Chasing Amy: Overcooked Reality and the Decline of Western Civility

"I think you're too far gone," a defeated-looking Ramsay tells the couple before walking out the door at the episode's denouement.

And then the Internet exploded.

Jon Stich
The Bouzaglos
The Bouzaglos

Location Info


Amy's Baking Company

7366 E. Shea Blvd.
Scottsdale, AZ 85260-6471

Category: Restaurant > Bakery

Region: North Scottsdale

It's hard not to speculate where the Bouzaglos, Amy's Baking Company, and the rest of the universe would be now if the show had ended differently — if, as in the series' previous episodes, the storm clouds had parted and produced a triple rainbow of introspection, atonement, and new beginnings.

In our imaginary episode, the show ends much differently: There is a final dinner service where happy customers, their mouths full of food, shake their heads in disbelief at its deliciousness, exclaiming, "Thish is wonnerful!" Katy Cipriani, the food runner who Amy fired, is tearfully asked forgiveness and offered back her job. And Amy earnestly looks into the camera and says, "Thanks to Chef Ramsay, we're ready to make some serious changes — starting with us." She coyly smiles and adds, "Meow, meow!"

The music fades out, the credits roll, and our hearts, now successfully warmed, can go on to beat for another day.

But, once in a while, reality TV actually turns out to be real. Or does it?

In January 2012, the Valley food community cried foul when another reality show, Food Network's Mystery Diners, came to town, paying visits to restaurants such as Big Earl's Greasy Eats in Cave Creek, Haus Murphy's in Glendale, and Caffe Boa in Tempe. The show, which features "undercover operatives" conducting surveillance and investigating "problem" employees at the supposed request of restaurant owners, has come under attack by many people who claim the show is fake and uses tactics such as paid actors and enlisting the help of owners who, for whatever reason, seem to think it's a good idea to have their restaurants featured in such a light.

When Dwayne Allen, owner of The Breadfruit in Phoenix, was contacted by the Food Network to participate in Mystery Diners, he became suspicious almost immediately.

"Let's say you have a bartender who has a soft spot for pretty women," Allen says the Food Network representative explained to him in a phone call. "We'll bring in the pretty women, and we'll set up the cameras so you can bust him."

"But we don't have a bartender with a soft spot for women," Allen replied. He then declined to participate in the show.

And then there's ABC's much different portrayal on another, albeit much different reality show. In February of this year, two months after the disastrous first night of taping Kitchen Nightmares and three months before its airdate, Amy's Baking Company was featured on Check Please! Arizona, PBS' popular restaurant-review series on which Arizonans share their dining experiences with host Robert McGrath, a James Beard Award-winning chef.

At the start of the seven-minute segment, over a musical backdrop of tinkling piano, a calm Amy Bouzaglo talks about her restaurant's concept as "farm-fresh organic food made from scratch" and Samy chats with customers and shows them to their tables.

The Check Please! Arizona episode's three diners make no mention of lengthy wait times or impossibly irate owners, nor do they register a single complaint about the dishes. ("A little punch would have been nice," one diner says, referring to her mushroom crepe. That's about as negative as it gets.) They describe the restaurant as charming and comfortable and the pastries as incredible. Even the red pepper ravioli — the same dish Gordon Ramsay said smelled "weird" and declared it to be "one of the most confusing ravioli dishes I have ever seen and tasted in my entire life" — gets a winning review. One diner calls it "a wonderful combination; sweet and spicy at the same time — delicious."

Check Please! Arizona producers declined my requests for comment.

Was the Check Please! Arizona segment the Bizarro World appearance for Amy's? Or was Kitchen Nightmares the one that stretched the truth? In each case, reality had likely been altered — maybe a little, maybe a lot. But by this point, none of it mattered. The online war already had started, and the Bouzaglos' best strategy was to fire away.

"We stand strong together. We have to, because there's a lot of online bullies and haters and bloggers. We stand up to them, and I think we're the only ones who have, as restaurant owners. And they come and they try to attack us and say horrible things that are not true."

When Amy Bouzaglo rattled off those words to a gape-mouthed Gordon Ramsay, she obviously had no idea just how many of the supposed saboteurs there would be. The Bouzaglos' belief that somehow Ramsay would vindicate their food and show up the "online bullies" once and for all had backfired on national television. Thousands of viewers took to the restaurant's social media sites to register their complaints.

And when it came to the way Amy and Samy responded to them, well, old habits die hard.

On Monday, May 13, three days after the show aired, the Bouzaglos fought back on Facebook with several anger-fueled posts written in a style and tone consistent with the responses they had used to address the handful of Yelp reviewers who had dared criticize their restaurant in the past. Sadly, it was difficult to tell just who was hating on whom. They ranted, they insulted and mocked, they hurled profanities, and they used up their lifetime allotment of all-caps and exclamation points.

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Wow.  You are quite the writer.  This is the best story on the topic that I have read and one of the best written stories that I have read on any topic in some time.  Thank you.  And I would mention that these folks are hardly remarkable.  Every city has one just like them. Here in Tampa, a fellow Yelper received death threats from one and her fellow bloggers stood up for her.  The company is now in bankruptcy.  Yelpers and other bloggers are not trained and some have no idea what they are talking about, but they are a powerful voice and represent a cross section of your customers so it is a bad idea to attack them.  You can clearly see the effects here.


Refreshingly well-written!


the show spoke for itself. and what employer would keep the tips intended for staff.?


Fix your story he is Scottish not British.  JEEZ!


This is quite the best thing I've read on this whole kerfuffle. Well done.


@someguy111 Scottish people are British citizens, as Scotland is a part of Great Britain.


@peteykins Agree... it's pretty much the whole story since we first heard about Crazy Amy and Samy.