Monday, May 20, 2013

Revisited: Amy's Baking Co.

Kitchen Nightmares Episode 6.16
Amy's Baking Co. (a.k.a. ABC Bistro)
first aired on Friday, May 10, 2013

Please keep this in mind when you view Kitchen Nightmares or read this article:
"A great chef doesn't create great food.  A great chef created food that other people think is great."
Last week I reviewed the Kitchen Nightmares episode on ABC Bistro.  Both the owners (husband Samy B. & wife Amy B.) demonstrated psychological behaviors so toxic that they are hard to watch, harder to accept, and almost impossible to work with or treat without professional, psychological intervention.

Now, after a week has passed and my emotions have subsided, it's time to look at Amy's Baking Co. a little more closely and through a clinical lens.

If you didn't see this episode, you can view it here on  Hat tip to DemSign who provided the link.

Before we begin, you need to know that I am not in the mental healthcare industry and I have no formal training in the mental health disciplines.  Please exercise your own judgment regarding my analysis and certainly don't be afraid to do your own research.

The Problem with Amy

Indeed, the problem - all of the problems - stem from the wife, Amy B.  And her problems stem mainly from Narcissistic Defenses.  More on that at Wikipedia.  Here are the key attributes of Narcissistic defenses.
  1. They are rigid and totalistic.
  2. It is one of the earliest defense mechanisms to emerge; usually in childhood.
  3. The typical five narcissistic defenses are:  repression, denial, distortion, projection (blaming others), and codependence.

Evaluating these in order ...

Rigid and totalistic:  Amy is always right.  Anyone who disagrees with her is always wrong.  There is no in between.  There are no filters.  There is no analysis or evaluation.  She even has a negative attitude to those who want to substitute items listed on the menu.
Key phrase:  "The customer isn't always right. And I won't take (expletive deleted) from anybody"

Develops in early childhood:  two quotes that are dead give aways.  Any emphasis is mine.
"It was at a very early age that I discovered I had a real true passion and talent for anything having to do with the culinary arts."

"We're in the restaurant business.  It's not all daisies and ponies and unicorns."

"At a very early age" ... Amy believes that she has a "real true passion and talent".  And in her defense, Chef Ramsay did validate the quality of her desserts.

But the blowout phrase is, "it's not all daisies and ponies and unicorns."  These aren't just fantasy items ..., they are childhood fantasy items.

Uses one or more defensive tactics:
Amy uses two in particular:  Projection & Codependence.
Projection (or blaming others) is described beautifully and frankly by Amy:
"Approximately two years ago, these Reviewers and these Bloggers decided to make up lies and say that they ate the food and that it was disgusting.  And we lost a tremendous amount of business because of it."

If you listen carefully to the youtube posting, Amy says "these Reviewers and these Bloggers" with a slightly sarcastic disdain.

Codependence:  Although some of the employees have learned to adapt to Amy's um ... quirks, The Codependence Crown obviously goes to her husband Samy B.  What is he willing to do to support his wife?  I mean besides spending over One Million Dollars opening the Restaurant.  Here's what Samy says:
"If anyone (mumbled) my wife's food is no good, I just tell them to leave the restaurant, I don't want them and don't come back." 

And he proves it immediately.
Samy:  "Madame, is this your first time here?"
Woman:  "And my last."
Samy:  "And it's your last.  Don't come back."


Problems Beyond Amy.

The first thing you have to do is to get Amy to understand what's going on inside her mind.  I'm not getting into that.  It's too complicated.  Perhaps a Psychologist can write a book about her.

The next problem is getting her through the other defensive mechanisms that are listed here.  Scroll down to "Vaillant's Categorization of Defense Mechanisms.  Amy will likely seek out other defenses if (a big IF) she works past the narcissism.  This is the way personalities work.  She won't immediately become mature.  Small parts of Amy will continually seek any approval and react badly to any criticism; probably for many years.  And again, the codependent husband will make that process much more difficult.

Another viewpoint:  Mindset

Another way to view Amy is through Carol S. Dweck's incredible book, Mindset:  the New Psychology of Success.  According to her research, people have one of two mindsets that determine their views and actions in life:  Growth and Fixed.

As you read the book (or the Wikipedia article), it is obvious that Amy possesses a Fixed Mindset.  From this perspective, it may be easier for her to adapt to the Restaurant Biz with this system than through the challenges listed above.

On a tangent, I highly recommend Mindset.  It's easy to understand.  It gets an entire chapter in SuperFreakonomics (or Freakonomics ... can't remember which).  Read for yourself how college researchers turned Fifth Graders into a bunch of helpless liars by telling them they are smart.  Very enlightening.  By the way, they do go back and fix the kids.


It may be hard to believe, but I hope the best for Amy and Samy B.  They make a few good desserts.  They keep a really clean restaurant (I'm not being sarcastic here).  They are not career criminals or hopeless drug addicts.  They have invested their (or his) own money in the restaurant. 

And I hope the best for them because their path will be full of brutal work.  Any and all progress they make will have to begin with the phrase, "We are doing this wrong."  That's a huge pill to swallow - even for a horse.  But, the rewards will be worth it.

Good luck Amy and Samy B.


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