Sunday, 29 May 2011

Kitchen Nightmares - Sushi Ko - CLOSED

Kitchen Nightmares Sushi Ko

Episode Recap


Chef Gordon Ramsay visits Sushi Ko, Thousand Oaks, CA, a sushi restaurant based in California run by award winning Chef Akira and his family. His children Hana and Sammy are upset as they see their father becoming more depressed and his wife Lisa is constantly criticizing him. They named Sushi Ko after the successful Sushi Ko restaurant that Akira worked in located in Bel Air. Business was booming when they opened but now it has dwindled away, it is devastating to Akira to see the restaurant so empty. They are losing $15-20,000 each month and are in hundreds of thousands of debt. Relationships are strained between Lisa and Akira and Akira and his children.

Gordon arrives and meets Lisa and Akira and they tell them the problem is there are no guests. Gordon wants to sample the food and is recommended to try a sushi pizza by Akira. He orders a bowl of miso, the sushi pizza is not recommended by Server Ashleigh but he decides to try it out of curiosity, the green tower and the salmon sashimi. The server informs him that he has ordered some of the best and the worst. The miso soup doesn't taste fresh, is salty and isn't very hot. The green tower has a grey hair in it so he decides not to eat it. The salmon sashini is frozen and chewy and the sushi pizza is rancid, an insult to pizza and Gordon spits it out. Gordon gathers the staff in the kitchen and discovers that the kitchen staff don't wear hats for service. Gordon discovers the soup is kept warm overnight and he tells them the pizza is an insult to both pizza and sushi. Gordon sits down with Hana and Sammy to discuss the restaurant and they admit they don't like being there and that they believe their father has given up but he won't listen to them. Sammy reveals he has given his father a total of $20,000+ from his own income as a photographer to help them stay afloat.

Gordon witnesses a dinner service with a busy restaurant due to Gordon's presence. To cut costs the sticks used to serve sushi are reused and some have bits of food left on them and are sticky. The customers aren't happy with the tempura broccoli they are served saying it is doughy and mushy. Gordon suggests to take the dish off the service and discovers that the fryer is malfunctioning and isn't hot enough. He also discovers that the mayonnaise is kept outside which Gordon says is a health hazard. He also finds that one fridge is hot and showing a temperature of 50, Akira tells him that it broke down 4 months ago. There is a box of ice to keep the items in there cool and Akira tells him it is only for vegetables. Gordon however discovers dairy, eggs and meat in there and is told it is a mistake for them to be in there. Gordon tries to get through to Akira but he doesn't respond to Gordon and Lisa tells him he thinks he has given up, Akira has no answers for Gordon. Lisa rants away about Akiras problems and Gordon tells her to be quiet to give Akira a chance to talk. Gordon sits Lisa, Hana and Sammy down to talk about Akira, Lisa tells Gordon about Akira when they first met and that he was a funny guy, whereas now he is a broken man and no longer smiles. Gordon tells them they need to bring Akira's confidence and self esteem back for the restaurant to work. Akira returns from a walk around the lake and they all talk positively about Akira to help lift his spirits. Gordon has refitted the kitchen with new equipment; new refrigeration units, deep fat fryers, a new freezer and a hob burner and Akira is overjoyed with them. Gordon also reveals that Akira is to cook in the kitchen in a come back service for relaunch night.

For dinner service there are two salmon specials alongside the sushi menu. Akira is excited about being behind the counter but wife Lisa does not appear to be supporting him, saying he is still not working hard and doesn't think he will follow through with the change. The first order went out to the customers incorrect as Akira did not check before sending the dish out and Lisa nags at him. He corrects the mistake and refocuses on the task sending out food that the customers enjoyed. Gordon tells Akira that the change is night and day and that he looked like he enjoyed what he was doing. He next talks to Lisa to say that she hasn't changed and she wasn't positive and was cold like a block of ice. He tells her to back off and she agrees she is a bitch to Akira and it's not a good way to be. Overnight they makeover the restaurant and Akira and Lisa appear holding hands and cuddling. They have revamped the décor with a fresh, contemporary design with artwork by son Sammy. The menu is also revamped with more modern sushi dishes.

Relaunch night sees traditional taiko drummers to begin the evening and a gong announces the reopening. Akira pushes the food out quickly and the customers are happy with the food until Akira loses focus and is focusing on other tasks than cooking. Without leadership, the kitchen is falling apart as Akira is taking dishes out to the table instead of solely cooking in the kitchen as the chef. Akira takes Gordons advice and returns to the kitchen, focusing solely on cooking. The staff however pulled together while Akira was away from the kitchen.

