Chef who felt the sharp end of Ramsay's tongue is found dead

They are words of typically forthright advice that have come back to haunt Gordon Ramsay. During the first season of the US version of his Emmy-winning show Kitchen Nightmares, the celebrity chef berated the owner of the failing Campania restaurant in New Jersey, telling him that unless he sorted out his lacklustre food and poor service his business was "about to fucking swim down the Hudson".

Yesterday, police confirmed that a body found floating in the same river was that of Joseph Cerniglia, the troubled owner of the struggling local Italian restaurant which was successfully rescued following the intervention of the British culinary superstar three years ago.

It is believed that Mr Cerniglia, 39, jumped off the George Washington Bridge on Friday.

He is the second chef to have apparently committed suicide after appearing with the famously caustic Ramsay – a woman who appeared in the 2006 series of his other hit show, Hell's Kitchen, shot herself a year later.

In a statement, Ramsay paid tribute to Mr Cerniglia, who leaves behind a widow and three sons. "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 said.

During the filming of the Fox show in 2007, the three-Michelin-starred chef became increasingly vexed at Mr Cerniglia's poor management skills. As well as providing overly generous portions of uninspiring food cooked and served by somnolent staff, the restaurant had become mired in debt and was losing its customers.

Confronted with the chaos around him, an exasperated Ramsay asked Mr Cerniglia: "Why did you become a chef-owner if you haven't a clue how to run a business?"

The former executive chef at Manhattan's celebrated Gallagher's Steak House admitted there were "big problems", that he was $80,000 in the red and that he feared he would be forced to close within the year.

"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," he told Ramsay.

Mr Cerniglia's wife, Melissa, broke down during filming and said she was deeply worried about her husband, who was under intense pressure because of the problems he faced. "People like us put everything on the line for a dream, and I just want to see him have the time to succeed. If this business fails, we will lose everything," she said.

But despite the on-screen appearances of conflict, those who knew the Cerniglias said yesterday that Ramsay helped them turn around the ailing business after a grand re-opening – transforming it into a thriving enterprise which was packed out each weekend.

Evelina Grzymala, 22, who worked at a tanning salon next door, said the late restaurateur had been grateful to the British chef. "He said Ramsay was intense but that he turned out to be a nice guy, that in the end, he helped him out," she recalled. The Cerniglia family posted a message on his Facebook page yesterday thanking friends for their condolences.

The tragedy follows the death of 41-year-old chef Rachel Brown, who appeared in Ramsay's other TV hit Hell's Kitchen in 2006. She had been eliminated by the fifth episode but was invited back to assist in the final. She shot herself at her home in Dallas the following year.

Kitchen Nightmares has proved a huge hit for Ramsay, scooping a Bafta and an Emmy. The chef won a libel action against the Evening Standard newspaper in 2006 after it claimed that scenes in the show were faked. At the time he said: "I won't let people write anything they want to about me. We have never done anything in a cynical fake way."

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Project Manager (Procurement & Human Resources)

Unpaid: Cancer Research UK: If you’re a professional in project management, lo...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz