What Happens When the Customer is Always Wrong
Updated 6 June 13
Notes: All facts taken from the Internet. This fact sheet is for background information on the restaurant’s soap opera and may not contain the most recent information. You will have to shoulder the burden for all conspiracy and P.R. theories.
Amy’s Baking Company is an infamous restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona located at 7366 East Shea Boulevard. Foul-mouthed owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglo received national attention for their hostile reaction to negative reviews. They blame their declining profits on online bullies, and excuse away customer complaints by claiming they only get compliments or by saying customers don’t know what good food is.
Their restaurant was featured in an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares,” which aired in May of 2013. Odd behaviors that surfaced included harsh treatment of staff and customers, lying about what items they make fresh for their restaurant, and admitting taking tips from servers. In response to the episode, the Bouzaglos closed the restaurant and claimed their post-episode online blowup was the result of hackers. They hired a P.R. rep and planned to reopen the restaurant with a news conference and additional staff. They reportedly had a job fair to get the staff. The news conference was cancelled after legal threats from the Kitchen Nightmares’ studio. The P.R. rep quit, but the Bouzaglos still have a spokesman named Mike Scerbo. It’s not clear what Scerbo did before becoming the restaurant spokesman, but there’s a Mike Scerbo who was a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
Because of all the attention, the media looked into the Bouzaglo’s past and found that before the restaurant initially opened, Amy pleaded guilty and served time behind bars for trying to get a loan using someone else’s social security number. Just before the restaurant re-opened, Samy’s lawyer David Asser revealed his client is involved in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement case to revoke his residency status. The case apparently started two years ago and is unrelated to the restaurant problems. Some motivated sleuths also found that Amy and/or Samy took photos from other sites to use as their own.
Three weeks after the Kitchen Nightmares episode aired, the Bouzaglos announced they would be getting their own reality TV show, but details weren’t released as promised.
Here‘s the best recap article I’ve seen so far. The best sources for the unfolding drama have been the Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Business Journal and the Phoenix New Times.
2008. Amy’s Baking Company opens.
1 Aug 10. Yelp reviewer Joel L. leaves a negative review. His name is Joel Latondress, an IT worker who has a recipe blog and enjoys eating out.
2 Aug 10. Amy B. fires back at Joel on Yelp. Media picks up on it.
Dec 2012. Kitchen Nightmares films at the restaurant.
7 Feb 13. PBS Arizona airs episode of “Check, Please!” featuring Amy’s Baking Company.
9 May 13. Kitchen Nightmares episode is available on YouTube. It’s the show’s season finale.
10 May 13. Kitchen Nightmares episode airs. It was the first time Ramsay ever gave up on a restaurant and walked out. There’s a social media explosion. The restaurant’s Yelp page is flooded with fake reviews. A Reddit page spewing never-ending hate is eventually shut down.
13 May 13. Amy and Samy have an “epic meltdown” on their Facebook page while responding to negative comments.
14 May 13. Facebook posts are deleted. Amy and Samy later claim their page was hacked.
15 May 13. P.R. bad boy Jason Rose announces he’s working with Amy and Samy. He says there’s a news conference and grand-reopening scheduled for May 21, with proceeds going to a charity organized to bring awareness to cyber bullying.
17 May 13. The studio that produces Kitchen Nightmares sends legal letter to Bouzaglos, insisting they cancel their pre-grand-opening news conference.
19 May 13. Amy and Samy hold a job fair to hire staff.
20 May 13. Jason Rose announces he’s no longer working with Amy and Samy. My 103.9 Phoenix airs chef/radio personality Monti Carlo’s interview with Amy and Sami that was recorded on May 17; piece uploaded to YouTube. A random check of Yelp shows 235 filtered (not factored ) reviews for the restaurant and 3,145 removed reviews.
21 May 13. Relatively drama-free grand re-opening. Security guards keep gawkers and the media outside. People without reservations turned away. A blogger was there.
24 May 13. Members of the Phoenix Business Journal try to eat at Amy’s Baking Company. They find fruit flies in three versions of a vodka martini on the rocks and are kicked out of the restaurant.