What Happened Next?



In the following days, there was an upturn in business and Akira and Lisa were working as a successful team. They decided to move the restaurants location to one with a lower rent and were searching at the time of filming. The restaurant closed in August 2009. Owner Lisa believes that the relaunch was too little too late and that the business had already failed. Sammy posted this on his blog,

"After four years of being at The Lakes in Thousand Oaks Sushi Ko has shut its doors. We have all tried so hard from the beginning and put in so much effort but it just never worked out. It feels as if we have somewhat lost a part of ourselves, and it is a bitter/sweet ending. Only a few months after we filmed Kitchen Nightmares and all got rejuvenated and excited to be there again, we got the bad news. We all went from being on such a high and happy with the “new” restaurant and then shortly after got pushed to the bottom. Somehow business got worse after we filmed it and the center seemed more deserted then it ever has been. Partly the economy, and partly ________, it was just not looking good. I am glad I got to go into the kitchen and learn the new menu and how to cook tho, it has been a great experience and I did not want it to stop. We(family) all had to bite our lips and keep it in for a month before we decided what we were going to tell everyone and what we were going to do, and it was really hard emotionally for all of us to go in there day after day knowing it was all going to end. After we started telling people with a month to go we all felt a little better. We decided to close doors to the public on the 8th of August, almost exactly four years after we opened."

After Sushi Ko had closed Nate 'n Al Delicatessen opened in it's space, this has since closed and reviews were bad. In it's place now is Unami Burger, a popular burger chain. Reviews are good.


Extra Reading


Sushi Ko Japanese Cuisine & Grill Yelp

Sushi Ko at the Lakes R.I.P - Sammys Blog

Nate 'n Als Deli Yelp

Umami Burger Yelp

Umami Burger Website



Read About More Kitchen Nightmares

53 comments:

  1. They shut down: http://www.vcstar.com/news/2010/may/14/efforts-to-revamp-sushi-restaurant-on-reality/

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  2. This is another one where my heart breaks for the kids involved. And to see that the parents were borrowing money from their son like that, sad.

    The article in Anonymous' comment above says that the decorations from the Kitchen Nightmares episode are now in the former restaurant owner's house, I wonder what happened to all that really nice equipment donated by the show? Maybe they have it in storage or it went to help pay off the rent for the space, either way it's seems like a waste.

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  3. I was about to eat at the Umami that is in the place of SK two weekends ago. However, with my folks, they weren't burger folk, so we ended up eating at the Claim Jumper next door. I've had Umami at home in LA, so it's the same everywhere now as they have locations everywhere in LA.

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  4. Hana should have carried on in Star Trek than that restaurant.

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  5. Ramsay should give up on trying to save restaurants. He's not very good at it. He should become a family counselor - seems much better at that. Look up where the restaurants are now that have been on Kitchen Nightmares. He may save one a year. About 90% fail anyways.

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    1. 2 problems...
      They get help too late.
      They actually take his advice.

      If they even take his advice, all of these places are within weeks of months of closing.

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    2. Looks like Joe Nagy from the former Mill Street Bistro has posted another anti-Ramsay rant.

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    3. 90% is typical : http://yourbusiness.azcentral.com/average-life-span-restaurant-6024.html

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    4. Has nothing to do with ramsay. 2 days to save a restaurant just won't do anything magical. There are reasons the restaurants weren't working and it's not like the advice is revolutionary. If they didn't make it work before him going there there is a good chance that they won't get it to work after he leaves. Most restaurants do close down and it's the reality. It's a hard business that you have to do out of love.

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  6. The producers of this show should choose to film restaurants that are "savable" from the begining. The restaurants should be evaluated beforehand to see if they are probable of renewing their business. Maybe they focus too much on showing the contrast before/after Ramsay. The worst they are doing before, the better contrast before/ after help. As a viewer, watching restaurants like the 10% with less drama that end up blooming after help of Ramsay is much better than seeing the worst of the restaurants that end up closing with or without help of the show. I think this would be better for the reputation of the show too. It feels awful to read online that all these restaurants closed after watching them change.

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    1. I agree, there are several that either listen but fail under debt or fail so fast they never had a chance. They talk about these debt amounts and even if the place does well it can't dig them out. I don't expect the show to give them a line of credit but seriously pick folks with a chance.

