A restaurant owner who was featured on an early episode of Kitchen Nightmares was found dead on Sunday.
On a 2007 episode of Kitchen Nightmares, acid-tongued foodie Gordon Ramsay famously berated Joseph Cerniglia, owner of the Campania Eatery in North Fair Lawn, New Jersey, for incompetence. Last week, the restaurateur warned by Ramsay that his business would “swim down the Hudson” was found floating lifelessly in that very river.
Cerniglia’s body was found in the Hudson on Friday, hours after a passing motorist reported seeing a man leap off the George Washington Bridge, The New York Post said Tuesday. NYPD officials are investigating the circumstances of his death, but the authorities believe Joseph took his own life.
During Cerniglia’s appearance on Kitchen Nightmares — a reality show which sees hellraising Chef Gordon whipping other restauranteurs into shape, in turn helping them save their struggling businesses — Ramsay attacked the businessman’s wasteful ways and laid-back management ont he buzzworthy episode of the reality series. Gordon even accused Joseph of being “seriously in denial” about his debt.
“We were very busy, but I couldn’t seem to make a profit,” Cerniglia said, explaining his decision to be on the show. “We kept getting deeper and deeper into debt. Our food costs were high, and we couldn’t get our labor costs under control.”
“Why would you decide to go into business if you haven’t got a clue how to run a business?” the celebrity chef scolded him.
Finally, Cerniglia, 39, admitted he was facing money problems.
“I am financially in trouble,” he wailed. “The debt of this restaurant alone is overwhelming. My personal debt, wife, kids, mortgage — that’s a lot of debt.”
The episode finished on a positive note, with the smiling restaurateur embracing the surly chef.
“Once I got beyond my pride being hurt … and started listening to what he had to say, he was like a true mentor to me,” Joseph confessed by the end of the program.
But it appears the pressure ultimately became too much for Joe to bare.
“The hardest thing for me is people like us put everything on the line for a dream,” his emotional wife, Melissa, said on the show. “I just want to see him… succeed.”
Cerniglia, former chief for the New York-based Gallagher Steakhouse chain, leaves behind his wife Melissa and their three sons. Shortly after Cerniglia’s body was found on Sunday, the foodie’s family posted a note on his Facebook page thanking “all of the friends that have sent their condolences” and suggesting financial donations be made “to help provide” for his wife and children in lieu of flowers.
Cerniglia is the second chef to commit suicide after appearing on one of Ramsay’s cooking shows. Rachel Brown, 41, shot herself in her family’s Dallas home a year after appearing on Hell’s Kitchen in 2006.