31 May 13. The Bouzaglos announce they’re getting a reality TV show and will release details on 4 June 13 Tuesday. They also claim their personal email was hacked.
4 June 13. More details of reality TV show are not released.
Amy’s Baking Company. Website.
ABC 15. 14 May 13. 15 May 13. 15 May 13. 19 May 13. 20 May 13.
Arizona Republic. 1 Jul 10. 7 May 13. 16 May 13. 17 May 13. 17 May 13. 20 May 13. 21 May 13. 31 May 13. Restaurant review: 4 Jun 13. 5 Jun 13.
Associated Press. 21 May 13 via ABC15.
AZFamily. 3 Aug 10. 14 May 13. 16 May 13. 16 May 13. 17 May 13.
CBS5. 5 Nov 10. 14 May 13. 20 May 13. Legal letter from Kitchen Nightmares studio.
Consumerist. 14 May 13. 16 May 13. 16 May 13. 20 May 13. 20 May 13. 21 May 13.
Eater. Compilation of Facebook rants and the Bouzaglo’s claims they were hacked.
Facebook. Page. Posts.
Forbes. 14 May 13.
Huffington Post. 14 May 13. 16 May 13.
International Business Times. 14 May 13. 15 May 13.
KTAR. 14 May 13. 16 May 13. 16 May 13. 17 May 13. 18 May 13. 20 May 13.
My 103.9 Phoenix. YouTube page. Interview part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7.
PBS. “Check, Please!” episode.
Phoenix Business Journal. 14 May 13. 15 May 13. 15 May 13. 15 May 13. 15 May 13. 16 May 13. 17 May 13. 20 May 13. 20 May 13. 24 May 13 with slideshow.
Phoenix Magazine. January 2008.
Phoenix New Times. Joe L’s Yelp post and response on Chow Bella. Special report with extra links. Video of re-opening: 22 May 13.
Reddit. Apparent thread with former waitress.
TV.com. Kitchen Nightmares, S6/Ep.16.
Today. Clip with Food Network’s Guy Fieri.
Twitter. Real account created 20 Feb 10. Fake account created 9 May 13. Fake account created 14 May 13. Possible real/replacement account created 17 May 13. Fake account for Amy created 31 May 13.
U.S. District Court in Arizona. Legal document.
Washington Post. 15 May 13.
Wikipedia. The page is being considered for deletion.
Yelp. Amy’s Baking Company page.
Vice. Recap of re-opening.
ZD.net. 15 May 13. 6 Jun 13.
No Tips for Servers
This was probably the biggest issue critics had with the restaurant. During the Kitchen Nightmares episode, it was revealed all tips went to Samy. During the My 103.9 Phoenix interview that aired on 20 May 13, Amy said servers don’t keep tips because Samy runs the front of the house and the employees are hired as bussers and food runners. But here are screen grabs from the restaurant’s Twitter account. Both show posts from 2011. One post mentions “waitress” and “GREAT tips” while the other mentions “servers.” This is just one of the inconsistencies that have cropped up since the Bouzaglos started defending themselves.
If you want a dream kitchen, or just want to dream of a dream kitchen, you need to look beyond the typical cooking stores. There’s professional equipment to find, and high-end products that don’t show up on the first few pages of an Internet search. Keep in mind these appliances aren’t expensive just because they’re bejeweled with crystals or diamonds.
THE $41,000 FRIDGE
Is the $14,000 Sub-Zero Pro expensive? I don’t think so. Try the Meneghini La Cambusa. It measures more than 8 feet wide and 7 feet high, meaning it’s bigger than kitchens in some New York City apartments. The middle compartments include an ice maker and room for dry goods, or you can throw a TV somewhere. My dream is to make this my dual fridge/entertainment center. The Blu-ray player can go behind Porthole #1. Warning: Meneghini’s website is atrocious, and it appears the company is very stingy about giving photos to the media. The poor folks at Robeys had to snap their own photo with a display model in front of a hastily created fake wall. Entertainment factor: High.