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    2. "savable"

      Most of us fluent in English used the word salvageable.

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    3. unfortunately they don't choose it to actually try to save restaurants. Instead the producers just want to make money and make a show that the mass will like.

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  7. The purpose seems to be making TV entertainment - Discovery Channel style, NOT saving businesses. Let me put it this way: WHY would Gordon Rancid - eh - Ramsay help others if that would give a stiffer competition to his own enterprises? Let's face it: They deliberately choose business that are down to their last leg, so that GR can run around and go beep this, and beep that with a blurred out mouth. It is kind of like American Chopper: Senior said in no uncertain terms that the show had wrecked his family AND his business. As far as I know, they all paid a hefty toll for the years on brat channel - eh - Discovery Channel. Mike became an alcoholic, and the others left it with all sorts of battle scars - to add insult to injury: Discovery keeps rerunning the programs again and again for decades so that anyone foolish enough to appear on the shows will NEVER get to heal from the mental scars they suffered. I believe this to be true even with Kitchen Nightmares and all these makeover programs. Tempting as it may be to get "free" help, the best way is to keep TV away from ones life and seek professional help elsewhere.

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    1. I'm sure he's really worried about competition from the clueless people he tries to give direction and a system to. I'm sure he's terrified that people might choose the restaurants he visits on the show over his own. That's a totally legitimate motivation to attribute to Ramsay... thought nobody, ever.

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    2. Lol..besides many of these restaurants are in locations I highly doubt are of interest for Ramsey to open a new place at.

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    3. lol ramsay isn't worried. First you blame him for this way too much. He's just a face and literally is in front of the owners for about as long as WE see it. (yes an hour or two). The rest is the producers doing what they do. Even the food is actually made by other employees of the tv network.

      if the business is in it's last leg no matter who it is...it won't work most of the time. You can't change habits in 2 days and then call it quits. (less than that because they get "changed" usually before the first 24h

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  8. Very sad for the father. I do not think he failed his children in anyway shape or form. That Ramsey extracted the real chef in the family to surface this in and of itself can still be of value. The father should be an extremely valuable Chef on the market and top restaurants should be in a bidding war to hire him. In this way the father has every bit of magic and confidence to save his family without the need to own a restaurant to do so. Will Chef Ramsey finish what he started. I hope so.

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  9. Problem is that they have all this fancy new equipment but can't afford the pricy ingrediants to go in them. They eventually start pumping out the old frozen crap again. It's like pimp my ride. The cars falling to bits because they can't afford to run it, so they stick in a huge V8 and expect them to be able to afford to run it. Good for TV but no real help for the people.

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    1. well there's ways to get the cost appropriate but it's a lot of habbits and a lot of change and it's like starting over so it's a bit of an investment....which restaurants don't have so it crashes.

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  10. That's a bummer. That daughter was a babe!

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  11. That is a real bummer. I just finished watching a kitchen nightmares rerun featuring this restaurant. That is a very talented chef. That is from one chef to another. Hope he reopens in the future.

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  12. I fell head over heels with the daughter. She was amazing.

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  13. Good Grief...wa a sad family..r they still alive?

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  14. Sadly you people don't really GET IT!!! Yes, Gordon Ramsay enters the picture to help, but he should NEVER be held accountable for what the owners, managers, staff do after he leaves!!!!! My GOSH!!!!, when are people going to start "getting it"?
    Folks who wait too long???, well.....guess what??? They waited too long!!! Folks who stop caring after Gordon leaves???, well.....guess what??? They stopped caring after Gordon leaves!!! Folks who "keep info from Gordon when he enters the scene and asks for "the TRUTH" about what's truly going on???, well.....guess what??? Gordon starts and ends operating with less than half a deck. It's exactly like what happens when you try to succeed at something when one part of the "team" is withholding and lying to you. HOW DARE ALL THE PEOPLE WHO EVEN "TRY" TO BLAME CHEF RAMSAY FOR THESE FAILURES!!!!!! YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED!!!! BY THE WAY, JUST TRY IT SOMETIME, before you criticize him again...... I mean, just TRY to INTERVENE ON THE BEHALF OF OTHERS, where the responsible parties are "pretending" to, and promise to "CONTINUE TO MAKE IT WORK TOWARD A SUCCESSFUL END"!!!! ........ the sad reality is that Gordon Ramsay has never ever EVER been the responsible party here!!!!!! At least he has given his all, within the time constraints that he has to work with....... and those who truly WANT SUCCESS?????....... REACH SUCCESS, after he has gone!!!! Come on people!!! Get real!!! Get honest!!! Seek and look at the truth!!!! GO, GORDON RAMSAY!!!! I LOVE YOU!!!!

