Kitchen Nightmares - Sushi Ko - CLOSED

Sushi Ko Kitchen Nightmares

In this episode of Kitchen Nightmares Chef Gordon Ramsay visits Sushi Ko in Thousand Oaks, California.

Sushi Ko is owned by Akira and Lisa, a married couple and run by them and their children.

Akira started out as a sous chef at Sushi Ko in Bel-Air.

With the success and his skills he progressed to become manager and then an owner.

They opened Sushi Ko in its new location four years ago.

It started out great and business was booming but business has died down to almost nothing.

Akira is now struggling with less to do and less customers.

They are losing $15,000 to $20,000 a month and are in a lot of debt.

The couple are constantly fighting now and have everything on the line.

Gordon arrives the restaurant, meets the owners and asks what is wrong with the place.

They say the problem is no customers and they give him a short history of the restaurant.

Akira recommends a sushi pizza to Gordon, who is shocked at the fusion.

He sits down in the restaurant and notices the strange decor.

He orders a miso soup, a green tower, a sashimi and a sushi pizza to the surprise of the server who discouraged him from ordering it.

The miso soup is salty, not hot and does not taste fresh.

The green tower has a hair in it so he refuses to taste it.

The salmon sashimi is frozen and chewy.

The sushi pizza he spits out immediately as it is rancid.

Gordon goes into the kitchen to meet the staff and sees some of them do not wear a hat.

They reveal that they keep soup in the warmer overnight and serve it when ordered.

The chef wants to cook using fresh fish but he is left to work with frozen fish.

Akira nods to everything he says which gets Gordon frustrated that he has allowed these practises to continue.

Gordon sits with their children Sammy and Hana.

He finds out they both started helping but the restaurant has taken over their lives.

Sammy is just 22 and has given his parents over $20,000 to bail them out.

Gordon is shocked to hear their stories.

Gordon observes a dinner service and notices skewer sticks that are burned.

Akira admits they are washed and reused, which is unhygienic as they are wooden.

Soon customers complain of the food, sending it back with negative comments and complaints.

Gordon notices the fryer does not heat up like it should and this affects the quality of the food.

Gordon sees they store mayonnaise in a warm area and there is a broken fridge.

It still used but with bags of ice to keep it cool, which is unsanitary.

At the end of dinner service, he meets with the owners to give feedback.

Gordon doesn’t think Akira is taking the running of the restaurant seriously.

He is still unresponsive when he is spoken directly to with Lisa replying for him.

The next day, Gordon figures out Akira is broken and meets with Lisa and the children to find out more about him.

They confirm what he believes that he is a shadow of himself and the restaurant is bringing him down.

Gordon tells them they need to bring Akira's confidence and self esteem back in order to be able to turn around the restaurant.

They all talk positively about Akira to help lift his spirits.

Akira walks in on them and he is invited to listen to his family talk about him.

Akira apologises to his son for putting the weight on him and says he will work harder.

He sees his family is suffering and they decide to wipe the slate clean and start again with a group hug.

Gordon is touched by the family meeting and delivers some brand-new equipment the next day.

He has got them seven new fridges, deep fryers, a walk-in freezer and an eight-ring gas burner.

Akira smiles for the first time on seeing the fridges and new equipment.

Gordon tasks Akira with becoming a chef again and cooking for the night’s launch of the sushi bar.

They will be serving fresh fish and two new salmon dishes have been added to the menu.

Akira is excited being behind the counter but Lisa is not happy and thinks he is not taking it seriously.

The first order went out incorrect as Akira did not check before sending the dish out.

Lisa goes off on Akira who admits his mistake and corrects it.

The customers are all loving the food and the staff are motivated with Akira leading them.

Gordon tells Akira that the change is night and day and that for the first time he looked like he enjoyed what he was doing.

Gordon is happy Akira is a different person and the service was miles better than what he experienced on the day.

Gordon has a chat with Lisa on her attitude and she should back off on Akira so he can flourish, he needs more support than criticism.

With this Gordon’s team renovate the restaurant over night and a new restaurant is revealed to the team.

The interior has been freshened up with bright and lively colours and Sammy’s photos on the walls.

The family is happy and excited for the relaunch.

The menu has also been upgraded by Gordon to include modern and improved sushi dishes.

When they all taste the new food they think that it tastes great.

For the relaunch, Gordon arranged for a traditional Japanese cultural display outside before customers are let in.

Akira relaunches the restaurant with a bang on the gong.

