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Is Everything on Kitchen Nightmares Totally Fake?

Photo: Kitchen Nightmares / Facebook
Hillary Dixler Canavan is Eater's restaurant editor and the author of the publication's debut book, Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes From the Authority on Where to Eat and Why It Matters (Abrams, September 2023). Her work focuses on dining trends and the people changing the industry — and scouting the next hot restaurant you need to try on Eater's annual Best New Restaurant list.

Friday night's episode of Kitchen Nightmares was a series first: Shouty chef Gordon Ramsay walked out on a restaurant because the owners were too delusional to listen to any advice. Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, the husband and wife team behind Amy's Baking Company in Scottsdale, AZ, then went ballistic on Facebook, claiming "We will be pursuing action against you legaly [sic], and against reddit and yelp, for this plot you have come together on." The made-for-TV drama of it all — and the general level of over-the-top absurdity — can make you wonder if Kitchen Nightmares is just totally fake. It certainly does seem like some of it is.

How Much Do Producers Set Up the Tension?

Two owners of the told that the producers "seemed to want to create friction where none existed." Leslie Bazzini said they asked questions like, "If this fails now, how can you stay with your husband?"

Not surprisingly, Ramsay's temper is not always as nasty as it appears on television. Writer Lee Stranahan caught up with a family whose Long Island, New York restaurant, Finn McCool's, was on Kitchen Nightmares in 2007. Stranahan reports that the restaurant owner "said Ramsay wasn't confrontational, either – that he was warm, a great teacher and a good man who really responded when someone tried to bring their game up." Stranahan also notes that the episode that aired included two fabrications. The producers edited the show to look like the chef walked out and drove away, but in reality the van shown on camera belonged to a plumber. Stranahan reports that a cook who dropped a chicken wing on the floor during the episode was actually hired only for the days of filming "at the producer's suggestion." Apparently, the producers also purposefully overbooked the dining room by some 100 guests.

How Mad Does Ramsay Actually Get?

Although Ramsay might not spend as much time with the restaurant owners as the show suggests, Ramsay does attend the filmed services. Reddit user mikethewalrus claims to have attended a 2011 "before" dinner in which Gordon Ramsay proved to be very "intense ... even when the camera's [sic] weren't following him." He also notes that Ramsay "seemed legitimately upset about the state of the restaurant, albeit hamming it up a bit I'm sure." Indeed, mikethewalrus' experience made him think the show is pretty truthful. He writes, "From my experience, very little was staged. I was expecting there to be a larger production team in there, but it was mostly ceiling-mounted cameras and 2 small camera crews, who were non-invasive. We were told to call the producer over if we wanted to send anything back, but were otherwise left to our meals."

Do Restaurants Actually Change Their Concept After the Show?

John "Chappy" Chapman, chef of the Nashville restaurant Chappy's on Church, claims that when he instituted the changes Ramsay suggested during their filming session in late 2012 it "killed" his business. The decor was changed as was the menu, which Chapman believes was part of the problem. For Chapman, the changes that Ramsay initiated were all too real, and he claims that the restaurant "went down to one table in a night."

Is Anything on the Show Real? user Greg Taylor dined at the now infamous Amy's Baking Company during the filming of a "before" dinner. According to Taylor, "there were cameras everywhere" making things a bit "unnatural." Despite the sense of awkwardness because of filming, Taylor claims he "witness[ed] the couple sending back a salad, which made Samy insane. This behavior that you see (or will see) on the show is 100% true to form and not doctored for TV."

· Kitchen Nightmares Restaurant Freaks Out on Facebook [-E-]
· Ramsay 'Destroyed My Business,' Nashville Chef Claims [-E-]
· Kitchen Nightmares Restaurant Claims They Were Hacked [-E-]
· Kitchen Nightmares Restaurant Will Relaunch Next Week [-E-]
· All Kitchen Nightmares Coverage on Eater [-E-]