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    1. Easy on the overuse of exclamation marks, question marks and caps lock. It's really unappealing and it doesn't make your statement hit home any further than if you had used proper grammar. In fact, it actually discredits what you're saying, and it's annoying to read when there are so many mistakes and what seems like someone yelling at the people reading it.

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    2. So which failed restaurant did you work for or own?

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    3. calm down now

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  15. When the had the old spot in Bel Air did great business as does the new sushi place that is there now. It was pricey but good and fun. Would bring out of town friends there to see celebs dining. Why did they move to thousand oaks? doesn't make sense. The Dad seems heavily medicated.

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  16. It's really a sad story. It's been tough time for him. I hope they will find a way to reopen the sushi restaurant.

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  17. That K.N was a particular one. The chef was actually a talented one, usually they're just incompetent wannabes who see themselves as world class chefs...

    But that guy obviously had two problems:

    1/ He wasn't a businessman at all and being a great chef isn't enough. You need to lead, to do some marketing, to be good with money etc. And if you don't have that kind of skills, find someone who does.

    2/ No-one believed in him. To succeed, one has to believe in himself but also needs someone else to have faith in him, otherwise you grow tired and eventually... you give up. It's obvious his wife killed his confidence during the four years of the restaurant instead of being that someone else he needed so bad. If you're searching for the guilty one, there she is.

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    1. Agree with #2. This was especially apparent in the sequence where Gordon asks him a series of questions, but she answered every single one for him. Then cut to an interview of her saying she wishes her husband would talk to people more. Well... stop talking for him?

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  18. It's obvious his wife killed his confidence during the four years of the restaurant instead of being that someone else he needed so bad. If you're searching for the guilty one, there she is. Written by Anonymous.
    You hit the nail on the head in regards to that poor man's wife. What an evil b*tch. She seemed to have sucked the life out of that poor man. With someone like that around you 24/7, you're bound to fail. Her fake crap didn't pull the wool over anyone's eyes. The sad thing is that he blames himself for failing most likely. How sad. May Jesus Christ bless and protect him.

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    1. Most people are judging the interactions here from a very ethnocentric viewpoint. If you know Japan and Japanese culture, he is acting as a very typical Japanese man in many ways. His passivity in the face of Ramsey's question's, particularly given the aggressive posture and language, is what Japanese do when dealing with someone who is a viewed as having higher status. He is far less beaten than he comes across as being and is responding in line with cultural norms.

      Also, his English comprehension is imperfect. You can tell that he has been leaning on his wife for most of their relationship to help him cope with linguistic and cultural differences and she has fallen into a habit of speaking for him because he won't speak for himself. Notice how she doesn't jump in and start answering for her husband at first. She waits for him to answer for awhile. As time goes by, she waits less and less because it's clear that her husband is going to just stand there and say nothing. After Ramsey tells her to shut up, her husband STILL does not answer at first, but actually looks over at his wife to try to get her to answer instead. He's dependent on her and he's been using her for a long time. She's tired of it.

      What his wife describes if also very typical older Japanese man behavior. Most of them become very, very lazy as they get older. It's usual in Japanese companies to work the youngest employees to death while the older ones sit around doing very little and getting big paychecks. When his wife said something about him not wanting to do anything if someone else could be paid to do it, that rang true. Japanese men expect not to work hard and to be "managers" when they get older. The fact that, even under Ramsey's watch, he started to slack the first night reflected how low his commitment to change was. If he couldn't even make it through the first night, how long do you think he kept it up after the cameras left?

      It's easy to blame his wife after seeing a short TV show, but if you really look at how passive her husband was and how quickly he walked away from his responsibilities in that short time, you might see how frustrated she would be with him doing that every single day while sponging off of his children to keep going? He's a weak man and the failure isn't his alone, but he owns a chunk of it, especially since he's a sushi chef who refuses to do the work he's trained to do.

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    2. I am not Japanese.

      But I think its wrong to make such a sweeping generalization that "most Japanese become very lazy as they get older".

      Yes there is a cultural component here. In Japanese culture its not normal to have anyone in your face criticizing you and using profanity.

      Akira seems like a man of quiet dignity. He was too polite to say what was really bothering him at that moment when chef Ramsay asked him to say something.

