Over the course of seven seasons, Chef Gordon Ramsay and FOX's Kitchen Nightmares visited 92 failing restaurants with the hope of reviving the businesses and saving the owners from bankruptcy. One New Jersey restaurant looked to be on the right track after Chef's visit, but what happened after the cameras were off is chilling.
Editor's note: The outcome of this story is not being blamed on Kitchen Nightmares or Gordon Ramsay.
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In 2007, Ramsay visited Campania in Fair Lawn.
At the time of filming, Joseph Cerniglia had only owned the previously successful restaurant for 18 months. When Gordon and his crew arrived, the place was about to close its doors.
The chef was not impressed by Cerniglia from the start.
Time was of the essence as the restaurant was in over $250,000 of debt.
Gordon gave the staff feedback in the kitchen and let them know their food doesn’t hit the mark of good Italian dishes.
In a rare Kitchen Nightmares moment, Ramsay inspects the kitchen and finds that it is clean and well-stocked. However, with no customers, the owner was losing money on unused food.
Gordon observed a dinner service and sees that the staff are acting like the restaurant is a high school.
The next day, Gordon meets with Joe's wife Melissa and she tells him that if the restaurant fails that they will lose their house.
Both she and Joe's Mom worry about the stress this is putting onto Joe.
Melissa, his wife, tells Gordon they have a lot on the line if the restaurant fails and Joe has a passion for what he does but just needs perspective.
Gordon introduces a new signature dish of meatballs and they head out into town to promote "New Jersey's Best Meatballs" with samples and flyers.
Overnight the restaurant is given a makeover with a modernized look, a bigger banner outside, and an improved seating area.
Gordon introduces a new menu with the signature meatballs in both the starters and entrees.
Gordon takes Joe aside to keep him focused on his role as a leader in the kitchen and advises him to spend limited time in the dining room.
The relaunch night ends well with the team working well and communicating.
After the show wrapped, things looked up for Campania and Joe Cerniglia. Customers were flocking to the new and improved eatery. Joe even won Chef Central's Bergen County Ultimate Chef Competition in 2008 and was runner up in 2009.
Sadly, this story does not have a happy ending. What Kitchen Nightmares didn't share in a follow-up was that in September of 2010, Joe sold the restaurant to "Campania Holding Corp."
Eight days later Joe Cerniglia committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River.
It was later discovered that Joe was in a relationship with a pastry chef at the restaurant while still with his wife.
Campania closed in January 2011.