It was more than nine years ago when Gordon Ramsay revealed that he was putting to bed Kitchen Nightmares, the restaurant makeover series that had become an international hit since debuting in the UK in 2004.
“I’ve had a phenomenal 10 years making 123 episodes, shot across two continents, watched by tens of millions of people and sold to over 150 countries,” Ramsay said at the time. “It’s been a blast, but it’s time to call it a day.”
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But on Monday, Sept. 25 at 8/7c, those Kitchen Nightmares will return to Fox — and in turn haunt the restauranteurs that landed in Ramsey’s crosshairs.
“What better time to come back than now, with the challenges that the restaurant industry went through over the last three years?” says Kitchen Nightmares executive producer David De Angelis, who also has worked with Ramsay on Hell’s Kitchen and Next Level Chef. “Now is definitely the best time to see if we can throw a lifeline to some of those restaurants that managed to get through the pandemic, and other restaurants that have opened since then but have had to deal with the changing dynamics of dining over the last couple of years.”
Kitchen Nightmares is obviously an “OG” when it comes to culinary makeover shows, but Restaurant Impossible, Bar Rescue and even Ramsay’s own 24 Hours to Hell and Back all have debuted since Kitchen Nightmares‘ 2014 finale. Were there lessons to be learned from those like-minded endeavors?
“Gordon has done this show in every type of restaurant, so all we did was just take the best elements of Kitchen Nightmares,” De Angelis tells TVLine. “Obviously, we didn’t want it to be Bar Rescue — we wanted it to be Kitchen Nightmares — and we’re lucky enough to have the best in the business at the front of it. As soon as you unleash Gordon into a restaurant, we’ve done all our homework to know where ‘all the bodies are buried,’ and this show blossoms into everything you’d want it to be.”
De Angelis, though, does admit that there was a concerted effort to “create something that felt nostalgic and recognizable but also hopefully it looks better than it’s ever looked, because technology and cameras are better than ever.
“Audiences are much more savvy these days,” the EP notes. “They want the show to look like [Netflix’s] Chef’s Table or some of these higher-end, premium documentaries, so that was a goal of ours for sure , to make it look gorgeous.”
Something else that has happened since Kitchen Nightmares‘ original run is The Bear, the scripted FX/Hulu series that chronicles an award-winning chef’s overhaul of a modest (if beloved) Chicago sandwich shop. Those who found themselves glued to the dramedy’s first two seasons now speak of “front of house,” “behind!” and “hands!” as if trained cooks themselves.
“Without a doubt,” The Bear has made prospective Kitchen Nightmares viewers more savvy, De Angelis affirms. “Interest in culinary arts, cooking, restaurant culture has just continued to grow, and we really understand the entertainment value in that. Gordon Ramsay digging around people’s refrigerators — you know people are going to tune into that.”
In fact, Kitchen Nightmares‘ Season 8 premiere — which gives the Bel Aire Diner in Queens, N.Y. an overdue refresh — arguably features its own version of The Bear’s hapless Cousin Richie.
“That was a hard one to untangle for us because [co-owner] Peter was feeling disrespected by his brother Kal…,” De Angelis previews. “Gordon had to honor that, but at the same time Peter is also kind of being a petulant kid. Gordon has to call him on that, saying, ‘You’ve got to step up! You’re a 40-year-old man, you can’t just have a temper tantrum and go work at your girlfriend’s restaurant because you don’t like working with your brother. Get over it!'”
Something that perhaps no one will get over, though, is what Ramsay unearths in the diner’s basement meet freezer early in the season opener. (Let’s just say it causes Ramsay as well as his cameraman to wretch on-camera.)
“That’s the benchmark for gnarly in our season,” De Angelis reports. “I do wonder if we beat it somewhere down the line, but it definitely was a quintessential Kitchen Nightmares moment, which is why it is our premiere episode” despite being filmed second. “Gordon had his work cut out for him this go-round, that’s for sure!”
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