When we last saw Gordon Ramsay on his show Kitchen Nightmares, things were not going well for the brash British chef. He puked on camera after smelling rotting seafood in the kitchen of a New Orleans restaurant that he was trying to turn around. The restaurant's owner threatened to hurt Ramsay. To make things worse, the producers had to bleep out so many fighting words that it went from comical to kind of annoying.
Despite all this, Ramsay has come back for more. A new season of Kitchen Nightmares premieres on Fox at 8 p.m. ET on Friday, Sept. 23. For Kitchen Nightmares, Ramsay, an international restaurateur himself, decamps to disastrous restaurants across the country and gives them the overhaul he thinks they need to be successful. From the dining room to the walk-in freezer and the menu to the staff, everything gets Ramsayfied. Along the way, he encounters rats and rotting food in the kitchen and sometimes vitriol from the restaurant owners who have asked for his help.
Watching the show, it's easy to wonder why Ramsay even bothers with these people.
"When they are arrogant, obnoxious and they are not prepared to learn ... then yeah, I won't give anyone a second or third chance. But there are some sort of pretty distraught, upsetting and emotional circumstances this year," Ramsay said about the upcoming season during a phone call with press on Thursday.
Big egos, mismanagement and laziness are recurring problems with restaurants featured on the show, but Ramsay says the economy is to blame, too. "I've had my own issues," Ramsay said, hinting at the closing of two of his restaurants in Australia.
The season starts with a trip to Plainfield, New Jersey, where Ramsay tries to revive a soul food spot called Blackberry's Catering and Family Restaurant.
"I walked in there with a love of soul food," Ramsay said, recalling his very first episode of Kitchen Nightmares seven years ago, which featured a soul food restaurant. "What I wasn't excited about was the owner. She was in denial in a way. We butted heads. I had a big battle with her to try to get her to understand the massive difference between dining and catering, and she didn't get it."
Blackberry's owner wasn't the only one in disbelief. Among the things that were tough for Ramsay to swallow -- finding a wok and a pizza oven ... in a soul food kitchen.
"It was almost like they were putting things in there to rattle me. Let's get the English, big, shouting man upset," Ramsay said.
During the upcoming season, Ramsay also visits a smokehouse in Atlanta and a burger place in L.A. Restaurant owners are invited to apply online to be featured on the show, but some don't act on camera as though they've asked for help -- it's as though they've been ambushed. Some buckle under Ramsay's critique and criticism, and the tears, fights and walk-outs make for good TV.
"Restaurants become static. They forget to fight for business," he says. "There's no restaurant anywhere in this country tonight, tomorrow ... that won't have a bump in service. And the most important thing is, stop taking it personally. Just get on with it."
Ramsay has previously told the media that his contract for the show ends this year, meaning that this could be the final season of Kitchen Nightmares. A Fox spokeswoman said no announcements have been made for a final season.
In the fourth season opener, Chef Ramsay visits Blackberry's Catering and Family Restaurant in Plainfield, New Jersey and explains that the quality of the food and the service both need to improve.
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