Kitchen Nightmares - Sushi Ko - CLOSED

Sushi Ko Kitchen Nightmares

In this Kitchen Nightmares episode, Chef Gordon Ramsay visits Sushi Ko, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Sushi Ko a sushi restaurant based in California owned and run by award winning Chef Akira and his family.

They named the restaurant after the successful Sushi Ko restaurant that Akira worked in.

Business was booming when they opened but now it has dwindled away and they are losing $15-20,000 each month.

Gordon orders a bowl of miso, the recommended sushi pizza, the green tower and the salmon sashimi.

The miso soup is salty and isn't very hot, the green tower has a grey hair in it, the salmon sashini is frozen and chewy and the sushi pizza is rancid and Gordon spits it out onto the plate.

Gordon discovers the soup is kept warm overnight, which is dangerous and tells them the pizza is an insult to pizza and sushi.

Gordon sits down with Hana and Sammy, who admit they don't like being there and that they believe their father has given up and has lost his passion.

Sammy reveals he has given his father a total of $20,000+ from his photography business to help them stay afloat.

Gordon arrived to witness a dinner service, to cut costs the sticks used to serve sushi are reused and some of these still have bits of food on them from previous customers.

The customers aren't happy with the tempura broccoli they are served saying it is doughy and mushy.

Gordon discovers upon inspection that the fryer is malfunctioning and is not cooking to the correct temperature and mayonnaise is kept outside.

He also finds that one fridge is not working properly. It is hot and there is a box of ice to keep the items in there cool.

Gordon sits Lisa, Hana and Sammy down to talk about Akira, Lisa tells Gordon how Akira was when they first met, 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 in order to be able to turn around the restaurant and they all talk positively about Akira to help lift his spirits.

As part of his makeover, Gordon has refitted the kitchen with new functioning equipment. There are new refrigeration units, deep fat fryers, a new freezer and a hob burner and Akira is overjoyed with them.

For the evening dinner service there are two new salmon specials offer to guests alongside the sushi menu.

Akira is excited about being behind the counter but wife Lisa does not appear to be supporting him.

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

Overnight the restaurant revamped with a fresh, contemporary design and with artwork by son Sammy.

The menu is also updated to include modern and improved sushi dishes.

On relaunch night, Akira pushes the food out quickly and the customers are happy with the food until Akira loses focus.

Without leadership, the kitchen is falling apart as Akira is taking dishes out to the table instead of cooking. He takes Gordon's advice and returns to the kitchen to continue cooking.

The kitchen staff however pulled together while Akira was away from the kitchen and overall the relaunch is a success.

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

Sushi Ko closed in August 2009.

Yelp reviews prior to closure were average.

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

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.

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Next episode - Spanish Pavilion

Previous episode - Fleming

This post was last updated in October 2019.


  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.

  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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

  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.

    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.

    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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

    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?

  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.

  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 :)

  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.

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

    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?

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

    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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

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

    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.

  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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