KITCHEN NIGHTMARES' David De Angelis on the Revival, the 'New World Order' for Restaurants, and the Episode That Almost Got Canned - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

KITCHEN NIGHTMARES’ David De Angelis on the Revival, the ‘New World Order’ for Restaurants, and the Episode That Almost Got Canned

September 25, 2023 by  


KITCHEN NIGHTMARES: Gordon Ramsey with the owners (R) and crew in the season premiere “Bel Aire Diner” episode of KITCHEN NIGHTMARES airing Monday, Sept. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). ©2023 FOX Media LLC. CR: Jeff Niera / FOX.

Nine years after KITCHEN NIGHTMARES ended its Fox run, the reality show series is back…with some of the same problems (kitchens in disarray, irresponsible owners) and new, timely issues as businesses struggle to recover in the aftermath of the pandemic.

In the years since KITCHEN NIGHTMARES went off the air, Gordon Ramsay’s television empire has expanded, with the chef adding THE F WORD, GORDON RAMSAY’s 24 HOURS TO HELL AND BACK, GORDON RAMSAY: UNCHARTED, NEXT LEVEL CHEF, and GORDON RAMSAY’S FOOD STARS to his plate. And when it came to reviving KITCHEN NIGHTMARES, Ramsay turned to David De Angelis, a producer on HELL’S KITCHEN and NEXT LEVEL CHEF, to navigate what the show might look like in 2023.

Here, De Angelis talks with Give Me My Remote about season 8, finding the right contestants, and more…

As the team was looking to relaunch the show, what was the top priority? 
We wanted to give America everything that they love about KITCHEN NIGHTMARES: out of control chefs, clueless owners, lazy staff, terrible food, gross kitchens. 

But we also wanted to take a look at the restaurant environment and sort of the new world order of how people use restaurants today, post-pandemic. I think why the show is even back is because Gordon took a look at the restaurant industry—even his own restaurants weren’t immune to the pandemic. Now, we’ve got restaurants that are struggling to survive post-pandemic. So it was really important for us to dive into the way that restaurants have changed, the new challenges in the industry, whether it’s related to new food trends, or due to the economics of food costing higher, labor costing higher. 

The new trends for diners, specifically…most diners won’t even walk into a new restaurant if they haven’t checked the restaurant’s social media. So we wanted to make sure that we address the restaurant’s social media, if they needed help. 

And then also mental health in the restaurant industry, which is huge—it’s big for Gordon. Gordon runs a huge restaurant group, and he makes sure that mental health is something that is talked about; that there are resources available for his teams. And he brought that into the series as well. So I think in at least a couple of episodes, Gordon really will address that strain that it takes, that it puts on people that are in the restaurant industry. Both front of house and back of house.


KITCHEN NIGHTMARES: Gordon Ramsey (R) with the owners and crew in the season premiere “Bel Aire Diner” episode of KITCHEN NIGHTMARES airing Monday, Sept. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). ©2023 FOX Media LLC. CR: Jeff Niera / FOX.

You mentioned the ongoing pandemic, which has been something that really has ebbed and flowed with how it has impacted diners’ mindsets. How frequently did it play into these episodes?
There’s a couple of restaurants that we really focus on the pandemic. I think everyone has a little bit of pandemic fatigue, but the restaurant industry is still dealing with it. 

One example is El Cantito, which is a Puerto Rican restaurant, in Yonkers, New York. It opened with much fanfare in March of 2020…and shut five days later. So this is a restaurant that thought they were going to make a huge splash in their community and had a lot of community support, and then the rug was pulled out from under them. Because they hadn’t been in business long enough, they weren’t able to get any government assistance, no PPE, no relief at all. So they’ve just been struggling. So that’s one of the areas that we really have to focus on: relaunching this restaurant and getting their finances straight and getting them back to where they need to be to even open again, kind of for the first time. 

