How The Secret Garden Is Doing After Kitchen Nightmares

In a land of sprawling vineyards, luxury golf courses, and soaring property prices, The Secret Garden, a French restaurant in Moorpark, California, was in a prime location to flourish. With French chef Michel Bardavid as the owner for around seven years, you would think the restaurant would be turning out authentic, refined cooking (per Reality TV Revisited). But when Gordon Ramsay and the crew of "Kitchen Nightmares" arrived on the scene in 2007, they encountered quite the opposite of exquisite haute cuisine.

Ramsay found the restaurant empty, and tables adorned with artificial roses, paper doilies, and old-fashioned candelabras. After searching for the staff hidden in the kitchen, a waitress finally emerged and served him a tiny bread roll resting in a huge basket. That was just the start. The crème fraîche was not fresh, but canned. Ramsay received "stone cold and undercooked" garlic shrimp in a salad with baby spinach, strawberries, goat cheese, asparagus, and a hard-boiled egg.

The Roquefort-stuffed filet of beef was not pink as ordered, but "tough as old boots," and came smothered in french fries he called "a big ball of grease." Overall, Ramsay described the food as lazy, dirty, and just plain bad. Behind the scenes, Ramsay found a filthy kitchen filled with moldy food and maggots. Throughout it all, chef Bardavid evaded Ramsay's questions and acted as if nothing was wrong.

The Secret Garden sees a brief revitalization

After forcing the staff to scrub the restaurant clean and remove all traces of grime, mold, and rotting food, Gordon Ramsay introduced a new, refined menu. Instead of a slew of tasteless, badly cooked items, Ramsay proposed classic dishes like onion gratin, tuna Niçoise, roast chicken, and an asparagus tart. 

Even though Ramsay's efforts to revamp and renovate the restaurant and its food appeared to fare well with patrons, bringing the Secret Garden higher profits, chef Bardavid refused to cooperate. Months later, Bardavid reverted to his old, convoluted menu under the pretense that his customers complained about the new food (per Reality TV Updates).

One Yelp reviewer couldn't "believe this horrible place and the rude arrogance of the owner." Another commenter noted the amount of five-star reviews from other people could potentially have been "placed on Yelp by the owner in a transparent attempt to out-match the actual genuine, truthful ones." 

In 2015, the restaurant finally closed and chef Bardavid sold the business. Bardavid went on to work at Custom Pie in Moorpark in 2016, before buying it. The casual eatery is now called Custom Pie and the Bar Next Door and has a solid 4.5 rating on Yelp, but was put up for sale on September 28, 2022, according to a Facebook post.

The Secret Garden is far from the only "Kitchen Nightmares" restaurant to fail, but maybe it could have thrived by taking Ramsay's solid business advice.