and yelling as he chased a drunken man out of their business, according to a police report.
The man was gone when police arrived and no charges have been filed. However charges are pending if and when the other person is located and interviewed. My guess is that drunk guy is getting a lawyer and planning legal action in the next couple of days.
Amy’s Baking Company (ABC) has become a teaching lesson for business schools–in how not to deal with the public. And thanks to social media, the lesson has spread far and wide. Samy and Amy Bouzaglo totally underestimated the negative response generated by the episode. Many people were suspicious, like a local food critic who was asked to report on ABC. That critic had not heard much about the restaurant except for the famous Amy blowout to a local food blogger in 2010. Crazy Amy, as she is now called, went national thanks to Kitchen Nightmares (KN). As that critic dug deeper she began to realize something was indeed amiss at ABC. And what was seen on the show has been confirmed by workers and customers interviewed later. And their crude attacks on the negative postings after the show confirmed that what they saw on the show was exactly who they–the Bouzaglo’s–really are.
One thing that food critic realized is that in all the time that ABC has been open, it never generated any buzz. In a sea of restaurants in Scottsdale, ABC never distinguished itself in any way. And that is telling. With mixed reviews on Yelp and elsewhere, there was nothing really that drew you to ABC unless you were just in the area and wanted to give it a try. Sometimes you might get lucky and get an okay meal. Or get an underdone pizza with a side of nasty attitude when complained to Samy. A recent trip by a local business writer found their drinks had bugs in it. And despite subsequent replacement drinks, the bugs were still in the glasses. Samy asked them to leave after that and they went down to a more popular restaurant to finish the meal they never had at ABC. They did give the server money to go up to ABC to get a pastry, which was delicious, but their treatment at ABC confirmed what was shown (except Crazy Amy never made an appearance).
A few seasons back Gordon went to a Philadelphia restaurant run by sisters who never ran a restaurant before. The speciality was potato (in fact that was in their name) but the food was terrible. The restaurant was empty and Gordon helped them revamp the menu. He also brought in a chef consultant to help the young chef, in fact a niece of one of the sisters, and things began to improve. A food critic that had given them a terrible review gave a glowing one after the relaunch. And for a while things were going good. Then that chef left and food quality declined. Restaurant hours changed and closing early, like 8pm on a Saturday night. By summer’s end in 2010, the restaurant closed. I bring this up because there are some similarities here. Neither Amy or Samy have any previous restaurant experience. They have mixed reviews on Yelp. While local restaurants are packing them in, many tables are empty at ABC.
Their over-the-top reaction to critics made things far worse and people looking for more dirt on the couple. Which they did find out. Crazy Amy was locked up for using another persons social security number to obtain a bank line of credit. She also has other prior legal issues as well. Samy is facing deportation. The exact reason is not known but possibly due to not disclosing criminal convictions in Europe in his residency application. Questions are raised about whether ABC actually cooks those wonderful pastries. Evidence suggests they are bought elsewhere and resold by ABC. There is also a disquieting rumor that ABC is a money laundering operation.
Amy and Samy wanted to let loose about Gordon Ramsay, KN and online critics with a press conference. Lawyers for the show sent a strongly worded letter reminding them of their contractual obligations, which meant they faced huge monetary damages if they violated. I suspect that guy in the funny toque and stripped pants down in Nashville got a similar letter after letting loose to the National Inquirer. I wish they had let Crazy Amy and Samy the Hammer have their press conference. It would have been memorable. They hired a public relations firm that handles such fires but they bowed out after a few days owing to a difference in strategies. The had a quiet reopening with a security guard to keep things civil. Attendance was thin and no one reports the restaurant is packing them in. Lots of gawkers wanting to see the now infamous ABC and perhaps get a glimpse of the pair as well.
The future does not look well for ABC. Restaurants that generate negative buzz rarely thrive. And profit margins are thin for restaurants. The restaurant did finally generate a buzz but not the one wanted by Crazy Amy and Samy the Hammer. And for business schools, ABC is a case study is how not to run a business or handle major public relations crisis.
Apparently Crazy Amy did give an interview after the warning letter to Radar Online. In the interview, she said some nasty things about Ramsay. That could result in Fox suing her for breach of contract.
Kitchen Nightmares had its season finale tonight in Scottsdale, Arizona at Amy’s Baking Company. This episode will be remembered for many startling things, none of them having to with an unsanitary kitchen. It is the first time ever, counting both the British and American shows combined, that Gordon Ramsay actually walks out saying there was nothing he could do to help them if they were not going to be able to help themselves. Amy’s Baking Company will be long remembered for a chef who could not take the mildest of criticism, firing a server for asking a question, for a husband who keeps all the tips believing the staff did not deserve it, and rudely treating guests who did not like their food or gave up waiting and tried to leave.
What makes this more startling is how the Amy Bouzaglo comes off. Her husband knows that she cannot handle criticism so returned food is tossed into the bin and says nothing to her. When Gordon criticizes her for using frozen ravioli, she gets defensive. When he tries to explain the pizza was undercooked she says it was fine. And when he points out the burger was ruined by a soggy bun and a weird combination of materials, you can see something is really amiss in her eyes and attitude. And clearly she is mad at the bad reviews she has gotten at Yelp and other places. She is like a bottle of nitroglycerin, unstable and ready to explode at the slightest movement that shakes things up.
And then there is Samy. This guy does not trust the staff so he is the only one allowed to enter in the orders servers bring to him. He will not train them to do it. There is also a doorbell to summon the washer to pick up the dirty dishes. As if keeping the tips (which could be a violation of state or federal law) was not enough, he had one of the staff wash his car. Gordon learns this by talking to two ex-employees. He learns the turnover is very high. The two say say 50 get fired but the number revealed by Sami is 150.
The relationship between husband and wife is stormy as well. They constantly argue and Gordon tries to get them to listen to the problems he sees. Except Amy will not listen. Now Gordon takes a different tact in this show. Instead of the usual scared straight approach of getting in the face with foul language, he tones it down knowing that here it will not work. He tries to ask Samy why Amy is so defensive and angry. He demurs wanting to answer that. Gordon tries talking to them at the end about the problems he sees and why she is so defensive. You can see the explosions going on in her eyes and body language. She gets up threatening to go home and gets some water. That is when, after she returns, he tells the both of them he cannot help. He realizes they are not interested in making any changes unless they are ready to make them. In his final talk to the camera later, Gordon says that they would never keep any changes he made. So he gets in his car and drives off as the production staff takes down the cameras in the restaurant.
This is a very disturbing episode of Kitchen Nightmares. This explosive husband and wife have real serious problems beyond just the ordinary problems of running a restaurant. What that is we can only speculate. However their bad treatment of servers and stealing tips ought to get some eager beaver attorney to take them on as clients and sue them. Whatever agency handles labor issues in Arizona also ought to launch an investigation of workplace harassment. And the people of Scottsdale ought to give them them the back of their hand and have nothing to do with them.
Finally this episode appears to have opened the floodgates over at Yelp. The reviews are not surprising considering what was shown. You can view them here. No doubt this will send Amy into the stratosphere about all the negative posts. I suspect more bad news is on the way.
There is a YouTube video of a news report about how Amy went after a bad Yelp review. You can view it here.
Update 1 (11 May)
Amy and Samy posted the following to their Facebook page yesterday:
We do not feel the need to make any excuses for our behavior on tonight’s show.
However we would like to make the following statement:
We do not, nor have we ever stolen or taken any of our servers ,waitresses, or waiters tips at Amy’s Baking Company.
We pay our staff members anywhere between $8.00 to $14.00 per hour to ensure that at the end of the week regardless of it being busy or not, that they go home with money and a well paid paycheck. As do many other restaurants.
They are aware of this when they are hired.
I would challenge any of our employees past or present to come forward with proof that we have ever done such a horrible thing.
So please enjoy the show! Amy & Samy
Unfortunately, Samy admits he takes the tips and does not give them to the servers on camera.
Update 2 (13 May 2013)
Both Amy and Samy are now claiming Kitchen Nightmares misrepresented them. They deny shouting at customers and customers exaggerated problems on the show. They also say they have received death threats.
Source: Couple says they were misrepresented on ‘Kitchen Nightmares’(12 May 2013,UPI)
Update 3 (15 May 2013)
The Daily Beast has an interesting article about Amy’s Baking Company. The outrage over what was shown sparked numerous posts on Yelp (last check well over 1500 added since the show aired) and in other social media. The couple responded back on their Facebook page (posts deleted according to the article). Samy threatens legal action against those who posted negative comments and challenges them to come in a say them to his face. They now claim that recent postings on Facebook claiming to be from Samy or Amy were fake, including the one that claims they do not steal tips but pay the servers well. There is a claim that Amy does not cook the desserts on-site (and the article notes she is never seen to cook them) and possibly done by someone else (a post claiming to suggest this was also deleted). They now claim their Facebook, Twitter, and website have been hacked and they are pursuing the matter with authorities.
Source: Amy’s Baking Company: A Real-Life Kitchen Nightmare(14 May 2013, Daily Beast)
Update 4 (16 May 2013)
As reported in some forums and now confirmed, Amy Bouzaglo pled guilty in 2003 to one count of misusing a social security number to obtain a line of credit. She was sentenced to 14 months in jail, 36 months supervised release, and restitution of $36,294.95. She appealed the plea deal, which was denied by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals since she waived right to appeal. In 2008 she sought to modify the original sentence (she cannot be re-sentenced due to the deal in place) and submitted evidence that her life had changed (marriage, business, ties to community). At this time it is not known what decision was made. The case is U.S. v. Amanda Patricia Bossingham, U.S. District Court of Arizona, Case #02CR00477-001-PHX-MHM.
Source: Kitchen Nightmares Most Hated Couple: Owner Is Convicted Felon!( 15 May 2013, Radar Online)