Most of these other restaurants had all been around pre-pandemic. But there’s Bask 46, which just opened. So this is a restaurant that’s barely six months old, but the owners were already a million dollars in debt from the build out of the restaurant and paying staff and ordering food; they have an overpaid executive chef. So they were bleeding money. 

We had an Italian restaurant [that had] only been open for under a year, and were struggling because they had alienated their community—because they replaced a beloved family Italian restaurant. And they came in with new world ideas, and changed the entire vibe of the restaurant. So we’re trying to figure out ways to even get the community back involved and back into the restaurant, because without your local community, you’re never gonna survive. 

So those are some of the ways that we do address the pandemic without every episode being “boo hoo, look at us, we barely survived the pandemic.” And that was important for Gordon too, because as much as the restaurant industry is still recovering, many of them were given the opportunity to recover. And that’s where we come in, a last resort for many of these restaurants.

Delivery apps are also a huge part of the dining experience for a lot of people now. How, if at all, was that incorporated into the episodes?
You know, that was a little harder for us to tackle, just because of the minutiae of delivery apps charging interest, and before you know it, we’re getting the math lessons. They don’t really play on television as well as you want them to. So we really just tried to focus more on what we can do inside this restaurant to just give them the systems so that they can adapt to all those other outside forces that are working. Although we did touch on it, here and there, a lot of it just ended up on the cutting room floor, unfortunately, for bigger and better stories, really.

You have an established relationship with Gordon. What did you learn from your time working together that you were able to use for this show?
The reason I’m on this show is because of my relationship with Gordon. I’m running the show because of the relationship I’ve built with Gordon over the last 10 to 12 years that we’ve been working together. 

And, for me, it’s just about being as open and honest with him as possible. He’s as good, or better, a television producer than anyone in the business. He’s done it just about as long as anyone else, and he has more episodes under his belt than just about anyone else. Not only is he an incredible talent, but he’s an incredible producer as well. So I have that resource of being able [to go to him]—and he has 100 episodes of [KITCHEN NIGHTMARES] experience. 

So when we’re pitching ideas to each other or when we’re talking about the tact we want to take, he has just so much experience that he is grateful to turn over to me so that we don’t have to make mistakes that we’ve made. [He can say,] “In episode 23, we tried this and it didn’t work. So let’s try to avoid that.” He brought all that institutional knowledge with him. 

And just the mutual respect that we have, that’s grown over the last decade, has really been beneficial. And gives us a shorthand, an ability to work quickly, and ability to know what’s going to work and what’s not going to work, especially when it comes to what he’s going to do inside the restaurant.


KITCHEN NIGHTMARES: Gordon Ramsey in the season premiere “Bel Aire Diner” episode of KITCHEN NIGHTMARES airing Monday, Sept. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). ©2023 FOX Media LLC. CR: Jeff Niera / FOX.

KITCHEN NIGHTMARES is such an established brand. What is the balance you’re having to find with contestants, to make sure they’re not trying to hide things or trying to just use the show to get exposure for their restaurant under misleading circumstances?
That’s probably the hardest thing for us to do—is figure out, when we’re casting, who really needs our help and who’s just trying to get their 15 minutes that are going to help to boost the profile of the restaurant. 

And, look, we’re all for that. We want to promote these restaurants. We want them to succeed. But we need to know that they’re gonna be honest with us. That’s a huge one. That’s a conversation that I have early and often with the restaurant owners and their staff—you must be honest, you cannot hide things. You cannot go do a deep-clean before we show up because you know we’re coming. You have to show us the restaurant as it is, in its dysfunction,  if you expect us to come in and help you. If you’re going to hide things, if you’re going to sugarcoat things, if you’re going to put bandaids on things so that we don’t see the bleeding, then you’re not for us and we’re not for you. And we’ll walk away.

How much have you had to troubleshoot that during production?
I’ve had to have that kind of conversation a couple of times. And there was one instance where we really had to consider whether we even wanted to bring Gordon in, or we’re just going to scrap the whole episode. Because we were there for a considerable amount of time—we shoot a load-in, we shoot a couple of days of them just being who they are without Gordon. 

