Baja Fresh CEO David Kim on Undercover Boss

Baja Fresh CEO David Kim on Undercover Boss

In the latest episode of Undercover Boss, David Kim (CEO of Baja Fresh) goes undercover to make sure the customer service provided is keeping up with the fast growth of the company. While working in the field, he hopes to uncover potential problems and recognize the people who solve those problems everyday. Not only does he get first hand experience at one of the nation’s largest restaurant chains, but he also connects with the employees who make his company run.

Here’s a statement from Baja Fresh CEO David Kim:

“I hope you enjoyed the Baja Fresh episode of Undercover Boss. I greatly enjoyed working on the front line and learning more about our great company and the hard work that occurs daily. The Baja Fresh family rocks even more than I already knew and I saw our guests are very passionate about our food. I also learned that making a Burrito Ultimo is about as easy as cutting your own hair – I’m lousy at it!”

Jobs that Baja Fresh CEO David Kim did while undercover:

General Manager
He teams up with Jose (General Manager). The boss learns that there is much more to supervising than bossing people around. How will the boss react when tasked with the simplest job of mopping the floor? The boss will have to clean up his act in order to live up to the standards of this exemplary employee.

He partners with Anthony (Cashier). Customer service is key when it come to working the register. Can the boss handle the pressures of a long line let alone remember what’s on the menu? The boss is also moved to tears as he learns that the hard work of this employee goes far beyond the job.

Store Manager
He works with Rami (Store Manager). Part of the manager’s job is to maintain the quality of the food being produced by the restaurant. Will the boss step up to the tasks at hand when it comes to the safety of his employees and customers? Will the boss watch as things heat up or will he take matters into his own hands?

Operations Manager
He collaborates with Carrie (Operations Manager). David Kim sees what it’s like to hit the streets as he heads out to set up lunch for businesses in the area. Is he ready for the lunch time rush. He also has an eye opening experience as he makes his first lunch delivery.

You can see the fill episode here.

Baja Fresh CEO David Kim on Undercover Boss

Baja Fresh CEO David Kim knows what it takes to build restaurant empires from the ground up. And on the CBS’s hit series “Undercover Boss,” Kim showed America what it means to give back when he offered a Baja Fresh franchise (valued at more than $50,000) and personal mentoring to Las Vegas general manager Jose Manzanarez. The gift was among the biggest in the show’s history.

“America is the greatest country on the planet,” said Kim, who came to the United States from South Korea. “I wanted to give the Baja Fresh family a piece of the American Dream I’ve been blessed to experience. Giving ignites success. I tell our employees, ‘Don’t follow your dreams—chase them!’”

Baja Fresh, the fast-casual Mexican pioneer known for its fire-grilled hormone-free chicken and all-natural steak, now operates or franchises 255 Baja Fresh restaurants in 24 states and Dubai. David Kim said he wanted to go on CBS’s hit show to reconnect with employees and to ensure that the company’s passion for freshness—Baja Fresh maintains a strict “no can openers, no freezers, no microwaves” policy in its restaurants—is being carried out. The executive says he was extremely pleased with what he saw.

David Kim is known for his unorthodox leadership style. The author of “Ignite!: The 12 Values That Fuel Billionaire Success” and the CEO of multiple food brands, including Sweet Factory and La Salsa, Kim refuses to carry a smart phone and foregoes a cushy executive corner office, instead working out of a small cubicle alongside other staff at Baja Fresh headquarters. “People are what matter most,” said Kim. “Fancy phones and huge mahogany-walled executive offices separate leaders from what matters most in business—people.”

For his stint on “Undercover Boss” Kim worked with Manzanarez, Rami Mohammed Abuelhawa, a general manager, Carrie McCharness, a district manager, and Anthony Abinuman, a cashier. Like Manzanarez, each earned a reward from Kim for dedicated service to Baja Fresh: Abuelhawa of Mesa, Arizona received $5,000 toward his education and another $5,000 for a vacation with his father and a year’s mentoring from Kim; McCharness, based in Boise, Idaho, received $5,000 for her business-building ideas and $7,500 for her daughter’s education; and Abinuman, who works at the Cypress, California Baja Fresh location, received $15,000 to support his family and $2,500 for his uncle’s ministry. “I always believed in the benefits of eating well, being active and making contributions to the communities in which we live. But being a CEO has so much more to do with people than with business,” said Kim. “Going undercover merely reminded me of all the reasons I am so passionate about the Baja Fresh family and the guests we serve.”

42 thoughts on “Baja Fresh CEO David Kim on Undercover Boss

  1. Dan G

    I’ve watched every episode of Undercover Boss and never have I ever been touched so deeply by such a humble man. David was by far an example to all men and women in the position he holds in his company. and an inspiration to all people. Where was he when I started in this business 30 years ago?

  2. LeMoine Bond

    David is an icon of a Christian businessman; leading his business on the standards & values Christ set for had in the Holy Scriptures. He is a new American hero.

  3. Isabelle

    David Kim, CEO of Baja Fresh, identified three examples of Americans from Immigrant families working hard and getting handsomely rewarded. What about the white female with the two-year-old child? She received no management opportunities, family support or raise in pay. (Unless I missed something here…) Instead, she was given the opportunity to tell David and the Baja Fresh upper management team how she implemented ideas to make them richer. Her child received $7500 college tuition that she won’t be able to use for sixteen more years. Good for you, David, for embracing the American Dream, but things have progressed past that to include opportunities for hard working, talented WOMEN too. Get a clue. Oh, by the way, separation of church and state is an American principle. As CEO you are bound by law in your employer-employee relations, so save the religion for off the job, dude. What would you have done for that employee if he had said no, he wasn’t comfortable with praying on the job?

  4. jorge

    i think you missed a lot. she was offered the opportunity to travel around and help implement her ideas regionally, which is more than likely a promotion and probably comes with additional compensation. as far as separation of church and state is concerned, it does not apply here. an employee is in no way prohibited from asking another employee about their religion (david was posing as an employee, and the other guy brought up praying first). furthermore, an employer is not expressly prohibited from engaging in a casual conversation with an employee regarding religion. of course most do not, considering the litigious nature of our society, for fear of being accused of descrimination.

  5. Joe

    Isabelle, I don’t know if you’re just angry or misunderstood the whole story. The white female with the two year old child also will be receiving a significant pay raise. Separation of church and state is actually a a phrase first given by a klu klux klan when the minorities and poor whites in the south do not have a viable school and taking school bus to a catholic school. Since you mentioned it, you’re probably the one that’s bias and discriminating and throwing a phrase you’ve heard as a red herring. Suggest you go back to school and widen your narrowminded world view.

  6. Joanna

    I watched last night and was moved. I also noticed his personal statement to never forget to be great full for what he has. I wonder if other CEO’s try to remember to be great full also.

  7. Toni

    Absolutely loved this episode and was extremely touched that this CEO would be open in his faith and leadership style. Great job and keep the episodes coming!

  8. Brenda

    To David Kim, Thank you so very much for sharing your faith on Undercover Boss last night. If there were a Baja Fresh in my area I would definitly be working there. It was so amazing and refreshing to see a CEO (albeit it was undercover) praying with a fellow worker. Last year I wore a tshirt with the saying “MY GOD REIGNS” on the front and back. I was told I had to remove my shirt, or turn it inside out, mangement told me it maybe offensive to other workers. I simply said I will change my shirt if someone personally comes to me and ask me to change. Thankfully nobody did. I would have refused at the cost of my job.

  9. Jose Tovar

    David is a fine example of new CEO’s. Most American CEO’s have lost a sense of dignity, honesty, integrity, and the list goes on and on. I’ve watched this show since the start. And, David is the second CEO I find to have most if not all of the above qualities I listed. His caring way with his Father, wife and children goes to show he is also a spiritual man.

