“Burger Kitchen” on Kitchen Nightmares exposed?
(Disclaimer: This blog does not make accusations. These are only mere opinions backed by sources. The ultimate goal is to let the reader decide for themselves apart from exercising the right to free speech. All sources get links and/or credit).
3/2/12 UPDATE UPDATE: According to Yelp, Burger Kitchen is now CLOSED: http://www.yelp.com/biz/burger-kitchen-los-angeles
Curious about how much the Burger Kitchen menu changed after Chef Ramsay’s visit? Well didn’t change for too long: http://burgerkitchenla.com/
So on Fridays I set my DVR to record one of my favorite shows starring one of my favorite people. Kitchen Nightmares USA with one of my ultimate crushes: Chef Gordon Ramsay. A girl, a TV show, my crush Ramsay and what I perceive something not quite right.
Gordon Ramsay went to Los Angeles based “Burger Kitchen” restaurant, a supposed haven of gourmet burgers. Gordon, however, was less than impressed. Upon meeting the owners you find that already the father, Australian immigrant Alan Saffron says that Yelp killed the business. Now what is Yelp? An online community of restaurants and business listings, along with customer reviews. Here the owner says that there is a conspiracy against his business. Alan also unashamedly told Gordon that he opened the restaurant by basically taking his son’s inheritance money, which added up to $250,000. The inheritance money from Alan’s father who also left Alan the same amount. Now, I will go back to the grandfather later because he plays an important role. Note that, Alan says that he had no money to open the business and therefore took his son’s $250K in inheritance money, discrepancy #1? Later on the mother says “over 250,000 dollars” “”inherited some money”. “about 250k”. Hmm we shall see.
The family is miserable and their drama is worse than that of a soap opera on TV. The executive chef “David Blaine” has a big mouth problem and while he is entertaining to watch fight back, you have to wonder why in the world is he even working for these people? f you don’t like the owners you can leave, you know. Also this chef says he is the victim of the family’s scapegoating which he seems to be right about yet he allows raw meat to be served? The chef is not a major character compared to the Saffrons.
Back to the family. Here are the problems. The father, Alan Saffron opened a restaurant., his son unwillingly dragged into it. 16 months later the restaurant is not doing good and they are in debt. “Yelp” has a conspiracy against the Saffrons by supposedly erasing the good reviews and keeping the bad ones. Let’s take a look at Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/burger-kitchen-los-angeles?sort_by=rating_desc&start=240
Please note that Yelp users accuse the Saffrons to giving themselves good reviews and angrily reply to the negative reviews patrons leave.
Guess they are implying that Yelp is “blackmailing” into making them pay money in order to allow good reviews to show…an accusation against Yelp. No word yet from Yelp on that one.
Later on Gordon reviews their burgers as terrible. The family gets in a huge confrontation with the chef who claims he’s working for free and is not allowed to do his own recipes. Gordon meets the son who expressed how he was dragged into the business since his father took his money to start it. Then you meet the drama between the family, yelling, the mother walks out, the chef verbally attacks the wife, threatens the son, all of which culminates in the chef being fired. Him demanding his paycheck and the family worried how they will afford to get $1,000 dollars for the paycheck. The father plugs his book, the book he wrote about his father who “backstabbed” him. Then the show ends to next week
All this left me with a bad taste. Now, I love Gordon Ramsay but I started to suspect something fishy going on and personally I felt that some parts seemed kind of staged. So that’s when I decided to do a little research.
The Strange Discrepancies:
After the show, I was thinking that this must be the worst family in the world. A family that got a break from an inheritance and yet all is gone to hell in bickering, attacks and the family is in debt loosing thousands.
But overall there is a recurring theme of Alan’s father aka Daniel’s grandfather…the man who the Saffrons received an inheritance from. The man who Alan wrote the book about, that he plugs in the show and gives to Gordon as a gift. Alan tells Gordon that his father did not want him to leave Australia and instead stay to help run the business but Alan refused and left. Why is it so important that they keep mentioning him?
