For seven seasons and 92 episodes, Kitchen Nightmares was essential viewing for reality television fans. Everybody knew the premise: celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay would be invited by the owners to spend a week with a failing restaurant.
During that time, Ramsay would attempt to pinpoint the establishment’s problems and revive their fortunes through things like menu changes, décor improvements, and better staff management. Sometimes it worked, other times it didn't. A lot of times it resulted in huge arguments.
Ramsay being Ramsay, the show also featured a fair amount of expletives, often of the f-word variety. First broadcast in the UK and later remade in the US, the series was undeniably addictive and a ratings hit that ushered in a new era of restaurant-led reality shows.
So fans were perhaps understandably surprised when Ramsay decided to pull the plug on the series in 2014. "I got fed up with Kitchen Nightmares because I was getting s**t," the chef later remarked to California Scoop. "So I woke up one morning and I thought ‘f**k it, I’m done.'"
Who exactly Ramsay was "getting s**t" from is unclear, but it’s fair to say that, like most reality shows, things were not always quite as they appeared on the Fox hit.
Here are the 15 Secrets From Kitchen Nightmares You Never Knew About.
15 The Crew Were Accused Of Criminal Damage
Joe Nagy, the owner of the Mill Street Bistro in Ohio, was left far from happy after Ramsay paid his restaurant a visit in the sixth season of Kitchen Nightmares.
The pair engaged in a series of blazing rows during their time together but worse was to come after the cameras stopped rolling. According to The Mirror, Nagy accused Ramsay’s crew of causing damage during the fitting of wiring and lighting fixtures in the restaurant’s ceiling panels.
A police report also detailed claims that a £150 rondeau cooking pot went missing along with a plastic tub containing multiple elk steaks and chops. Though an on-site caterer is thought to have also had access to the premises at the time, Ramsay eventually settled the matter out of court. The restaurant has since closed.
14 Some Of Ramsay’s Angriest Moments Aren’t Even Filmed
Anyone thinking Ramsay reserves his ire for when the cameras are rolling may actually be mistaken if the account offered up by Reddit user Mikethewalrus is to be believed.
They claim to have attended a 2011 "before" dinner at one of the restaurants on the show. At this point, Ramsay hasn’t had a chance to review the menu, spruce up the place or chat all that much to the staff, so you can imagine that he was likely to get a little angry once service began.
However, this isn’t entirely for show, according to Mikethewalrus, who said that Ramsay was "intense ... even when the camera's [sic] weren't following him."
He also added that Ramsay "seemed legitimately upset about the state of the restaurant, albeit hamming it up a bit I'm sure." He also confirmed that "very little was staged," though they were urged to let a producer know if anything was off with their meal.
13 One Restaurant Manager Claims He Was Framed
The story of Martin Hyde and the New York-based Indian restaurant Dillons is a strange one. According to Hyde, he was made a scapegoat and fired by Ramsay after refusing to play up to the role of "angry" boss.
Despite being in charge of booking shows for the restaurant’s cabaret bar, Hyde claimed he was singled him out as the reason the restaurant’s kitchen was filled with rotten food and cockroaches. He also claimed the producers refused to film the restaurant’s cabaret bar, which was responsible for 70% of its revenue.
All these claims were listed in a lawsuit launched by Hyde in 2007. He also alleged that the show was edited to make him look like "a lazy idiot" and that the "satisfied" customers that visited the restaurant after its makeover were hired extras.
"I'd love people to be able to see the unedited footage," he told the Daily Mail. "Gordon called me a fake -- but the whole show is a fake." The lawsuit was eventually thrown out by a judge.
12 The Producers Allegedly Tried To Break Up A Marriage
You know that old saying "if you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen." Well, in the case of Kitchen Nightmares, it may have been the show’s producers who were bringing the heat.
According to a report from Reality Blurred, producers on the show regularly went out of their way to create tension It’s understandable enough – no one was tuning in to Kitchen Nightmares to see everyone get along – but, in one instance, they may have gone a little too far.
Bazzini featured on the second season of the show and was run by married couple Paul and Leslie Bazzini. Paul revealed to the the New Jersey Record [via Reality Blurred] that he had "no interaction with Ramsay at all … The only time that I ever spent any time with him was on camera."
In fact, Paul deal mostly with producers, one of whom reportedly tried to incite trouble by asking his wife, Leslie,"if this fails now, how can you stay with your husband?" That’s pretty strong.
11 Most Of The Restaurants "Saved" On The Show End Up Closing
Possibly the biggest revelation concerning Kitchen Nightmares comes with the fact that a lot of the restaurants that feature on the show end up closing regardless of Gordon Ramsay’s help.
