Friday 27 April 2018

Chef featured on Ramsay TV show drowns in Hudson

Jon Swaine

An American chef who was told by Gordon Ramsay on his Kitchen Nightmares television show that his restaurant would "swim down the - Hudson" has died after throwing himself into the river.

Joseph Cerniglia, a 39-year-old father of three, died after he jumped into the Hudson River, which separates New York and New Jersey, from the George Washington Bridge.

Mr Cerniglia appears to be the second chef to have committed suicide after appearing on one of Ramsay's programmes, in which the UK chef delivers robust and expletive-filled judgments on restaurants and cooks.

At the time the programme was broadcast, Mr Cerniglia conceded that his Italian restaurant, Campania, in Fairlawn, New Jersey, had "big problems" and that he owed about $80,000 (€60,000) – a debt he described as "overwhelming".

Throughout the programme Ramsay told him bluntly that Campania's food wasn't good enough, that the portions were too big and that its staff were immature.

Assessing Mr Cerniglia's cooking, Ramsay said: "You can't even grill a piece of ----ing bruschetta". When the chef sighed, Ramsay said: "Are you getting upset now?" Mr Cerniglia said that he was "getting real upset", to which Ramsay replied: "Thank ---- for that – hopefully I'll get through to you now."

Later Mr Cerniglia told the programme: "I'm financially in trouble. The debt of the restaurant alone is overwhelming. My personal debt – wife, kids, mortgage – that's a lot of debt."

Ramsay asked Mr Cerniglia: "Why did you become a chef-owner if you haven't a clue how to run a business? … Your business is about to swim down the ----ing Hudson".

His mother, Pat, told the programme: "I worry about Joe. I worry about his stress levels". His tearful wife, Melissa, said the couple had "put everything on the line for a dream", adding: "if this business fails, we will lose everything."

The restaurant survived after Ramsay suggested changes to its menu and layout in the 2007 series. Local customers said it had recently been doing well and was usually busy.

There was no answer at Campania yesterday. A message posted on the chef's Facebook page stated: "The Family of Joe Cerniglia would like to thank all of the friends that have sent their condolences."

Ramsay said: "I was fortunate to spend time with Joe during the first season of Kitchen Nightmares. Joe was a brilliant chef, and our thoughts go out to his family, friends and staff."

He declined to comment on whether Mr Cerniglia's participation in his programme may have in any way contributed to his death.

In 2007 Rachel Brown, 41, shot herself in Dallas, Texas, a year after appearing in Hell's Kitchen, another Ramsay programme, in which aspiring chefs compete for a job. She had been eliminated after becoming a favourite among American fans of the programme. Before her death she said she had no regrets about appearing on it.

Ramsay has himself suffered financial difficulties in recent years. He disclosed earlier this year that he had been forced to pour £5m (€5.8m) into his business at the end of 2008 to keep it afloat.

Amid a sharp decline in profits he sacked staff, sold his Ferrari and gave up some of his most prestigious restaurants in cities including London, Prague and Cape Town.

Danielle Cernigilia Wynn, one of the chef’s sisters, told The Daily Telegraph: “There are no hard feelings from our family to Gordon Ramsay, who is a wonderful man. His behaviour on the show was played up for the cameras.” She added: “My beloved brother will be so missed. He was a beautiful, compassionate person whose smile lit up the room.”

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