    So, to all other CEO’s out there, listen in to your parents, your spouses, children and most of all, to you work force who are doing the hardest jobs in your respective organizations. Without the hard work of your workers, and without your customers me included, you would not live the life you are living. David’s father said to him, “don’t be greedy”….I could not agree more….America wake up! We have become a greedy country and have forgotten our simply values of sharing our wealth, our fortunes, our basic means of being Americans! At the end, no one cares how much you made, why, because we all go and your wealth stays don’t take it with you!!!!!

  10. Terry

    I also have a mixed reaction about the woman. Getting a franchise was slanted. I thought she was slighted. I won’t be eating there.

  11. Miller

    Employees that have what it takes to be recognized and rewarded is what it’s all about!!! GOD Bless YOU David Kim! I wish there were more like You in the World…..I stopped by last night to see Anthony at the Cypress, CA location and all I can say is, WOW this guy is the MAN who will get his own Franchise in time….He’s already a Celebrity There!!!As I was waiting for my food, every person walking in the door looked at him emptying the trash cans and stopped only to say, “is that the guy on Undercover Boss???The Manager kept saying Yes, with a smile on her face…..He was smiling from ear to ear, what a great kid!!David is going to Mentor Anthony and I’m sure he’ll be the next Boss some day……If you live in the area, go say Hi to Anthony and give him a pat on the back and a shake and maybe even some prayers, that is if you believe!

  12. Betty

    David Kim, What a blessing to see a Christian with such a strong testimony for Christ. You really touched my heart on the Undercover Boss Show. We need more leaders like you to stand up and have a strong testimony for the Lord and show concern for their employees and the standards that they have built in the companies. Keep up the good work and may God continue to bless you!!

  13. Don

    Isabelle and Terry are totally missing the points. Here is someone who was moved by employees of his company that he had direct contact with and decided to be generous with his own money, to the point of giving a franchise for free to someone he hardly knew. And yet, there has to be always someone pointing out something wrong. If he gave everybody a free franchise do you think there will be no one criticizing?

  14. digs

    I was moved by this episode. Will definetly be going to baja fresh this week. I’d love to see more CEO’s show compassion and respect to their employees! I love David Kim!

  15. June

    My husband and I have enjoyed watching Undercover Boss. Many of the Bosses have learned so much about their companies and their employees that they were unaware of prior to being featured on Undercover Boss. It is an enjoyable television show.

    Last Sunday evening was the high point of all the shows we have seen. To see David Kim pray with his employee, learn to know some of his employees and learn how Baja Fresh operates at the store locations–and how important his employees are, was inspiring, refreshing and a real blessing. May the Lord continue to bless you and your family, David, as you acknowledge Him and serve as a true witness of God’s work in an individual’s life.

  16. steven green

    David Kim was an embarrassment to all of us in the food industry. A CEO in our business should never be so detached. Totally unfamiliar with the keyboard layout, unable to make sauces and unsure of the components of a burrito? How did Mr Kim not know that one of his franchises did delivery? What a joke! The Synagro guy the week before excelled at every job he did.

  17. Miller

    Steven Green obviously has nothing GOOD to say about Baja Fresh CEO, David Kim! I wonder WHY???$$$ It least David attempted by going on national television, I’m sure he himself was embarrassed of not being able to do those jobs, but you know everyone has to learn sometime and he sure did. I believe David wants to be more attached than most in the industry and that is why he decided to do the show…This episode was still the most Emotionally Moving and BEST I’ve seen yet and from most of the comments above, I believe it’s true.
    Keep up the good work David and GOD Bless You!!!!!