Customers come in and orders start flying with Akira in the kitchen.

After a while Akira is doing everything but cooking, cleaning plates and serving food while tickets are ignored.

Akira is reminded to cook which he does but the rest of the team are the winners of the night ensuring service was uninterrupted.

At the end of the night, Gordon is slightly worried for Akira.

He has to have faith that they have learned and will do the right things to keep them in business.



What Happened Next at Sushi Ko?

In the following days, there was an upturn in business and Akira and Lisa were working together as a successful team.

They decided to move the restaurant to a location with a lower rent to cut overhead costs.

They were searching for a new location at the time of filming.

Sushi Ko closed in August 2009.

Owner Lisa believes that the relaunch was too little too late and that the business had already failed.

Yelp reviews prior to closure were average.

Sammy posted the below 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, which has since closed and the Yelp reviews were negative.

In it's place now is Unami Burger, a popular burger chain and Yelp reviews are good.

Sushi Ko aired on May 14 2010, the episode was filmed in May 2009 and is Kitchen Nightmares season 3 episode 11.

Click for more Kitchen Nightmares

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Previous episode - Fleming

This post was last updated in May 2021.

34 comments:

  1. 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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  2. 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. 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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    3. You should read the reviewes on each and every Restaurant - usualy they close because high debts, rent, taxes, or they just decide to close.
      It has nothing to do with Ramsay. Usualy it's just to little to late.
      Look at his Hell Hotel, how many of them did stay open.
      There's only so much even Ramsay can do.

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    4. In a way, the story is bigger than what is seen on the shows. As many have said, a lot of the places are/were likely doomed even before the show was filmed. Ramsay's real service to them is helping the owners equalise their debts in the short term, then letting them sell off the business on an even keel. The refitting of the places helps add value to the property when they sell.

      Everyone involved in the shows from producers to owners and Ramsay himself know very well this happens. The show is just to dress all this up in an interesting story and giving Ramsay a vehicle to shout at people for TV. It doesn't matter at all in the slightest to them if the businesses stays open or not; if they don't it's good TV and the owners at least break even, if they do then all the better. Either way it's a win-win for everyone.

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    5. Only about 60% failed and that's because he reopens them as almost new with a lot of debt most of the time and most restaurants fail within the first 2 years. The fact it's 60% fail rate is good when 90% of restaurants our there abouts fail anyway is really good odds.

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    6. Actually the success rate of the restaurants he visits is about 40% surviving a year or more past the episode. The close rate for restaurants as far as I know is actually closer to 75-80% in the first year of opening - so Ramsay's efforts are actually fairly successful. I think the problem is that people aren't taking into account that this is a TV show, so the main factor is not the restaurants themselves it's publicity. About 75% of the restaurants that Ramsay visits on the show should have been shut down the health department long before.

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  3. 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. 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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  4. 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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  5. 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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  6. 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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    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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    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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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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  9. 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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  10. 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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  11. 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. Funny how pattern in comment sections is that they say it's always the wife's fault

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    2. That is because the wife was constantly talking over him and putting him down, imagine if it was the other way around? what would you say then? you would call him violent and abusive wouldnt you?

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  12. 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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  13. 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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  14. 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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  15. 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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  16. What I really find offensive is the subtitles whenever Akira speaks. He speaks very well and clear, and there is no need for subtitles. I understand every word and I'm not even a native speaker.

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    1. A ton of TV shows and movies do this and it irks me.

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    2. I'm hoping it was just because he spoke so softly. I have a friend who's heavily hearing impaired and people speaking softly or who have very still faces when they speak are really, really hard for her to understand.

      But it does seem to be a trend that producers are much, much more likely to put in sub titles if the soft spoken person is a non-native speaker. As a consumer, I do find it rather annoying. It's also super annoying when sub titles are tiny and/or a color that blends into the background. Why bother? But I think my ultimate subtitle pet peeve is when channels cover the sub titles (especially when characters are speaking a foreign language and those sub titles are a translation) with stupid advertising things, often advertising other programs.

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  17. You can say what you want but here is my take.. without ramsays intervention how many of these restaurants would have closed ? 95% or more probably 100% ?? The statistics are sitting at about 60% close even with ramsays injection of cash,retraining,facelift and huge advertising boost.. all that being said.. nearly half of the places are still operating today.. and that is that

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  18. I've been streaming Kitchen Nightmares and was really rooting for this restaurant. So, I came out here to see what happened. Very sorry for the family - they all seem like genuinely kind, caring people and I wish them all well.

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