If you’re one of the millions who watched Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares with Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, the restaurateur couple that made Mr. Ramsay leave the set in despair, here’s your chance to judge for yourself: are those cakes that Amy bakes good or bad? Amy shared with Haaretz readers her recipe for caramelized apple honey cake, and sent her best shana tova wishes to everyone, a happy new year.
And just in case you missed it, Samy Bouzaglo, an Israeli who moved to the U.S. in 2000, and his wife Amy, owners of Amy’s Baking company in Scottsdale, Arizona, became virally famous last May after participating in the reality TV series Kitchen Nightmares. In the show, superstar chef Gordon Ramsay comes to the aid of failing restaurant owners and helps them correct their ways. Except that in Amy and Samy’s case, and for the first time after airing eighty two episodes, it didn’t work. Ramsay decided there was nothing he could do to help and left the set in the middle of the shooting.
Was it the fact that Samy took the servers’ tips? Was it Amy firing a sweet waitress on air? Was it the shouting at clients? The clients waiting for pizza for almost three hours? Then being kicked out of the restaurant with a “Go f**k yourself” from Samy? Perhaps the threats to call the police if they didn’t pay for the pizza (which they never got)? The answer is all of the above – and Ramsay just left.
“We fired him,” Amy told me during a phone call last week. “He wanted to bury me alive because I threw him off from the show,” added Samy. Our long conversation was conducted half in Hebrew (with Samy) and half in English. They were both sweet, calm and open to talk about any subject, and sometimes more explicitly than necessary. In order to create a drama, the couple claimed, “this son of a bitch was harassing my wife.” Both were upset when Ramsay, teasing Amy on whether her husband has what it takes to turn around the restaurant, asked her about the size of his testicle. “Even the cameramen,” she said, “talked about how upset I was because Gordon Ramsey was harassing me about Samy’s balls.” And she added: “They’ll do anything they can to get you crazy and to lose control,” or as Samy put it: “They got the demons out of our bodies.”
In the months that had passed since the show aired, the couple has been trying to make lemonade of the lemons Ramsay provided them with (or make gold out of the sh**t, as Samy so colorfully explained.) During the interview, the Bouzaglos confirmed they had just signed with a producer to have their own reality show. Fourteen networks are interested in broadcasting the show, they said, and decisions will be made in the next few weeks.
Their new show will allow the couple to tell their side of the story, “about our lives, our kitty cats, the restaurant.” And there are some interesting stories to be told.
Immediately after the show aired, rumors about Samy facing possible deportation began to spread all over the internet. The reason was time he spent in jail before moving to the America. Last month a judge ruled that Samy should be deported, but the Bouzaglos believe that this is not the end of the story. “I came here thirteen years ago, and never got as much as a speeding ticket,” Samy said. He declared in his immigration forms that he’d served time in prison in Germany and France, but denied that it was for drug related charges. “I did not lie,” Samy argued in the interview. “I was judged for drugs, but I was innocent. The law in Germany and France is not the same as in here or as in Israel. It was a Gestapo trial.”
So although the couple is convinced justice will be done and that they’re going to stay in America. for a long time, Samy was happy to hear that I write for an Israeli paper, because, “we want to be prepared in case we make aliyah [immigrate to Israel,] so people will know her (Amy) there as well.” Amy seemed prepared for the move, if is forced upon the couple. “I love the people of Israel, I know everything about the culture,” she said. “You have a different kind of warmth that Americans don’t have. If we need to, Yallah [let’s go, in Arabic,] we’re going to Israel.”
Amy served a year in a U.S. prison (reportedly for bank fraud.) “It was a mistake she made before we met,” said Samy. They closed the restaurant for a year, because “without my wife, you can’t do anything in the restaurant.”
What people don’t know is the couple’s good side, they say. After 19 firefighters were killed in an Arizona wildfire in July, Samy sent donations to their families. The Bouzaglos also give money to the animal shelters and “Samy has a personal hand written letter from President George W. Bush thanking him for helping his campaign,” said Amy.