THE $1,400 HAPPINESS THING
The Thermomix apparently does everything. And by the look of that enraptured child, it will even make your kids stop hating you. The Thermomix cooks, cuts, steams, weighs, melts, emulsifies, etc., etc., etc. Not only is it a miracle, it will be a miracle none of your American friends own because it hasn’t caught on in the States. Maybe part of the problem is that this all-in-one thing is practically unattainable, even if you survive navigating the company’s maze of Internet propaganda. The Thermomix makes this list because it will be The Most Expensive Kitchen Appliance You Will Never Buy Because You Don’t Like In-Home Demonstrations.
THE $2223 MIXER
The Hobart N50 sees a $300 Kitchen Aid mixer on a wedding registry and chuckles heartily while holding its professional bowl-belly. The Kitchen Aid is still overkill for many home cooks, but if you want to confidently power through the most difficult of bread doughs, you need to step up to the Hobart. Plus, you’re buying it to impress, yes? Wait until a restaurateur shows up to one of your house parties and sees this beast in your kitchen. Instant points scored.
THE $46,000 STOVE
According to La Cornue, even the Queen of England would have to wait at least two months for one of the company’s hand-made stoves. So why was I able to find the price of Le Grand Palais 180 on Williams-Sonoma’s website after mere seconds of searching? The mystique of La Cornue is now dashed. But Le Grand Palais is pretty, and an expensive way to heat water for afternoon tea. So here you go.
THE $6,300 ORANGE JUICER: NOW WITH LENS FLARE
You can impress your morning-after house guests with an omelette made in a $20 non-stick pan. But if you want them to see a Higher Being before breakfast, throw some oranges in the Citrocasa Fantastic. If you’re strapped for cash, some companies lucky enough to sell it offer financing. As for the price, I found a nice lady from Citrocasa who gave me the lowdown. She wanted to make sure I understood the Fantastic is geared toward shops that serve juice all day, and cleaning the machine might be annoying if you’re only going to squeeze a few oranges at a time. OK, so it’s not convenient. But it’s still awesome, and awesomely expensive.
THE $16,043 WINE COOLER
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you don’t think a wine cooler is a kitchen appliance. Well, it’s a fridge, you cook with wine and you drink wine with food, so hush. The Vinotemp Macau 1450 is a masterpiece that includes beveled glass doors, two separate cooling units and enough space for 960 bottles. Math alert: that works out to 190 gallons of wine, and you’ll need an extra $24,000 just to fill the cooler with affordable $25 bottles. Give Vinotemp credit for clearly posting the Macau’s price and shipping cost. You can save a couple hundred dollars buying this elsewhere, but for something this expensive, I would think dealing directly with the company would be worth it. Vinotemp actually sells models that cost more per square foot, but they obviously don’t hold as many bottles. Meh.
THE $16,000 COFFEE SPOUT
I was left twitching when I first saw the Scanomat TopBrewer. I suddenly knew the meaning of life and understood why people commit the 7 deadly sins. A chorus of empathetic singers and dancers joined me as I raised my hands in the air, joyous in the knowledge I might one day learn of a distant relative who willed me enough money to buy this insane caffeine delivery device. Scanomat doesn’t have the most glamorous name, but the company does make a machine that can brew 4 pots of coffee in 10 seconds, so they know what they’re doing. In the case of the TopBrewer, they actually created an under-brewer; everything fits under the counter except for the spout. The display is flush to the counter, or you can just use an iPadPodPhone. There’s a full menu of coffee drinks, they’re all made far too quickly and you’ll never have to clean supply lines. Here’s your game plan: Get a huge shovel and scoop money at Scanomat. Then fling more cash in the general vicinity of Pyrolave so you can have a glazed lava countertop extracted from a volcanic crater in France. All you have to decide is where the spout goes. Make these two companies do everything else. If they say no, you need to use your shovel more liberally.
10 June 13 UPDATE: Scanomat recently entered the U.S. market. Almost two weeks ago, an export manager gave me the e-mail address of a woman helping bring TopBrewers into American homes. Apparently, the price is “much lower” than what I posted, although I was not given a corrected price, or even a price range. I’m sticking with $16,000 for now, since that’s the figure I was given from someone whose family is actually getting one. I’m still waiting for more info.
Updated 6 May 13
Important note: John Liu was not charged in this case and has denied any wrongdoing. “John Liu” is only in the title for brevity, and so people can easily find the post using search engines.
