It has been nearly a decade since Kitchen Nightmares graced our screens, turning our stomachs at times and warming our hearts.
And now it is staging a massive return as Gordon Ramsay devotes time to rescuing some struggling restaurants, particularly in an age where the industry has suffered the most post-pandemic.
As a result, there isn't a better time for the series to return!
We had the honor of catching up with executive producer and showrunner David DeAngelis to discuss the upcoming emotional, feel-good season, the worst kitchen nightmares he experienced, Gordon Ramsay's "Oprah moments," Next Level Chef, and so much more.
So grab a snack and check it out!
Kitchen Nightmares has been off for almost a decade, and I can't think of a better time for it to return. But why now? What inspired you guys to revisit this series?
I'm glad to hear you say that because that's how we feel -- no better time than now. I think, for Gordon Ramsay, more than any other reason, it's just because the restaurant industry got hammered more than any other industry in our country during the pandemic.
Although this show isn't about the pandemic, it certainly is about restaurants that have survived, were able to make it through, and do need a lifeline.
So, for Gordon, there is no better time than now to get back in the ring and try to help these restaurants who did make it through survive and right the ship and see if we can't leave the excuse of the pandemic behind and find new ways to be successful.
The pandemic really killed so many small business restaurants, but it also completely changed how they operate now. Will that be something the new season covers often?
Yeah, I think it does. The industry has changed so much from social media to carry-out to delivery apps. All of those things are things that restaurants have to contend with now that weren't really an issue ten years ago.
The stat is that 60% of diners in their 30s will not enter a restaurant unless they check their social media first. Delivery apps -- those fees are hammering restaurants, so they're trying to figure that out.
Diners' habits have changed. People got used to ordering carry-out instead of going out. So restaurants are up against it.
And food costs are more expensive. The labor costs are much more expensive, especially in states with mandatory minimum wages for restaurant employees, which we're all for, but it makes it harder. Restaurants have the slimmest margin of any business in America.
It was important because Gordon's restaurants weren't immune to the pandemic either.
As much as Gordon is a TV personality, he's also a restaurant owner and a businessman. It was important for him to get some of these lessons across to some of these restaurants to see if he can't impart some of his wisdom to help them succeed.
I'm definitely looking forward to how you guys approach all of these new issues that have arisen.
We definitely touch on all those themes throughout the season. It's what makes the show a little different this year while still being everything that America loves about Gordon Ramsay and Kitchen Nightmares, just in 2023, where it's a different landscape.
I hope and pray that we've all evolved a little bit in the last ten years and that there's a different understanding of work conditions, mental health, and what good food is.
Television audiences are much savvier than they were ten years ago. So as television producers, we have to take that into account and be as honest and sincere as possible when we're producing these shows because audiences sniff out the bullshit.
One thing I appreciate about Ramsay's shows is that there's very little bullshit!
Gordon has an uncanny ability to cut straight to the point and say all the things that everyone watching is thinking.
When Gordon gets mad, people are trying to understand, "Oh, why does he get upset? It's all righteous indignation and justified anger because what he sees is not cool or good.
We had an unofficial motto in the show: "People shouldn't have to pay for shitty food."
It's a privilege to cook and feed other people and for them to give you money for it.
Too often, restaurant owners take advantage of their customers and take them for granted.
That's a really interesting thing to focus on. I was a fan of The Bear Season 2 because it had a very realistic emphasis on the service aspect of the industry. It captured that well -- that the industry does and should consist of actually taking care of people.
Absolutely. And you nailed it. The Bear, I think, is a brilliant show and really showed a side of the restaurant industry that everyone in the restaurant industry knew about, but no one on the outside really knew that. I love that show.
How many people reached out and sought help from you guys? What was the process like choosing which restaurants to take on and assist?
We spent a long time in casting on this show. We probably spent four or five months on it.
We're geographically specific this year as a production precaution. All our restaurants this season are in New York and New Jersey for a couple of reasons.
One, it gave us a wide variety of restaurants.
We have everything from American diners and bistros to Indian restaurants to Puerto Rican restaurants. It gives us a full gamut and a really nice slice of restaurants across the country. But it was also a production concern for us to be essentially in one location for the entire time.
You're right; that still gives you a lot of diversity in restaurants.
It does. We've got a Haitian restaurant in Brooklyn that we went to and an Indian restaurant in Port Washington; we went to Yonkers for a Puerto Rican restaurant. We really tried to have a variety.
Did you happen across any nightmares beyond what the series could help?
Here's what we can do. We can offer solutions and assistance, but it's still up to the restaurant owners to accept and implement what we do.
Restaurants have maybe a 70% failure rate.
We're hoping we can help a little bit and get these restaurants to change enough that they can continue to be successful once we leave. It's up to them. It's up to them to implement those things. So we will see. Time will tell.
Were there any restaurants you thought you couldn't pull off and somehow managed to do it?
Yes, every one of them. Because you're always running into resistance, the hardest thing for people to do is change. And it's even harder for them to change bad habits. You know, it's easy for somebody to go from a good habit to a bad habit. Super easy.
It is very difficult to go from bad to good habits. Especially because it's not just one person, we can convince the owner, but can the owner convince their chef? Can the chef convince their sous chef? Can the sous chef convince their dishwasher? Can the dishwasher convince the busboy?