“They didn’t show [in Kitchen Nightmares] anything that was truthful,” Amy argued. Except for the fact that Ramsay loved Amy’s cake, and that he found the kitchen clean. Ramsay “said he’s never seen a kitchen so clean, that means to me that even his restaurants aren’t as clean as my restaurant,” she said. “I lost my respect for Gordon Ramsay. He didn’t teach me anything.” she said. “But now I know how to get ready for reality TV”.
A call to Ramsay’s production company for comment on Bouzaglos’ claims was not answered.
The couple is also happy with the way their relationship was portrayed in the TV episode. The program showed “the love and respect that my husband and I have, and that we stand united,” said Amy. “I love her, and respect her,” Samy added. “I’m not afraid of her. Why would I be afraid of her? She’s also not crazy.”
Samy was referring to the thousands of Facebook comments, name calling, late phone calls, and “terroristic death threats” that the couple had received after the show aired. The couple quickly fired back through their Facebook page (which later they claimed was hacked), in what only made the discussion juicier, and their “haters” and “trolls”, as the couple calls them, hungry for more. The Bouzaglos involved the police, the FBI, and even sent an email to Mark Zuckerberg, but it seems like nothing can stop this.
Still, they feel strong. “We’re Israelis, we fight, we don’t give up,” said Samy. And the story did bring with it some new opportunities for the couple. The Scottsdale restaurant became a tourist attraction this summer. Visitors wanted to have their picture taken with the Bouzaglos, people asked for t-shirts and the couple gladly took on the challenge.
They ordered t-shirts with slogans like “I survived Amy’s Baking Company”, and “Here’s your pizza, go f**k yourself” that they now sell in their restaurant and online. All summer long “tourists would come to try the food, believing it wouldn’t be good, and that Samy would scream at them. But every time Samy would ask them how the food was, they would look at him and say ‘surprisingly excellent.’”
The couple takes great pride in the cleanliness of their kitchen, something that even Ramsay noticed. “People shouldn’t be afraid to come to our restaurant, because I can promise you my food is not going to kill you.” The most important thing is how clean the restaurant is, they said, the food is just a matter of taste. “For example,” Samy said, “if you’ll give me gefilte fish, will I eat it? I’m not going to eat it. But give me khraime, (North African fish in spicy tomato sauce), give me Moroccan fish. I’ll eat that.”
And speaking of gefilte fish, the couple will celebrate Rosh Hashanah at home as they do every year. Amy willingly shared her recipe for caramelized apple honey cake with us, a holiday recipe she also makes for Amy’s Baking Company. She has Jewish clients that have been ordering the cake for the last six years. “When I bake the cake I put my soul, my neshama, into it, and ask that anyone who eats it will have nothing but wealth and prosperity for the new year.” Amen.
The recipe is good for two well-buttered bundt cake pans or one large deep angel food cake pan (as pictured).
For the caramelized apples:
3 large Granny Smith apples peeled and cut into quarter size
½ cup honey
⅓ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon orange zest
For the cake:
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs room temperature
⅓ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup walnuts roughly chopped. Or pecans
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a tube pan with a removable bottom (like an Angel Food Cake Pan) or spray with nonstick spray.
2. To make the caramelized apples: Toss everything together and cook slowly in a sauté pan for approximately 5 minutes on medium high heat until sugar mixture comes to a slight boil and apples begin to caramelize. Set aside and cool before adding to cake mixture.
3. In a large mixing bowl on low speed mix flour, sugar, oil, room temperature eggs, orange juice, baking powder, vanilla and salt until well combined. Mix for approximately two minutes until well combined being careful not to over mix the cake batter.
4. Pour ½ of the cake batter into the butter cake pan. Arrange ½ of the cooled apple mixture over the batter and sprinkle with nuts if using any.Pour the remaining cake batter over apples and add the remaining apple mixture. Save any juices from the apple mixture.
5. Place cake on a sheet pan and bake for approximately 80 to90 min or until a toothpick inserted into the center pulls out clean. If your cake begins to brown cover the top with foil. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool for 10 min. Gently loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and allow to cool for another 10 minutes.
6. Using a plate flip the cake out onto desired serving plate and pour the remaining apple juices over the top of the cake.