Additional notes: All facts taken from the Internet. This is for background information on the case and may not contain the most recent information. It does not contain information on the trial.
THE JOHN LIU FUNDRAISING CASE
While raising money in his run for mayor, two associates of NYC Comptroller John Liu were accused of plotting to illegally raise funds for his campaign. Oliver Pan and Jenny Hou were arrested and sent to trial on federal charges. Pan was found guilty of both charges against him. Hou was found guilty of three of the four charges against her. Here’s the prosecution’s case, translated from legalese: An undercover FBI agent approached Pan in August of 2011 with a $16,000 campaign contribution. This was much higher than the $4,959 individual contribution limit, but Pan worked around that. He planned for 20 straw donors to make $800 donations and had paperwork filled out. That illegal paperwork would then go to the New York City Campaign Finance Board, which has a matching campaign funds program. Prosecutors said Hou was also involved in the straw-donor scheme, used different methods of covering up illegal contributions and lied to investigators about it.
John Liu. NYC Comptroller, elected in 2009. Previously served on the New York City Council. He’s making a bid to replace Michael Bloomberg as Mayor. Liu has been accused of fundraising irregularities linked to his campaign for Comptroller and his campaign for Mayor. The investigation into these irregularities dates back to 2009. Some of his backers believe he is being framed. After the guilty verdicts were announced, Liu said he would move forward with his campaign. He also said he continues to believe in Hou, although he did not mention Pan, and did not explain why when asked. Liu has said numerous times he had no idea campaign contributions were being solicited through straw donors.
Preet Bharara. U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Barack Obama nominated him for the position in May of 2009 and he was sworn in about three months later. He has been influential in battling corruption on Wall Street and in politics. Involved in announcing the arrests of both Oliver Pan and Jenny Hou.
Oliver Pan. Actual name is Xing Wu Pan. Lives in Hudson County, N.J. Was one of Liu’s fundraisers. His arrest was announced on 16 Nov 2011 Wednesday. On 2 May 2013 Thursday, Pan was found guilty of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud and Attempted Wire Fraud. His sentencing is scheduled for September 2013.
Irwin Rochman. Pan’s defense attorney. Immediately after the guilty verdict, he suggested he would appeal.
Jenny Hou. Actual name is Jia Hou. Lives in Queens. Was Liu’s campaign treasurer. Her arrest was announced on 28 Feb 2012 Tuesday. On 2 May 2013, Hou was found guilty of Attempted Wire Fraud, Obstruction of Justice and Making False Statements. She was acquitted of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud. Her sentencing is scheduled for September 2013.
Gerald Lefcourt. Hou’s defense attorney. Immediately after the guilty verdict, he said he would appeal.
Judge Richard J. Sullivan. U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York. Has held his position since 2007. Presided over case.
Straw donors. People who illegally donate to a political campaign using their name, but with someone else’s money. Law-breaking fundraisers can find straw donors to work around campaign contribution limits.
August 2011: Month that undercover agent was “working” with Hou.
11 October 11 Tuesday: The New York Times publishes an article saying it uncovered financial irregularities in Liu’s campaign fundraising.
16 November 11 Wednesday: Pan’s arrest is announced.
28 February 12 Tuesday: Hou’s arrest is announced.
1 May 12 Tuesday: Pan and Hou plead not guilty.
1 February 13 Friday: Judge delays trail on reports of Pan’s mental health. Trail was supposed to start Monday, but it has been pushed back to at least Wednesday.
5 February 13 Tuesday: Judge delays trial indefinitely after Pan is involuntarily committed for mental health issues.
15 April 13 Monday: Jury selection begins.
30 April 13 Tuesday: Closing arguments begin.
2 May 13 Thursday: Jury reaches verdict. Attorneys and Liu release reactions.
20 September 13 Friday: Scheduled day of sentencing.
If you believe some of the articles on the cicada explosion we’ll be seeing here soon, you might think these bugs only emerge every 17 years, and now’s the time. Unfortunately, that’s only partially correct. If this is the only time you hear about cicadas, it’s because this emergence is huge in scope, and part of the insect inundation will occur in the New York City metro area.