Turns out the show left out telling the viewers that the Saffron grandaddy was notorious Australian “crime boss” Abe Saffron, owner of strip clubs, “brothels” accused of bribery, suspected of being involved in a prominent murder in Australia (which he was never charged with) . Abe Saffron also known as “Mr. Sin”. I don’t know if all that is true but I have to say after reading Abe Saffron’s story on Wikipedia, I rather like him as an interesting figure. Here’s a video on Abe Saffron from youtube. A story of his passing. And on this one, you can see Burger Kitchen owner Alan making an appearance at 0:11
Here is the younger Alan with his father Abe
We cannot blame the son for the “sins” of the father but what an interesting man Abe Saffron was! Whatever Abe did, however, is not relevant here.
If you Google Abe Saffron, you will find a series of articles about him and his family. In them you will find that the actual inheritance for all of the Saffron grandchildren was actually $1,000,000 million Australian dollars each. Which would convert to (1,000,000 Assie Dollars = 1,036,930 USD) that is $1,036,930.00 million US dollars. A cool million minus taxes, a far cry from the supposed $250,000 that the Saffrons told Gordon that Daniel and Alan got. In fact, the articles mention that all of Alan’s 5 kids (not just Daniel) are said to have received 1 million from grandpa Saffron. And as for Alan, news stories report that he actually received $500,000 dollars…also considerably more than the 250k he told Gordon about. One article mentioned that he cried when he found out his father left him so little money. Was the different amount a deliberate omission of the truth? We cannot make the accusation because we don’t know the family’s side of the story. First keep in mind that the exchange rate may be off because the inheritance occurred around 2006 or 2007. We could not be sure what the exchange rate was at that time. Perhaps most of the money was lost to taxes, lawyer fees, court fees. Maybe they are getting the full million later, maybe it’s a settlement to be received in sections, maybe most of the money ran out and they only had 250k. Maybe they just omitted it from the show.
And here are the sources:
These are new reports from October:
Saffron Son Battles Executors over Inheritance (by K McClymont)
Son Alan is After Abe Saffron’s Millions (by V Carson)
This reveals how Abe Saffron left most of his money to his out of wedlock daughter and mistress. Alan says “I don’t think somebody born of my father’s mistress and her children should be beneficiaries,” well considering that Alan also accuses Abe of breaking into his home in the past …. that might reveal a strained relationship in which the father wasn’t too interested in leaving Alan a bigger amount. It is also interesting to see determined looking Alan Saffron dressed up in what appears to be a suit and tie. A contrast from his regular poor dad look from the Kitchen Nightmare show ; where Alan seems to portray a clueless, calm and somewhat goofy character.
The this article: http://www.smh.com.au/national/mr-sins-family-goes-to-court-as-more-millions-emerge-20110123-1a18q.html?from=age_ft (K McClymont)
Here Alan, who looks sick due to a stroke says that he should get more money because he had a stroke and could not work. If Mr. Saffron had a stroke then I am sorry to heard this. This was 6-7 months before Gordon Ramsay went to Burger Kitchen to see Alan Saffron working in the restaurant. But no one mentioned to Gordon how he’s too sick to work.
The article continues: “The will stated that his father had already provided financial support to his son’s family and business during his lifetime. The crime boss also stipulated that if Alan contested the will he was to receive nothing.
And then the article quotes Alan as saying “‘I am the only legitimate heir” as if this was a battle over the right of succession or something.
Cool Update 1/8/13: This article is a gem: http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/lawsuit-over-1m-saffron-bequest/2007/07/07/1183351516617.html
In this article, one can see the battle the Saffron family had to put up a court fight to receive the inheritance they said they were promised. If so, we can add lawyer fees to the list of items that might have depleted their inheritance. And here, the will executors allegedly had to repay the Saffroms 1 million from the estate of Abe Saffron: http://m.smh.com.au/nsw/saffron-executors-to-repay-1m-taken-from-estate-20120910-25oia.html
However, not the full amount of the inheritance which went to Abe Saffron’s daughter.
