Amy's Baking Company: Overcooked Reality and the Decline of Western Civility
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.
Check Please! Arizona Diners discuss Amy's Baking Company on Check Please! Arizona.
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 hard 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.
Most pathetic of all, they threatened their critics on Yelp and Reddit with legal action ("bring it on") and taunts ("you are just trash").
"You are all little punks," one of the posts read. "Nothing. You are all nothing. We are laughing at you. All of you, just fools. We have God on our side, you just have your sites."
Within a matter of hours, the Internet erupted (again). Thousands upon thousands of comments poured into the Amy's Baking Company's social media sites (the restaurant's Facebook page now has over 90,000 "likes"), creating a mob that lashed out with a fury far greater than that of the Bouzaglos and that, depending on which comments you read, seemed bent on shifting the evolution of civility into reverse.
In the worst of them, Amy's mental health was sarcastically called into question and her physical appearance jeered. She became the subject of explicit descriptions involving degrading and violent sexual acts, called names like "bitch," "whore," and "cunt," and her criminal record (she pleaded guilty to bank fraud in 2003 and served 14 months in jail after attempting to open a line of credit using someone else's Social Security number) was brought up time and time again.
Riding the Crazy Amy train suddenly wasn't any fun anymore. It was depressing.