Some people delivering the news are just getting it wrong. You might read that the last time humans saw cicadas was 1996, or that New Yorkers won’t see them again until 2030. The writers were either misinformed, deleting helpful information to make their articles shorter, or attempting not to get bogged down with science-y facts.
This 17-year emergence is from the most famous of cicadas, known as the Magicicada. They appear every 13 or 17 years like clockwork. Experts have separated them into “broods,” based on the year they will pop out of the ground and the areas this will happen. This year’s swarm will be from Brood 2. Here’s a 2004 article from the New York Times on Brood 10, which also stretched into the NYC area.
There are actually “annual” cicadas” that have much shorter lifespans, in the range of 2 – 5 years. They still appear every year because their generations overlap. If you live in certain parts of the country, you’ll never see or hear a cicada. In other parts, it would be very easy for you to miss all but the biggest explosion of cicadas, like this one.
It’s easy to find out Ed Koch is buried at Trinity Cemetery in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood. But where INSIDE the cemetery? That’s a little more difficult to find on the Internet. You can walk around looking for it, but there’s a lot of ground to cover; Trinity Cemetery stretches between three avenues and three streets.
Ed Koch was the mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989. He was 88 years old when he died on February 1, 2013. His burial plot is at the southeast corner of the cemetery. In fact, it’s the headstone closest to the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and 153rd.
The closest entrance is The Jewish Gate on Amsterdam Avenue at 154th. Turn left as soon as you get inside the cemetery. This entrance doesn’t show that the gates close at 4p, so here’s your warning. The closet subway to The Jewish Gate is the 155th Street Station on the C Line. You can also take the B/D to 155th or the 1 Line to 157th.
Here are the major bridges and the tunnels in New York City. Links go to corresponding Wikipedia pages.
Bridges and Tunnels Ringing Manhattan: Clockwise from the north
Henry Hudson Bridge: State Route 9A: Over the Spuyten Duyville Creek to the Bronx
Broadway Bridge: U.S. Route 9: Over the Harlem River to the Bronx
University Heights Bridge: West 207th Street: Over the Harlem River to the Bronx
Washington Bridge: West 181st Street: Over the Harlem River to the Bronx
Alexander Hamilton Bridge: Interstate 95 and U.S. Route 1: Over the Harlem River to the Bronx
Macombs Dam Bridge: West 155th Street: Over the Harlem River to the Bronx
145th Street Bridge: West 145th Street: Over the Harlem River to the Bronx
Madison Avenue Bridge: West 138th Street: Over the Harlem River to the Bronx
Third Avenue Bridge: 129th Street: Over the Harlem River to the Bronx
Willis Avenue Bridge: 1st Avenue: Over the Harlem River to the Bronx
Robert F. Kennedy/Triborough Bridge: East 125th Street: Over the East River to Randalls Island
59th Street Bridge/Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge: Over the East River and Roosevelt Island to Queens
Queens Midtown Tunnel: East 42nd Street/Interstate 495: Under the East River to Queens
Williamsburg Bridge: Delancey Street: Over the East River to Brooklyn
Manhattan Bridge: Canal/Bowery/Chrystie Streets: Over the East River to Brooklyn
Brooklyn Bridge: Streets around City Hall: Over the East River to Brooklyn
Hugh L. Carey/Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel: State Route 9A: Under the East River to Brooklyn
Holland Tunnel: Broome/Watts/Canal Streets: Under the Hudson River to Jersey City, New Jersey
Lincoln Tunnel: Streets around 39th Street: Under the Hudson River to Weehawken, New Jersey
George Washington Bridge: Interstate 95/U.S. Route 9: Over the Hudson River to Fort Lee, New Jersey
Staten Island to New Jersey
Outerbridge Crossing: State Route 440: Over the Arthur Kill to Perth Amboy, New Jersey
Goethals Bridge: Interstate 278: Over the Arthur Kill to Elizabeth, New Jersey
Bayonne Bridge: State Route 440: Over the Kill Van Kull to Bayonne, New Jersey
Brooklyn to Queens
Marine Parkway-Gill Hodges Memorial Bridge: Flatbush Avenue to the Rockaways
Queens to Roosevelt Island
Roosevelt Island Bridge: 36th Avenue