I’m in Phoenix this weekend for two reasons. The first is to stay at some ridiculously cheap hotels in Phoenix, given that in summer they more or less pay you to stay here. For example, last night I stayed at the Biltmore and booked a $99 rate through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts. For booking through Fine Hotels & Resorts I got a $40 breakfast credit, $100 food & beverage credit, upgrade to a named suite, and guaranteed 4PM check-out. And that’s in addition to the Hilton HHonors points I earned.
The other reason is to eat at Amy’s Baking Company. For those of you that don’t know what that is, watch this episode of Gordon Ramsey’s “Kitchen Nightmares:”
The short summary of it is that in over 100 shows this is the first restaurant Gordon Ramsey walked away from since they just wouldn’t listen. The owner considered anyone that wrote a negative review of the restaurant online to be an “internet bully,” if someone complained about the food they’d kick them out, they paid their servers hourly and took their tips, and in the time they’ve been open they admit to having gone through hundreds of employees. Oh, and on top of all that their food is (supposedly) more or less store bought. But the best part wasn’t even the show, but what they started posting on Facebook after the show when people started giving them a piece of their mind.
I decided to go to Amy’s Baking Company last night with three friends. I should actually be more accurate and say that I had to drag them there. They weren’t willing to go but eventually we compromised by agreeing to first have dinner at a place we knew was good, and then going to Amy’s Baking Company to order a few things and nibble on them, so we wouldn’t be actively mean/grouchy.
It was a Friday night and around 8PM, so we figured it would be full (not of people dining there for the food, but of people dining there for the “experience”).
As we walked up to the restaurant my heart was literally racing. I was giddy. I felt like I was about to meet a celebrity that I loved to hate.
The most surprising part is that the restaurant was completely empty. Like, there wasn’t a single person in it, just Samy standing near the door.
As we entered Samy was extremely nice — “yes… hello… welcome… please sit anywhere… maybe a booth… maybe a table… you want some water… how about some lemon water.” And I use the ellipses because that was all kind of just one run on thought/sentence on his part.
We sat down and were presented with menus, and I did what I could to control my inherent desire to just giggle myself to death. It’s worth noting that the restaurant really is beautiful. It’s immaculately clean and nicely decorated, and even had Phantom of the Opera music playing.
We looked over the menu and as is discussed in the show they have tons of options, far too many for such a small restaurant.
When it came time to order, we ordered a small pizza margherita, a caprese salad, and then we asked which gnocchi was best.
Samy’s response, not surprisingly, was that “they’re all delicious and homemade, really all of them are good. But I like the bolognese one.” So we ordered that.
He followed that up with “I don’t know if you saw the show, but what you saw on the show was just TV and nothing more. All of our food is amazing and you will see shortly.” We just nodded our heads, and he followed that up with “yeah, and in two to three weeks we will have our own reality show, and you will see the real Amy’s Baking Company.” I said “oh, that’s exciting, what network will it be on?” He said “oh, we haven’t gotten that far yet.” I just responded with “I hope it works out.”
At that point he said “you know we went against the whole internet and we won. The whole world knows about me now and we get the last laugh, we are still around and doing well.” I tried to avoid laughing, given that we were sitting in a completely empty restaurant at 8PM on a Friday night. Did they really win?
But as we waited for our food I actually felt bad. Samy was a really, really nice and attentive guy. He would constantly be over to see if we wanted anything (there weren’t any other waitstaff) and was just really pleasant. Is he completely delusional? Well, of course. But he’s still nice.
To start we had the caprese salad. It was pretty abysmal. The tomatoes weren’t ripe yet and the mozzarella was really “hard,” which just made for a bad, crunchy combo.
Next was the pizza margherita. Perhaps it was meant to be that way, but I wish the cheese would have been melted a bit more, because it fell right off. The crust was abysmal. While it wasn’t raw, but it tasted like a microwaved frozen pie crust.
Then we shared an order of the baked gnocchi bolognese. Again, I don’t know if they’re just morally opposed to (probably re)heating stuff properly, but the cheese wasn’t melted all the way.
We sat there for a while enjoying the wonderful ambiance, and two other diners came in and shared a pizza. I couldn’t tell if they just randomly stumbled on the place or were there for the “experience,” but they seemed oddly calm and non-giggly.
Eventually a young couple came in and just ordered a piece of cake to go. They were laughing as they walked in and asked for a picture with Samy, and he kindly obliged. Then they asked for a picture with Amy. Samy initially said she was busy in the kitchen, but after he realized they were friendly she agreed to a picture as well.
The couple said they’d have to come back some time for dinner, and Samy said “yes yes, you must,” and he looked over to the table that was eating the pizza and said “you tell them how delicious the food is.” They said — and I can’t tell if they were being sarcastic or not — “it’s great, the crust is amazing!”
Anyway, then we had dessert, which was beautifully displayed.
We ordered a piece of piece of chocolate mousse cake and a tart that said “MEOW” on it, I assume named after Amy’s three children (trapped in cat bodies).
Going to Amy’s Baking Company was a dream come true. I know I might sound totally crazy or sarcastic for saying that, but this is just one of those weird things I wanted to experience.
Yes, the food is as bad as Gordon says. Yes, the owners are delusional and convinced that their food is worthy of multiple Michelin stars.
But I actually… how do I say this… felt a little bit bad for them. Samy was such a nice guy and seemed to have a decent head on his shoulders. Amy is a different story, so I’m not sure what to make of all of it. The one last thing I should mention is that I didn’t fill one of my dining companions in on the story, so she actually didn’t know the story behind the place until after we left. On our way out she briefly talked to Amy and said “something doesn’t seem right with that woman.”
But seriously, this was probably the highlight of my year. Yeah, I’m that cool.
PS: If anyone’s looking for a job…