  18. john

    very impressed with your hour of fame on national television i personally thought you did a great job to day we visited one of your stores in balt for the first time and were very impressed we will be regulars in the future my background is in sales management for the past 40 yrs and i can appreachiate what you are doing

  19. GBA

    ….last I checked, Baja Fresh was NOT a state owned enterprise. Im no constitutional lawyer, but I have taken a high school history 101 class and I am pretty sure that there is no such thing in US law as “sepation of church and privately owned enterprise”. The day the state tells me that I cannot pray with a fellow co-worker in a private corporation, is the day I will renounce my citizenship.

  20. Brett

    One thing i noticed on undercover boss most of the time managers reject the ceo and say they would not hire them. I think its an american way of business, the smartest most talented people as in David Kim can find it hard to be initially accepted. Its people like david who inspire others to do something good with life.

  21. TAJIK


  22. KC

    For all you Christian-phobes out there, separation of church and state was originally put in place not to protect the state from churches, but to protect churches from the state dictating how they are to be run. Check your American history people! It was Thomas Jefferson who, per request of a certain Baptist church, agreed that the government should not intervene with their practices. It was actually expected then that the State WOULD be influenced by various religions while still maintaining that the government would not declare itself to follow any one religion. They at least back then had the common sense (unlike most liberals today) to recognize that politicians were not necessarily well versed in moral teaching and that churches could provide that. What is the point? That all of you ignoramuses that try to criticize public figures like David Kim for actually believing in something and standing by it by crying “separation of church and state” you have no idea what you’re talking about. =)

  23. Jay

    Nice to see a CEO who was not ashamed to express his faith in Jesus and Biblical principles. Many companies could learn from his example.

  24. yvette

    Dear Kim, thank you so much for being human and humble. God is going to continue to bless you and your loved ones because I’m sure many are praying for you and your family. I was touched beyond belief to see how human you are. I know that your Father and Mother had allot to do with it. I hope he is well if not I know he’s with your mother watching over you, with my parents. God bless you.

  25. Angel DeWitt

    This show was amazing and inspiring. I was moved by the the CEO Mr. Kim. I actually shed quiet a few tears watching this episode. I am sure that Mr. Kim will probably not read this email but I wanted to share how much this episode has moved me. I am not in the food and beverage industry but was empowered by Mr. Kim’s selflessness and kindness. It is people like Mr. Kim that keep this world a kind and loving place despite the chaos in day to day lives. I am thankful that I happened to come across this episode which was my first of “Undercover Boss”. I hope that the random acts of kindness that Mr. Kim has shown comes back to him a thousand fold. Thank you for bringing hope back into my heart and the empowerment to help those in need. God bless. Sincerely, Angel DeWitt.

  26. rob

    They should go back to all this companies in a couple of years, to see if they really changed, and what has become of this people. I think some are just using this as a cheap form of publicity.

  27. Bec

    I felt incredibly moved by this episode. What a wonderful man with a kind and generous heart. It was incredibly heartwarming to watch and inspires me to become a better, more selfless person every day : )

  28. Mary Smith

    I just wanted to say to David Kim that I was so moved by that episode of Undercover Boss and his love for God to pray with his family and his employees on national TV. His love for his father and the statement his father made. Whatever wealth you’ve been blessed to obtain in life is not the most important thing you have but it’s the love for your family and to be a blessing to others. I was so touched by you that I prayed for you and your your family. It would be a blessing to see more episodes like that than the other junk they show on TV these days.

  29. Debbie

    This is the best show I have ever watched. Amazing show Mr. Kim! I wish there are other CEOs like you. SALUTE to you Mr. Kim!!!!!!

  30. Pat

    Mr. Kim: Thank you for the wonderful example and inspirational values you exhibited in the “Undercover Boss” episode I just watched on television. Not only did you admire the work ethic, and basic core values these young people demonstrated but in rewarding them as you did, you yourself grew as a human being in front of the world. Your parents, your mother and father, have and had good reason to be proud of you.
    In this climate of anti immigrant, your decision to give Jose a franchise and to help Anthony’s family stay together was so generous and decent. Your gave me hope that God’s lessons of treating one another with respect and kindness can be implemented. Your motives were altruistic and genuine. Thank you so much for imparting hope.