It's got to be buy-in 100% for things to change.
Is there a specific episode that you're most excited for the viewers to see?
All of them.
It's only because they all are Kitchen Nightmares, but they're all just a little different. But if I had to say, like, wild, outrageous chefs, that's Bask 46, hands down. There's a chef there who called him the culinary gangster. And you can only imagine how that went over with Gordon Ramsay.
We have a hot dog restaurant called Max's Bar and Grill in Long Branch, New Jersey, which is struggling, and they're in their 95th year, so we're hoping that whatever we do will help them get to 100. That's a really dynamic episode.
There's another restaurant in Brooklyn called South Brooklyn Foundry with two owners who couldn't be on different pages from each other and are not friends.
And Gordon's point is you don't have to be friends, but you can't be enemies because you will take this restaurant down if you're enemies.
Every episode has something incredible.
In our premiere episode, Gordon Ramsay throws up in the basement because of the conditions he finds. That's pretty good, too.
Oh, that sounds like that's probably one of the worst kitchens yet!
It certainly was. Food practice-wise and food handling-wise, it was shocking what we found there. There's no doubt.
Has being part of this experience completely changed how you approach going to restaurants yourself?
Yes. And it's twofold. Number one, I see how the sausage is made, and suddenly, I don't want to eat sausage anymore. That's metaphorically, completely, literally.
And then I also feel like I can walk into anyone's kitchen now, which is weird every time I walk in because we see so many restaurants and have open access to all these restaurants. Even in our casting process, I saw dozens of restaurants. So, I have to hold myself back from walking into places.
But I will tell you, the first thing I do is go into the bathroom. If the bathroom is kept well, there's a better chance that the kitchen is spotless. If the bathroom is a wreck, I would seriously question the sanitary practices of the kitchen.
Yes! I take a similar approach.
Yeah. A little tip to diners: Check the bathroom!
What is it about the Gordon Ramsay series that you think people connect with globally?
The thing that people love about Kitchen Nightmares is that it's just a much more intimate and focused Gordon Ramsay. He's literally just walking into the front door of your restaurant. It's not on a stage. You haven't been selected to play for a prize. You've opened your door to this guy who walks in alone.
And you're in a very intimate situation where you're talking about things that are hard to talk about, finances and staffing and your own mental health, and those are hard things for people to discuss
Gordon comes in as Gordon, not Chef Ramsay. Just Gordon. And I think people appreciate that.
It's just a different version of him than any other version of Gordon, in some ways, the best version of Gordon.
It's Gordon at his harshest and Gordon at his most Oprah, for lack of a better word. There are certainly moments in this show where you go, "Wow, this guy is invested emotionally in these restaurants and wants them to succeed more than anything."
You get the passion and the compassion out of it.
That's a great way to put it. I'm stealing that. "Passion and compassion." It's a great point and way to put it.
It goes back to why we probably needed this now. It's the perfect time for feel-good content.
There's a great arc to every episode. We go into these restaurants because they need help. And when we leave these restaurants, Gordon feels satisfied that he has done all he can in the time that he has to transform them physically and on the inside.
Yes, we completely makeover every single restaurant. We make over their menu. But we're trying to point out the flaws and places where these restaurants aren't working and give them systems to succeed.
And you mentioned we'll get restaurant updates at the end of each installment, right?
Yeah, there's an epilogue of every episode that'll give you a two-month snapshot. I don't know how the restaurant will do in six months, but I know how they've done in the last two or three months because that's where we're at.
Thankfully, we're on the air almost immediately after we shot it—a pretty quick turnaround.
Our last episode was at the End of June, and our first episode aired at the end of September, barely 90 days later. It's very fast, and we love that for the restaurants because, hopefully, they can capitalize on their episode and drive business their way in a positive way.
It's stressful for my post-production team but amazing for the restaurants and the show. And you're probably busy because you're also working on Next Level Chef. I doubt you're getting any sleep!
I don't get any sleep. But we are in pre-production on Next Level Chef and start[ed] shooting that show in early September. I love it.
It's wall-to-wall Gordon Ramsay to carry us through the strikes.
Gordon is not only a great talent to work with but a great executive producer.
I don't know if I said this before, but he's as good or better television producer than anyone else. He's both been in front and behind the camera for more episodes than most people can ever even conceive of. So, it is an absolute pleasure to work with him.
Do you have any other teasers or things you'd like to add about Kitchen Nightmares and why everyone should tune in?
Everyone should tune in because it's all the greatest things about Kitchen Nightmares that people love. Out of control owners, out of their depth-crazy chefs, incompetent staff, and Gordon at his most intimate and raw.
There's going to be some fireworks this season. There are certainly some uncomfortable confrontations and uncomfortable conversations, but hopefully, these restaurants can succeed at the end of the day. So I encourage everyone to watch. I think they're going to love it!
An all-new season of Kitchen Nightmares premieres Monday, September 25 at 8/7c on FOX!
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is an insomniac who spends late nights and early mornings binge-watching way too many shows and binge-drinking way too much tea. Her eclectic taste makes her an unpredictable viewer with an appreciation for complex characters, diverse representation, dynamic duos, compelling stories, and guilty pleasures. You'll definitely find her obsessively live-tweeting, waxing poetic, and chatting up fellow Fanatics and readers. Follow her on X.