Daniel Dragged Into The Business? Maybe…Maybe Not
– The story about how Daniel never wanted to be involved in the business and got his $250k taken away by his father (which forced him to work at the restaurant). But why Daniel’s money? Considering that all of Alan’s children got their own inheritance not just Daniel. Also while Daniel says he never wanted to be part of it, this article claims that Alan and Daniel had planned to go into the burger business for a long time: http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2010/04/burger-kitchen-review-los-angeles-ca.html (D Gambuto. Seriouseats.com) Here is the screenshot:
What? Alan owned a steakhouse in Australia? That’s interesting considering that in the show, Daniel said he asked why would they open a restaurant since they know nothing about the restaurant business. Oh and there’s the “had notions of teaming up on a restaurant project for years” So basically this article says that Alan and Daniel planned on opening a restaurant.
And another question…if Daniel did not want to go into the business, how do you explain his reply on the website above? Take a look at the comments section and check out “Daniel’s” rebuttal to the review, by someone who replied under the name “Daniel Saffron”:
My dad and I poured our lives into this. If this fails, we fail, and it’s as simple as that. We don’t have any investors, just us. This isn’t a concept to make quick cash, this is something we want to do, and have a passion for.
Here is the screenshot:
“This is something WE WANT TO DO“. They key word is WANT TO, compare that to a crying Daniel on Kitchen Nightmares complaining about his money stolen and forced to work on Burger Kitchen against his will.
Who knows. Maybe the son was pushed into the business and now defends it like a good son. Maybe the father/son team actually planned this together but told Gordon otherwise.
Parts That Seemed Staged
Parts of the show seem staged. When Gordon visits Daniel, Daniel shows him a piece of paper that his father gave him as a business partner. He says it’s a worthless piece of paper and rips it up in front of Gordon. So this paper is so “worthless” that he kept it all this time for 16 whole months. But just now that the cameras are rolling with Gordon, Daniel just decided to finally rip it up….in front of the cameras…for a reality TV show.
The part where the family is trying to figure out how they will afford to give the chef $1,000 for his last paycheck. Then I got to wonder if the chef might have just been going along with the family. After all, who really works “in the spirit of getting paid” like Alan says. So they want me to believe that since the chef started working at this place he has not been paid at all! And yet when he demands his final paycheck it’s only a mere $1,000? How long was he working there then, a week two weeks? Because the is the average pay of an executive chef in Los Angeles is this: http://www.indeed.com/salary?q1=Executive+Chef&l1=Los+Angeles. About $53,000 a year. Probably less if you work for the Saffrons. But it’s only $1,000. Let’s say that an executive chef at the Saffron’s made minimum wage, it would have been over 3 weeks for him to be owed $1,000. So I should believe that from 1 to 3 half weeks, this man has been terrorized by the Saffrons, not being able to do his own recipes, grown to loathe and bully them. All in 1 to 3 weeks, huh.
When the family is giving them his check and they all wonder how they will pay for it. Well, they’re not on Kitchen Nightmares for free! I’m pretty sure the guests get paid a certain amount, so the chef’s $1,000 check is the least of their worries. Also it doesn’t seem like the Saffrons are too worried about discounting any social security tax, tax withholding, medicare tax.. Nothing, so they basically paid him under the table on national TV :p
Maybe it’s was a publicity stunt to plug the dad’s book on national television. I mean if you look at the episode you just wonder how much of it could have been staged by the family. I don’t know how much of Gordon’s team knew about it but there is a possibility that they just interviewed this dysfunctional family and thought that they would make a good episode drama material. Since these shows do cast people before choosing on a candidates for the episodes. But the bickering, the discrepancies and then plugging the book just makes you wonder… if maybe this is a show-business family. But then you have this article: Saffron’s son spills beans on Nielsen killing (L Carty http://www.theage.com.au)
In this article, Alan Saffron is described as a Los Angeles agent. A far cry from a struggling burger restaurant owner who has family drama.
