Fox’s Sept. 25, 2023, premiere of a new season of Kitchen Nightmares was labeled as season 1, episode 1. Even in this age of absurd naming and numbering conventions, this is more than a stretch: it’s preposterous.
After all, Fox has aired 93 episodes over seven seasons of Kitchen Nightmares, from 2007 to 2014. That show was based upon the British series Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, which premiered in 2004.
And that’s to say nothing of the spin-off Hotel Hell, and the “new” show Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours To Hell and Back, which was basically Kitchen Nightmares with a ridiculous running clock.
To borrow from another one of his shows, perhaps Gordon Ramsay and Fox think we’re all idiot sandwiches.
Or: Perhaps something has actually changed for Kitchen Nightmares and its host, Gordon Ramsay? Is season 8 actually something brand-new?
Might we be returning to the show’s roots, to Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, in which Gordon Ramsay spent more time learning and helping and far less time screaming and repeating the same beats?
I’ve written before about the sad decline of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant rescue shows, and I hoped that season one, episode one might actually represent a return to the beginning: less producing, more helping.
One thing that changed behind the scenes was its production company: longtime producers A. Smith & Co. Productions are out, and in is Ramsay’s own production company, Studio Ramsay Global.
But the reset of the season number didn’t extend to the production itself.
Gordon Ramsay told Variety, “we had to keep the essence of what a new generation of fans have come to love on YouTube and FAST channels. We’ve just made small tweaks, making sure the renovations as well as the food were more of the focus.”
New showrunner David De Angelis, who’s worked on Ramsay’s Next Level Chef and Hell’s Kitchen, told Marisa Roffman, “We wanted to give America everything that they love about Kitchen Nightmares: out of control chefs, clueless owners, lazy staff, terrible food, gross kitchens.”
That’s what they delivered: the same show.
There’s some lip service given at the very start of the episode to how restaurants have been affected by the first few years of the pandemic, and changes in the industry that have reverberated since then.
Then that evaporates as, in his opening narration, Gordon Ramsay describes the restaurants as “the most obnoxious, outrageous, and downright nauseating kitchens across the country,” and we see him do his signature fake heaving and yelling “shut it down!”
So yes, Kitchen Nightmares is still Kitchen Nightmares.
The first episode could have aired a decade ago: a family in Queens running a diner while fighting with each other.
It still has Gordon Ramsay spitting out food: Literally, his first bite ends up back on his plate.
It still has Gordon Ramsay threatening to leave.
It still has Gordon Ramsay’s over-dramatics, like retching or saying “oh my god,” that once upon a time may have been genuine but have been repeated so many times that they come across as phony.
It still has the fake reaction shots, where the editing cuts to a diner or staff member reacting, and it is clearly not to whatever just happened.
It still has music signaling how you’re supposed to feel. When Ramsay notices a lobster tank in the diner, the music switches to: Oh, these idiots! When someone starts to cry, it shifts to Feel these feelings, fool!
It still has the restaurant relaunching with some new paint and appliances, but without any in-depth training or education that would suggest something will change.
It still has the mid-relaunch problem and miraculous solution.
If all of this is for you, more of what you love is back.
If you wanted to see restaurants getting help instead of being turned into 44 minutes of hysterics, or hoped, like I did, for a return to what once made this show great: alas.
Kitchen Nightmares is back, unchanged. As a reboot—or an attempt to actually help—it’s an F
What works for me:
- The general idea of helping restaurants
What could be better:
- Less producing, more helping
- Actually reinventing Kitchen Nightmares, perhaps by returning to Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares