I have to confess, a few of us are obsessed with the season finale of Kitchen Nightmares featuring Scottsdale, Arizona, restaurant Amy's Baking Company. The controversial episode led to massive online outrage and some truly horrific hate mail, harassment, and even death threats for owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglo. So imagine my delight when I got the chance to talk with Amy about what happened and hear her side of the story.
I will tell you, she and Samy are every bit as bananas off-screen as they are on. Amy had a LOT to say, and Samy was constantly yelling in the background, which cracked me up. But I think we all know how cooked-up reality TV can be. "I would not like us, either," Amy said, if all she knew about Amy's Baking Company was what she'd seen on the show. But there's more to the story than what made it to the show. Here's what we didn't see on Kitchen Nightmares -- according to Amy.
Yes, the whole shit storm took them by surprise. The Kitchen Nightmares crew was supposed to film the Bouzaglos for six days, but they only filmed for two. Amy honestly didn't think they'd have enough content and assumed the episode with their restaurant would never air. But months later someone from FOX publicity called her and said, "Get ready." And Amy knew. "This is it -- there's no good ending here." She knew she and her husband were going to look bad because those two days were horrific. But she had no idea how severe the fallout would be. She's forwarded me some of the hate mail she received, and I'll spare you the details. But it's pretty vile stuff -- violent, racist, and misogynist.
Um, people? I understand how what you saw would make you angry. But come on! These are two small business owners. Aren't there some corporate robber barons, major polluters, corrupt politicians, child molesters, or animal abusers who are much more worthy of your hate? Okay, moving on.
Amy and Samy own their crazy. She totally acknowledges that they've both got intense personalities. However, she adds, "We don't just go after random people." If they feel like they're being attacked, they will fight back, fiercely. Amy says she thinks a lot of the backlash came because "people are not used to seeing business owners standing up for themselves. A lot of people can't handle that."
Yelp haters were planted: Before filming started, Amy says she sent Kitchen Nightmares producers the names and profiles of their biggest haters on Yelp -- people she says had been harassing the restaurant for the last three years. She specifically requested that the producers keep these people away from the restaurant. Instead, when her regulars called to make reservations for the days of the filming, they were told the restaurant was filled. It was the Yelp haters who were invited. You can see, from the producers' perspective, how this choice would make for a more exciting show.
According to Amy, a moment that ended up on the cutting floor showed one of the Yelp haters "thumping his chest" in the middle of the restaurant and shouting at Samy, "Where's my pizza? Tell your fucking wife to hurry up with my pizza!" Later the hater's friend grabbed Samy's arm. These are the people we see Samy yelling at, pushing, and throwing out of the restaurant. Amy insists that this is not how they usually treat customers -- she and Samy felt under attack.
Yes, she called a diner a "pansy." She did not intend it as a homophobic slur. She doesn't even think the diner is gay. She meant that after three years of harassing her online, he only had the balls to show up in person when he had reality TV cameras on him.
The waitress Miranda you see on the show was actually a busser. Before that, Samy waited all the tables and ran the order system himself. But producers told Amy and Samy it would "look crazy" for Samy to run the front of the house alone, and urged them to promote Miranda to waitress, even though, according to Amy, she and Samy had doubts that she could handle the job. With no time to train her on their system, Miranda was thrown into the job. It was the restaurant's practice to take the tips for the house (some of which went into payroll).
About that tipping ... Amy says she and Samy have learned a lot from this whole experience. They've revised that notorious employee contract and now their waitstaff takes home all the tips. (As for the rest of the contract, well, Amy says she has high standards for her employees.) However, they do think the growing trend toward ending tipping is the way to go. The way Amy sees it, tipping leads to uneven service. She thinks waitstaff should treat every customer the same, no matter how well they think they'll tip. She would rather pay her waitstaff a flat salary with no tipping, which she says is what Thomas Keller and Alice Waters do. But for now, ABC staff take home their tips, period.
They're planning their own reality TV show. The rumors are true! Amy couldn't give me any details. But I had to ask -- WHY, after their excruciating experience with Kitchen Nightmares, would they go back for more? Amy says she wants to show who she and Samy really are -- hard-working business owners, people who will work 18-hour days, mop their own floors. She also wants to use to show to bring awareness to cyberbullying. And frankly, she knows she and Samy make for entertaining television. "We are fiery people. We don't filter what we say. There's never a dull moment." And that's something I think we can all agree about.
Would you watch a reality TV show about Amy's Baking Company?
Image via FOX