There’s an episode in particular called “Love Bites” when we’re in Saugerties, New York, and we had to bring Gordon into the control room—and you’ll see it—because we had a big fear that the chef and owner was going to change his behavior for the better once Gordon arrived. And we needed Gordon to see this guy for who he really was when he was in the kitchen. So we brought Gordon into the control room and let him sit with us to watch behind the scenes to get a better idea of what he was walking into. 

Sometimes we have to talk these restaurants off of not wanting to do it after they start because they know what’s coming. They know that Gordon is going to be brutally honest with them, and that they’re going to get exposed, warts and all. We’re never trying to put these restaurants down or destroy them, but we have to see what’s wrong before we can build them up. It’s our goal, and our desire, to have these restaurants succeed at the end of the day. It’s not to fail. By no means do we want them to fail. We’re here to help them out. So it’s a balancing act, for sure. 

We definitely have had to have hard conversations with owners and staff about being as real as possible with us, and thankfully, touch wood as the Brits like to say, I think we had a pretty, pretty successful run. And I think you’re going to see a real honest portrayal of what these restaurants are going through and then what Gordon needs to do to turn them around.


KITCHEN NIGHTMARES: Gordon Ramsey (L) with the owners and crew in the “BASK 46” episode of KITCHEN NIGHTMARES airing Monday, Oct. 2 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). ©2023 FOX Media LLC. CR: Jeff Niera / FOX.

The episodes end with a check-in with how the restaurants are doing now. How much time do you spend with them while filming, and what is the right amount to check back to see how they’re handling things post-help?
Once the casting process starts, we’re really on the phone with these owners almost daily. We’re doing pre-interviews, we want to get to know them as best we can. We want our story team to have a great relationship with them, so the restaurant owners feel cared for, and that we’ll have their best interests in mind, even though it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be rough, and there’s going to be a lot of tough love involved. 

Then we’re there over the course of a little over a week with Gordon and our team. We come in, we load in, we observe them for a few days, we do a lot of interviews. And then we bring Gordon in to start working with them. And then aftercare is very important for us. We try to set them up as we leave; my phone is always available. Every owner has my phone number and can call me for anything. And they do. A lot of them are worried about how they’re going to look. Or as mundane as, “Hey, that new refrigerator you got us isn’t working. Who do I call?” Or, “This new dishwasher is working great; I can’t believe we went so long without it!” Or, “This new rotisserie chicken-maker is changing our lives.” So, not only on the culinary side, but just on the welfare side, too. 

We want to keep an eye on people and make sure that their experience and their restaurant is better for us coming. As harsh as KITCHEN NIGHTMARES is, we try not to be trainwreck television; we really do want to have some redemption at the end of the day. Now, the famous Amy’s Baking Company, it was hard to have any redemption there because honestly those two people were despicable characters. So at the end of the day, they were just so focused on their own reality that they couldn’t see the real real in front of them. 

[But] I want these people to succeed. And Gordon, more than anything, he wants these restaurants to be successful at the end of the day. So two months is what we usually do. I reached out to them, specifically, about how they wanted their restaurant portrayed, and we try to get their information. I’ll send in a secret diner every once in a while to take a look; I want to make sure that what they’re doing is still what they’re telling you they’re doing. 

Thankfully for us, we shot this summer and we’re going to be on the air in September. So…the episodes aren’t on the shelf for a long time before we air, which is really great for the restaurants, as well.

Now that you have this season under your belt, what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned that you can take into a potential next season?
We just want to continue to be as prepared as possible and know these restaurants in and out. For me, I would say just getting to know these restaurants as best we can, having a good rapport with the owners so they trust us. 

But I would love to say more of the same. We had a really great run and a really successful team in place. And, for me, that was the most important thing. Build a fantastic team and then open the door to Gordon Ramsay and let him get in there and do what he needs to do.

KITCHEN NIGHTMARES, Season Premiere, Monday, September 25, 8/7c, Fox

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