According to research conducted by Grub Street, of the 77 restaurants to appear over the course of the show’s seven seasons, 47 have closed, which equates to 61.84% of the total appearing on the series.
Twenty-three of those restaurants also shut within one year of (or even before) their episode of Kitchen Nightmares aired. That’s 29.87% of the total. Though those numbers might seem quite high, it’s important to stress that the National Restaurant Association estimates around 30% of all restaurants fail in their first year, with another 30% failing within two years.
10 The Show Features Two Very Revealing Disclaimers
Though it’s widely accepted that reality shows are, as a rule, a little further from reality than some might think, two disclaimers that precede the end credits on Kitchen Nightmares point to some rather creative practices. The first reads: "The producers may have provided customers at the restaurant with a financial contribution towards the cost of their meal."
This goes against what is portrayed on the show, where the narrator often claims the arrival of Ramsay arrival has "generated some buzz" and now the restaurant is "fully booked" which isn’t strictly true if the meals are free.
The other is perhaps a little less surprising: "The footage shot in this program has been edited such that in places it is shown in a different time sequence than actually shot." It’s not a shock to learn some of the sequences might have been edited together from different times, but it’s still a tiny bit disappointing.
9 One Owner Claims The Menu Changes Lost Him Business
John Chapman hit the headlines after his New Orlean’s-style Cajun restaurant, Chappy’s, first featured during the fifth season of Kitchen Nightmares. According to an interview with the National Enquirer [via the Daily Mail], Chapman was left furious by the experience. "It was truly a kitchen nightmare for me. Gordon Ramsay destroyed by business. It was a confrontation from the get-go," he said.
Chapman claimed the show’s producers approached him to do the series after hearing that he had lost a restaurant during Hurricane Katrina. He also told the Nashville Business Journal that the team behind the series insisted his restaurant would be a hit.
Later, he revealed to Fox 17 Nashville [via Eater] that the restaurant’s makeover "killed my business. We went down to almost nothing, down to one table in a night." He also claimed he had "no idea" they were going to completely gut the inside of his restaurant. Chapman has since reversed the changes.
8 There Was A Restaurant That Closed Before The Episode Even Aired
While it’s not uncommon for the struggling restaurants on Kitchen Nightmares to close, it’s something of a rarity for them to close before work on the episode finished. Yet that is exactly what happened during the first season of the show, when Gordon Ramsay headed to Lela’s in Pomona, California.
Prior to the episode's airing, blogger Lee Stranahan discovered that Lela’s was already long gone. The restaurant had not only closed, but any trace of it had vanished too with both the eatery’s website down and phone number out of service.
Watching the episode, it’s clear to see that Lela’s was in a lot of trouble, with the narrator explaining that when Ramsay arrived the restaurant had "only been open for eight months and already faces bankruptcy." At the end of the episode, a message flashed up saying: "the restaurant’s debts were too much and it closed." Exactly how long that was after the Kitchen Nightmares cameras left is unclear.
7 One Owner Tragically Died After Being On The Show
Perhaps the saddest story to come out of Kitchen Nightmares concerned self-taught chef Joseph Cerniglia. As the owner of struggling Italian restaurant Campania in suburban New Jersey, Cerniglia appeared in the first season of the show where Ramsay slammed the hapless owner and self-taught chef over his running of the business.
Ramsay laid into Cerniglia throughout the episode, at one point asking "Why did you decide to go into business if you haven’t got a clue how to run a business?"
In an unfortunate turn of phrase, Ramsay even warned the 39-year-old that his business was "about to f***ing swim down the Hudson," though he could not have known what would come next. A year later they returned to Campania and witnessed first-hand the restaurant’s transformation. However, all was not well with Joe.
According to Babble, he had begun an affair with a fellow chef and his wife had found out. Estranged from his family, he took his own life by jumping off George Washington Bridge in New York City.
6 Amy’s Baking Company Was Just As Crazy As It Looked
One of the most infamous episodes of Kitchen Nightmares came during the show’s sixth season and focused on Amy’s Baking Company. The eatery already had a troubled reputation, after the owners suffered something of a social media meltdown after responding to a series of negative reviews on Yelp. It proved a similar story on the show, with Ramsay’s advice falling on deaf ears.
In the end, he walked away from the project, claiming the restaurant was beyond help. Amy and Samy Bouzaglo didn’t go down without a fight, though, issuing a statement claiming that the show was edited to make them look bad, while Amy even claimed that she was sexually harassed by Ramsay.