  31. Grayzee

    Mr Kim is an inspirational man. There is an old saying here in the UK that states “there is no sentiment in business”. This type of attitude has destroyed the western world’s economy. Mr Kim is a true humanitarian and a fantastically gifted business man. Sir, I look forward to following your career and I wish you every success.

  32. Sue

    Watched the epidose of Undercover Boss which was aired in Australia last night. I absolutely enjoyed it. I agree with most of you..Mr Kim is a great man with a heart of gold.

  33. Angela

    Hi Mr Kim, as a Christian myself you have really inspired me, we have a home cell group where we will be showing them your eposide, we felt very humbled by your generous heart! We are in South Africa and only viewed your eposide here this week. You had our entire family in tears, tears of joy that people like you still live in this world. Continue to inspire people, you have an awesome gift that the Lord has given you. My prayer for you and your family is that you have continued favour in your business and that it will continue to grow….maybe reach us here in sunny South Africa. God Bless you. Brian, Angela, Blayze & Skye Vosloo

  34. peter ntembeni

    I equaly watched u do all that and give all heartedly.. tears dropped through and through. u er one in a million indeed. Come an open a franchise here in Zambia i run it. I want that Baja gift too.

  35. Brauliana Cabrera

    Hi David Kim

    My is Brauliana Cabrera, we love the show, I would like to know if you are in Business, I do have a lot of experience and idea for Baja Fresh. Please give me the opportunity to show my ideas to you.


    Brauliana Cabrera
    June 22, 2012

  36. Evelyn R Santos

    I am praying that other TV programming will feature a reality show like the “Undercover Boss”. David Kim is a leader not a manager. He seeks personal relationship with his people by iginiting their spirit into believing that they (like him and including us) are the light of the world…all we need to do is simply flip the switch. In 1Corinthians 8:1 When you’re helping people , you’re happy because you know deep down you’re doing what God has created you to do. I pray Mr. Kim that your “beautiful mindset” will soon be corporate America’s biz model… 20%IQ/80%EQ where emotional intelligence is far more valued than technology or intellectual thinking in dealing with our fallen world. I have never seen a CEO prayed and cried with his people….an empathy that is the balm needed to heal the hurt of this world. May it serve as insights/inputs to President OBAMA’s job creation ( Insourcing vs Outsourcing jobs) and amnesty program. It depicts the well-intentioned immigrants’ hope is just to offer their loved ones good life, and America is the rainbow they see. Let’s adopt as framework in dealing with the global economy “Oneness in Diversity” program. Mr. Kim I am your protegee…Stay blessed. Evelyn and Jesus

  37. Leah

    Loved this episode too! Definitely left me crying…
    And I know this is over a year late but Isabelle ^ needs to calm down! Goodness. Someone obviously didn’t pay attention to the show and thinks $7500 towards a college fund is nothing…

  38. peace

    great show..i wept all through mr kim remind me of my childhood.i lost my both parents, when i was growing up so many days i go to bed without food in my stomach i never had that proper child’s life.but i thank God for kim God will takecare of your dad amen.

  39. hiram esturas

    We have just watched the show tonight (oct 21, 2012) here in netherlands.i am also a filipino just like anthony working abroad to help my family.thank you mr David Kim for the help that you gave to Anthony.May the Good Lord Bleas you always

  40. its_me

    Ive never had baja fresh before…no restaurant near my place…but, coz of this show and what Mr Kim has shown, I will make sure that wherever new place I go, I will make it an effort to patronize his restaurant. I was in tears throughout most of the show. A good servant of the Lord who serves others deserves my praises. May the good Lord bless you Mr Kim and your family!!! May the good Lord bless Baja Fresh!!!!

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