The Secret Garden from Kitchen Nightmares’ first season remained open for eight years before closing, after Chef Michel’s divorce.
Chef Gordon Ramsay’s show, Kitchen Nightmares, has certainly never had a shortage of stubborn, headstrong and downright combative owners.
But few of the restaurant owners featured on the show were quite as memorable as Chef Michel Bardavid from The Secret Garden.
When Ramsay first visited this trained French chef at his restaurant in Moorpark in the final episode of Kitchen Nightmares’ first season, he faced an uphill-battle.
This was not only against the restaurant’s disgusting kitchen and outdated décor, but also against chef Michel, who was hesitant to bring any of Ramsay’s suggested changes on board.
What happened after Chef Ramsay’s visit
But surprisingly, The Secret Garden actually ended up becoming one of the most successful restaurants from the Kitchen Nightmares franchise. The eatery remained operational for about eight years after Ramsay’s intervention.
Even when Chef Michel eventually sold The Secret Garden in 2015, it was not because the business was failing, but simply because of struggles in his personal life.
A message posted to The Secret Garden Facebook page in 2015 simply read “…Saturday, November 28th will be Chef Michel’s last day at The Secret Garden. The business has been sold…”
Chef Michael then later admitted to the Ventura County Star that he had decided to sell the business because of his divorce.
The Secret Garden timeline
All in all, Chef Michel owned The Secret Garden for more than a decade, but the restaurant actually had quite an interesting history even before its 15 seconds of Kitchen Nightmares-fame.
Chef Michel purchased the restaurant from its previous owners after a pretty public misdemeanor case, which involved the then-wife of Frankie Valli and a disputed bill.
The full history of the restaurant is summarized below:
|The Secret Garden is launched by Bob and Sandra Sofsky
|Chef Michel Bardavid and his wife, Lauréa Bardavid, take ownership of The Secret Garden
|Chef Ramsay visits to film the Kitchen Nightmares episode
|December 12, 2007
|“The Secret Garden” Kitchen Nightmares episode premieres
|November 28, 2015
|Chef Michel Bardavid’s last day at The Secret Garden before it closed down permanently
The review controversy
The Secret Garden may be one of only a few Kitchen Nightmares restaurants which survived for years after Ramsay’s initial visit, but that does not mean that business was always smooth sailing.
At the time of its closure, The Secret Garden had a fairly good Yelp rating of 3.6 out of 5.
However, some keen-eyed Kitchen Nightmares fans have called the validity of these reviews into question, since there was such disparity between the 26 one-star reviews, the 64 five-star reviews, and the other 47 two-, three- and four-star reviews.
This either implies that some of the reviews were falsely posted to make the restaurant look better (or worse) than it truly was, or that their service was so inconsistent that two different patrons could have had entirely different experiences within months of each other.
Either way, this could very well have contributed to the restaurant’s eventual closure.
What opened in The Secret Garden’s place?
The Secret Garden remained open for a few months after Chef Michel sold the space to its new owners and ultimately closed its doors permanently by the end of 2015. The space then remained unoccupied for about four years.
Finally, in 2020, Danny Margolis (the president of the Moorpark-based Command Performance Catering), and the new executive chef, Maya Chrestensen, opened a contemporary Californian restaurant called ‘M on High Street.’
This eatery is still open and thriving to this day and it currently has a 4.4 out of 5 star rating on Yelp.
What happened to Chef Michel after he sold The Secret Garden?
Just after Chef Michel’s initial deal to sell The Secret Garden fell through in 2015, he told the Ventura County Star “Chef Michel is not done yet,” and that he was planning on staying in the area even after moving on from the restaurant.
This turned out to be true, as Chef Michel eventually started working at- and then purchased another restaurant in Moorpark, which is now called ‘Custom Pie and Bar’.
Unfortunately, this new business seems to have followed a similar pattern to The Secret Garden.
Custom Pie and Bar closed its doors briefly in 2022, and as of September 11, 2023, the restaurant has now been officially relaunched with brand new owners.
There has been no word on what led to Chef Michel’s decision to sell this restaurant, or what he plans to do next, just yet.