Kitchen Nightmares: Is Sushi Ko Still Around?

Gordon Ramsay with Kitchen Nightmares award
Gordon Ramsay with Kitchen Nightmares award - Dave Hogan/Getty Images

When you're dealing with a reality show about turning a failing business around like "Kitchen Nightmares," there are going to be as many failures as there are success stories. And one of the more troubled restaurants Gordon Ramsay has tried to fix was Sushi Ko of Thousand Oaks, California. The family behind the restaurant was a bit of a mess: despite a wealth of talent and training, head chef Akira Hatae was largely checked out and depressed, which may have had something to do with the fact his wife Lisa was pretty mean towards the guy -- cold enough towards him that Ramsay himself called her out for it. This didn't lead to a great environment for their adult children, Hana (a former child actress who played Molly O'Brien on "Star Trek: Deep Space 9") and Samson, both of whom felt stuck in the place -- particularly Samson, who at age 22 had already put in $20,000 to keep the struggling business afloat.

So, did Sushi Ko survive after Ramsay and the "Kitchen Nightmares" crew left? Not only is the answer no, but it's a resounding no: the show didn't even survive until its episode aired.

Read more: Celebrity-Owned Restaurants That Are Actually Well Worth It

What Happened To Sushi Ko On Kitchen Nightmares?

Hatae family with Gordon Ramsay
Hatae family with Gordon Ramsay - Facebook

The episode isn't just memorable for the skewed family dynamics at play. One of the dishes had a hair in it (it turned out the kitchen staff wasn't wearing hats or hair nets). Meanwhile, the restaurant's "sushi pizza" -- an amalgam of salmon, crab, cheese, mayo, and sushi rice -- is widely regarded as one of the worst menu items Gordon Ramsay ever had to eat on the show. He spit it out immediately and declared it "an insult to Japanese culture." The menu issues didn't stop there; after Ramsay critiqued the miso soup as being stale and overly salty, it was revealed that the kitchen crew was leaving it in the warmer overnight to save money on making new soup.

As with most restaurants on the show, however, Ramsay seemed to turn things around by upgrading the kitchen, fixing the menu (no more sushi pizza, for one thing), and giving Akira Hatae a confidence boost (and telling Lisa Hatae to take it easy on the guy). Sushi Ko -- and the Hatae family -- seemed to be in a much better place by the end of the show. Alas, it was not to be.

Sushi Ko After Kitchen Nightmares

California Pizza Kitchen front
California Pizza Kitchen front - Osugi/Shutterstock

The episode, the 11th of the show's 3rd season, was filmed in May of 2009, and Sushi Ko didn't even make it five months afterward until it was closed, shuttering its doors in August of that year. Since the episode aired in May of 2010, there was over a half-year where the Hatae family had to deal with knowing the episode was coming even after the real-life story had already ended badly. Ouch.

In the intervening years since Sushi Ko closed, multiple restaurants tried to find success in the same spot and failed. The first was a location of Nate n' Al Delicatessen, which closed in 2012. It was followed by an outpost of the Umami Burger chain, which lasted a bit longer, but after eight years, it too shuttered its doors in 2020. As of 2023, the location appears to be occupied by a California Pizza Kitchen, and it's entirely possible that the big corporate money behind it may be preserving its spot where previous places couldn't keep going.

Why Did Sushi Ko Go Out Of Business?

Wonton sushi tacos
Wonton sushi tacos - Facebook/Sushi Ko Thousand Oaks Japanese Bar and Grill

In a blog post, Samson Hatae put most of the blame for the restaurant's failure on the economy, and he had a pretty good point, considering the episode was filmed in 2009 during the height of the Great Recession. Sure, Sushi Ko had its issues, but this wasn't like the legendary Amy's Baking Company episode, where anyone with functioning eyeballs could see the place was destined for disaster because the personalities involved were unfixable. Samson pointed out that despite the changes, business decreased after filming as customers pretty much fled the entire area. The bevy of places that failed in the same spot after Sushi Ko's departure seems to support his point.

The whole episode is more than a little sad, but it does go to show that not every restaurant can be saved, even with both skill and the best of intentions. Sometimes, factors outside a restaurateur's control conspire to make success impossible, as would seem to be the case with Sushi Ko.

The Family Seems To Be Doing Ok Now, Though

Hatae family at wedding
Hatae family at wedding - Instagram/hanahatae

Happily, it seems like in recent years, the Hatae family is on the up and up. Hana Hatae hasn't acted professionally since 2019, but she seems to have started her own interior design company. Samson Hatae appears to be working as a professional photographer (and a good one, too). Lisa Givner-Hatae was running a coffee cart at Pepperdine University in 2014, and Akira Hatae had reportedly switched to importing cosmetics, though it's not entirely clear what they've been up to since. The family still seems to be together, though, and at the start of the "Kitchen Nightmares" episode, that didn't feel like a foregone conclusion.

It may have ultimately been better that they got out of the restaurant game; the hospitality industry can be a brutal, unfriendly place. Perhaps the episode really helped even if the restaurant itself didn't survive -- and there are certainly worse fates than that.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.