Kitchen Nightmares' Most Controversial Couple on the Defensive!

April 9, 2014

Restaurant owners and spouses Amy and Sammy became infamous last May after they say they were depicted as villains on the reality TV show Kitchen Nightmares. The couple, who claims they were misrepresented, says they’ve been threatened and harassed ever since — and as a result, both their business and their marriage have suffered. Dr. Phil has some tough questions for the couple about their actions — was it smoke and mirrors for TV or just bad behavior? And, how can they change their image?







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AmySammyMichael, YouTube critic Howard Bragman, public relations expert

Made-for-TV Drama?

In 2010, Amy's Baking Company owners Amy and Sammy made the local news in Scottsdale after a blogger wrote about his unhappy experience on Yelp, saying he was "underwhelmed" by the food and felt unwelcome. Amy fired back in her own Yelp post, likening the blogger to a "tramp" and a "loser" and writing, "Do us a favor and keep your ugly face and ugly opinions to yourself." She said in an interview, "If somebody comes here and tries to attack us or harass us, I’m going to fight and stand up for what I believe in 100 percent — my company."

On the heels of the war of words, the locals nominated Amy and Sammy for Kitchen Nightmares, a reality TV show where Gordon Ramsey tries to help struggling restaurants turn things around. Amy and Sammy agreed to do the show, but say their 15 minutes of fame has ruined their reputation — and their business. "The first time we saw Kitchen Nightmares, my husband and I were both traumatized," Amy says. "We don't steal tips; we don't scream at customers," she insists, claiming they were misrepresented.

Amy continues, "Since all of this exploded, we have lost customers. We've been getting daily death threats. We've had people come into the restaurant to harass us." The couple's behavior on the show also caused a stir on blogs, Yelp reviews, Reddit, Twitter and Facebook, where people posted criticisms by the thousands. "If I had known this much hate would be directed toward us, I would never have agreed to do the show," Amy says. "I want the world to know that we are real people. We are not cartoon characters. We are not those people that were portrayed on Kitchen Nightmares."

Onstage, Dr. Phil asks Amy and Sammy if they had seen the reality show before they agreed to be on it, and they indicate that they had.

"We had nothing to hide," Amy insists. "We don’t have dirty food. We take care of our kitchen. We welcomed them and said, 'If you want to bring the attention of the world, welcome, because we want to be introduced to the world.'"

Sammy adds, "I knew he was going to criticize the food, because if not, he doesn’t have a show."

Dr. Phil continues, "But you knew this is something where they come in and try to find something that is sub-par, so they can fix it — and all of the drama that goes along with it. You knew that. So, why did you object to it once it happened?"

“We knew they had to have a show, and we had no problem with that," Amy replies. "We invited them with open arms, because I wanted any kind of criticism. I'm open to criticism. I want to be better."

Sammy reacts to footage of him screaming at customers, who he claims were acting. "Why take the bait?" Dr. Phil asks.

How does Amy explain some of her behavior on the show? And, Dr. Phil asks about the Yelp war that started it all.

Dr. Phil plays another video, from the field shoot with Amy and Sammy, that shows Sammy swearing at and threatening someone on the phone. "That wasn't Kitchen Nightmares," Dr. Phil says. "That was us when we were there shooting with you, and a call just came in."

Amy insists that the man on the other end of the line had been calling and making lewd comments about her. “We don’t speak to our customers like that. We don't talk to the general public like that. The people who are calling us and threatening to take our business down, those people, of course we're going to attack them."

Negative Backlash

"People have been saying the most disgusting, vile, horrific things to us," Amy claims. "One man decided to take a photo of our home, post it, and write, 'Here's their house. You know what to do.'" She continues, "Someone else actually wrote, 'If I was in a room with Hitler, bin Laden and the owner of Amy's Baking Company, and I had two bullets, I would shoot Amy twice.' Other people say, 'You * whore. You need to die. Just kill yourself, Amy.' My husband and I don't deserve this."

"My wife is scared," Sammy says, adding that he doesn't take the threats seriously. "I don't care about these people at all," he says. "For me, they are just stupid people — that's what they are."

Amy grows emotional: "I take everything seriously." And, Dr Phil responds: "I get comments on my Twitter all the time."

"What’s your ownership in all of this?" Dr. Phil asks Amy and Sammy. "Have you guys fanned the flames?

"We have not sat by quietly," Amy admits. "We continue to fight. But we don’t deserve this kind of hate and the misrepresentation of us."

"You have to learn. These are nameless, faceless keyboard bullies," Dr. Phil says. "And if they can get a reaction, they’re thrilled to death."

Sammy comments, "They are just * hiding behind the computer. I want to see one of them come talk to me, but they don't. They hide behind their computers and their phones."

"You guys aren't accepting any of your faults." Amy and Sammy face off with one cyber-reviewer, Michael.

Dr. Phil says to the couple, "You keep saying that you’re doing what you’re doing, because you’re not going to let these people win. But you are letting them win. You’re giving them your power. You’re giving them the power to make you sick and have trouble in your marriage and be upset and all of these things. They are winning, do you not get that?" He continues, "When you choose to engage people whose goal is to get a reaction, then you have paid them off. When you pay them off, they just go to the next level and the next level. You can't deal with the public if you don't have thick skin."

“We came here to take advice from you and take criticism from you," Amy responds. "We accept it, and we want to learn from it and move forward — as people, as business owners. That’s why we’re here.”

Moving Forward

Dr. Phil introduces public relations expert Howard Bragman, vice chairman of Reputation.com, to give Amy and Sammy guidance for dealing with the negative feedback, fixing their image and getting their business back on track.

"Get a thick skin. Let these [comments] roll off your back. And, make it easy for customers that like you to give you a good review.”

"When you choose the behavior, you choose the consequence. Unplug here." Will Amy and Sammy take Dr. Phil's advice?





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