Saffron jnr – a Los Angeles-based agent – is in Australia to launch his book, Gentle Satan,Now, Mr Saffron is touting his family story as a film or television series.
A film or television series! BOOM there you have it!! All the bickering, all the drama, all the my father took my money, the we’re in debt, we don’t have enough money to pay the chef. All of it on national television. An effort to have a film or television series? And how likely would it be if maybe the Saffrons put on their best act to get the attention of the Kitchen Nightmares show producers to appear on national television. To gain interest in the book, to get some publicity. Why plug the book then? Was it in hopes that a show producer watching TV would say “wow I’d love to make a show about this family, like Keeping up With the Saffrons“.
Although I will quote from Alan’s own LinkedIn profile (which I wont link to profiles but got a screenshot of it) he does write:
Wrote a best selling book, Gentle Satan, published by Penguin Books, Australia
My current goal is to continue talent management with a select few clients and to expand my restaurant into a small chain.
Finally turn my best selling book in to a movie.
And Gordon Ramsay’s show is the tool by which this could happen perhaps? Though I doubt it because this family has repulsed most of the Kitchen Nightmare audience. Of course, no one ever mentions to Gordon how the dad of the burger joint has a side venue of managing Hollywood talent. Quite the contrary, Mr Saffron seems quite immersed in the restaurant business full time. He is listed as either president or agent of some talent management companies and one of his clients is Tobin Bell, whom I just realized is the guy from Saw so that’s one positive thing. http://www.celebmagnet.com/2010/11/saw-3d-tobin-bell-jigsaw-box-office.html (P Michelle).
Overall you have to wonder… were the omissions on purpose? Did the family try to portray itself one way in order to gain the interest of the show, to be on national television and bring some publicity for themselves? Plugging the book and then realizing that the father wants to make a movie out of it. The inheritance amount, the drama. You be the judge.
I am, in a way tempted to try this place but I cannot support it considering that in my opinion it is very likely that the family reached out to Gordon for publicity and attention rather than to receive real help. Just my opinion. Also, the one time I made it to LA I opted for Kosher meals. Although I must admit that Burger Kitchen is highly praised for its extensive beer collection, which is fantastic. Too bad I live very far away from this place. I wish them the best in their restaurant venue. Also, I do not have a personal vendetta against this family.
I have heard that a fellow blogger was accused of attacking the Saffrons because they are Jewish and that they take to responding angrily when anyone post anything negative about them. Well, can’t accuse me of being an anti-semite since I am semitic of Sephardic Jewish origin (hence my SuperJew blogger tittle). I am merely pointing some things that did not seem to match. I am extremely disappointed if I wait to see my favorite Gordon Ramsay show and find what I perceive to be a group of people who could have used him and his show for their own hidden agenda of self-promotion rather than being a poor family reaching out for to Gordon for honest help.
It seems, also that since 2010 when the restaurant opened, the family had Gordon Ramsay in mind, going back to Daniel’s rebuttal where he states:
Not everyone in the world is as rich or powerful as wolfgang puck or chef ramses.
No not everyone can be like “chef ramses” but at least you can audition to get into his show and plug the book that can become a movie, right?
Best of luck to the family and hopefully their business will improve from the Kitchen Nightmare experience. It is quite possible that there have been positive changes and it is up to the people of Los Angeles to go check it out for themselves. Also kudos on the beer collection that everyone raves about. As for Kitchen Nightmares and Gordon Ramsay, I love them and this is not intended to be against them at all. I believe that Gordon and his staff honestly had good intentions in trying to help what they believed to be a poor family and their restaurant. But you have to wonder, how much help did the Saffrons really need?
If anyone is interested in the book, check it out here: http://www.amazon.com/Gentle-Satan-Father-Abe-Saffron/dp/071810496X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320573033&sr=8-1