Unfortunately, a Medium blog from Greg Taylor, who ate there during filming, confirmed that both Amy and Samy were "insane" in their treatment of customers. "This behavior that you see (or will see) on the show is 100% true to form and not doctored for TV."
5 The Second Season Of The Show Was Cursed
Though it has already been established that around 60% of the restaurants that featured on Kitchen Nightmares closed within two years of featuring on the series, it would appear that the show’s second season was under something of a curse.
Season two is the only series to boast a 100% closure rate, with all 12 of the restaurants featured in that particular season closing within two years of appearing. Those restaurants include Café 36, Fiesta Sunrise, Jack’s Waterfront,J Willy’s, Trobianos, Handlebar, Sante Le Brea, Sabatiello’s, Hannah & Mason’s, Black Pearl, and Giuseppi’s.
Though 90% of the restaurants featured in the first series have since closed, and 75% of those that appeared in the third season gave folded, the second season is the only one to boast a 100% record of failure.
4 At Least Two Owners Have Also Worked As Actors
While Ramsay and the makers of Kitchen Nightmares have always dismissed the idea that actors were ever used on the show, some of the owners involved in the series appear to have dabbled in the dramatic arts.
It’s important to stress that this doesn’t necessarily mean anything on the show is fake – plenty who have visited these restaurants to eat while the show is filmed would attest to its realness – but two owners have definitely worked as actors.
In the fourth season, an episode centred on Charlie’s Italian Bistro and owner Tatiana Leiva, who started out as a waitress before becoming owner. Though she initially struggles with the management of Charlie’s by the end of the episode, she has undergone a dramatic transformation and is managing with ease.
Interestingly, Tatiana also happens to be an actress with her own IMDb page. She’s not the only one either. Sebastian Di Modica, who ran Sebastian’s in Toluca Lake, California and clashed with regularly clashed with Ramsay, popped up acting in a 2013 movie after his restaurant closed and is also on IMDb.
3 Gordon Ramsay May Have Helped Out A Gangster
Things got off to a bang in the very first episode of Kitchen Nightmares, which saw Ramsay dispatched to Peter’s Italian Restaurant in New York.
The owner, Peter Pellegrino, was Italian American and laid it on pretty thick when it came to his heritage and possible ties to the Mafia. At one point, he even got involved in a fight with a visiting debt collector. It was like something out of The Sopranos.
Most people watching probably saw this an another example of artistic license but that may not have been the case. According to a report from Cosanostra News, Pellegrino, aka Peter Pasta, was actually a gangster at one point.
He was apparently affiliated with the infamous Bonanno crime family and is supposed to have operated as a bookmaker for the organisation. Pellegrino was reportedly frozen out of the operations amid concerns he was a rat for the FBI. Though some reports suggest otherwise, Pellegrino never became a "made" man.
2 One Anonymous Source Claimed A Restaurant Used Ramsay
Ask Reddit threads are a constant source of fascination and one entitled "People who've worked at restaurants featured on Kitchen Nightmares, did Gordon Ramsay really help the business? How much of it was real?" did not disappoint.
In the discussion, a user by the name of Uniquenamealsoboobs revealed that he worked as a chef on the show and that he signed a lot of paperwork which meant he couldn’t go into specifics about what he witnessed. His account was fascinating nonetheless.
"That being said the place I worked at had a sweetheart deal and had very little rent," he wrote. "They changed the menu back the very next day after shooting and were pretty much only interested in meeting gordan.../were bored." He was keen to stress that Ramsay and the crew were nice to work with.
1 One Ex-Owner "Wished Death" Upon Gordon Ramsay
Ramsay is not on Kitchen Nightmares to make friends but, that said, he’s probably not on there to make life-long enemies either. Try telling that to David Leonard, the co-owner of the Black Pearl, though.
He clashed with Ramsay throughout the restaurant’s appearance on the first season of the show with David on the defensive from minute one. By the end of the episode, Ramsay had accused David of not caring and warned his two business partners the restaurant is doomed to fail with him around.
A message at the end of the episode revealed the Black Pearl closed just four later but David wasn’t done yet. Heading online, he embarked on an astonishing rant aimed at the celebrity chef.
He claimed the changes to the menu and new décor resulted in a 50% drop in revenue and were ridiculed by customers and the press. "I hope Gordo meets an untimely death so that I can dance on his grave," he wrote in the rant [via Eater]. That’s a pretty strong reaction.
Can you think of any other dark secrets from Kitchen Nightmare? Have your say in the comment box below!