      Also....women want love...and men want respect. His wife was being disrespectful towards him because of her criticizing him in front of others. If a wife disrespects her husband, he will subconsciously be less loving. And because he is being less loving, she becomes more disrespectful.

      It is a vicious cycle.

      Does anyone know the website for their son's photography business?

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  19. According to an article in the Pepperdine University newspaper, Lisa now runs a coffee cart on campus. She says in the article that Akira left the restaurant business and now exports cosmetics to Japan. They also had a third, younger child that wasn't part of the show.

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    1. What a waste of talent; Akira should have continued as a chef, even if it meant working in someone else's restaurant.

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  20. The shows re-aired here in Czech Republic (central Europe) and this partical episode got quite sad ending. All these owners in US restaurants are usually asking for a slap for being rude and incompetent.

    Akira and his family were different (well, Lisa was kinda weird but Im still lettin it slide) - so to see them struggle is kinda sad.

    I hope they all do well now in different kind of industry :)

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  21. well,I just want to say I feel sad for them and the people who did try their best
    when everytime I saw that Amy something or nothing is still open and still selling resell-cakes

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  22. Hana is a beauty, i fell in love

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  23. The father seemed clinically depressed, to the extent he needed some Zoloft or counseling. It was clear to me he had burned out of being a chef. Yes, he's good at it, but he's also tired of it. I'm kind of glad he's moved on to something else. While the wife seemed bitchy and cold, it seemed clear to me that she was frustrated with a husband who had shut down. She spoke for him because he had long ago checked out.

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  24. Amazing yet sad episode to me. Normally when I watch kitchen nightmares, I expect to see entertainingly explosive fights and to laugh at some of the fools in the restaurant. But I thought there were more deeply rooted issues going on here, and this one wasn't nearly as light and funny as the rest. At face value, I see a man who's giving up, a rude, catty wife, and children who want to help their families. But thinking back on the episode, I'm truly saddened.
    First of all, while the man is shutting down, I also think he was slipping into some sort of depression, for a variety of reasons, I bet. He could be depressed because he's worried about finances, stressed, drifting from his family, or a combination of all of that.
    Next, I want to talk about the wife. She seemed rude, but I think she's just stressed out. Also, I feel like one reason why the man was slipping away was because of her. She didn't help him feel confident, in fact, she just crapped on his dreams even more. Although I wasn't totally fond of the wife, I still hope she's doing well, too.
    The children were genuinely worried for their parents, probably for the same reasons I am. I liked them, because they truly cared, and didn't abandon them when they needed help. In fact, the son donated his own pocket money to help them.
    I was saddened at this amazing family being ripped apart. I'm known to reflect a bit too deeply, but I think my thoughts were spot on. My heart ached watching (and thinking back on) the episode, so much that I'm not sure I will see any other episode the same again. I hope they're well now.

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    1. So sad the kids tried, where is everybody now

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  25. This is sad. So sad. I hope they're doing ok. I feel especially sorry for the kids.

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    1. I agree. Of all the places featured on the show this was the one I wanted to see succeed the most (besides Capri). I let out a nooooo! when I saw it closed.

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  26. Sad and suprising i think the father had depression, i wanted to see success i love japanese people

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  27. I believe that the father needed more support, even professional support because especially with the walking by himself clips I worried for his safety from himself. I've been there, and it's scary on later reflection. I also felt really bad for the kids. They were tied to the place at an age where they should be doing their own things. Especially Hana who didn't seem to have anything outside of the restaurant. Sammy at least had a profitable photography venture. I read here they have a 3RD kid?

    Also the $15000-20000 was per month not per week.

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  28. You can change decor and menus in a week, but you can't change attitudes and bad habits... that's why these places are always headed for inevitable closure. As soon as the cameras are gone.... same old routine.

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  29. There names aren't a secret but I wont say them just in case (easy to deduce from this page though). Here's a summary of what they're doing:

    Akira: Import/export. Sounds like he and this business are doing fine.
    Lisa: Working at a coffee cart at Pepperdine University. Happy, not bitter like other people featured on KN and enjoyed her time on the show. Humble.
    Sammy: Full-time photography, both freelance and for companies. Seems happy and successful in his line of work.
    Hana: Not sure, she's acting in small projects but I dunno what she's doing outside of that other than getting stoned.

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    1. Just randomly looked up the family after this episode and I'm glad to hear this. Thanks for sharing.

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