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Video: ‘Kitchen Nightmare’ chef commits suicide

  1. Transcript of: ‘Kitchen Nightmare’ chef commits suicide

    MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: And now to the tragic death of a chef who appeared on a popular reality television show . Police say he took his own life . NBC 's Jeff Rossen is live outside that man's restaurant in Fair Lawn , New Jersey , for us this morning. Jeff , good morning to you.

    JEFF ROSSEN reporting: Hi , Meredith , good morning to you. We're talking about the Fox show and it's a pretty popular show as you mentioned called " Kitchen Nightmares ." On it, the star, Gordon Ramsay , uses some vicious language and what many call tough love to really pick these failing restaurants up onto their feet and put them back into shape. That's exactly what he did three years ago. Came here to Campania in Fair Lawn , New Jersey , grilled the chef on national TV . Well, last week that chef killed himself.

    Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay .

    ROSSEN: He is known as a foul-mouthed foodie. It's all part of a show on Fox's "Kitchen Nightmares.

    ROSSEN: In 2007 , he was all over Joe Cerniglia , the head chef and donor of Campania Restaurant in New Jersey .

    ROSSEN: The confrontations brutal.

    ROSSEN: Last week, Chef Joe Cerniglia jumped off the George Washington Bridge to his death, his body pulled from the Hudson River , deemed a suicide. His wife and three sons left behind. A headline in the New York Post called it a "Kitchen Nightmare." But Joe's family doesn't blame Ramsay . We spoke with his sister. Gordon was tough on him.

    Ms. DANIELLE WYNN (Joe Cerniglia's Sister): Oh, he liked Gordon , and the show was great. The show was great for business. It really helped tremendously.

    ROSSEN: Joe and Gordon remained friends, you were telling me.

    Ms. WYNN: My brother absolutely enjoyed spending the time with Gordon Ramsay .

    ROSSEN: On the show, Joe Cerniglia took it. His family said he welcomed it. After all, Joe needed the help. Ramsay was there to save his troubled restaurant.

    ROSSEN: His sister says blaming Ramsay is unfair, that her brother Joe has bigger issues than a reality show from three years ago.

    Ms. WYNN: I'm sure he had a lot of sadness. Maybe he just saw, you know, it was something that would never end, and just didn't know how else to manage that.

    ROSSEN: Joe 's friends agree, saying Ramsay helped save the restaurant.

    Ms. DANA KUEHM-WILLIAMS (Friend of Joe Cerniglia): You know, you did see a big difference after Gordon Ramsay was there.

    ROSSEN: So Joe appreciated it.

    Ms. KUEHM-WILLIAMS: Oh, he absolutely appreciated him.

    ROSSEN: That said, Joe Cerniglia isn't the first Gordon Ramsay contestant to commit suicide.

    ROSSEN: In 2006 , Rachel Brown was on the Fox show "Hell's_Kitchen," where Ramsay is very tough on aspiring chefs. Brown shot herself to death a year after the taping of the reality show . Why she did it is unclear.

    Ms. BONNIE FULLER I don't know that we can blame Gordon Ramsay . A lot of the contestants know very clearly what they're getting into. They've seen the show.

    ROSSEN: As for Joe Cerniglia , he was passionate about cooking and his wife Melissa cherished him for it.

    Ms. MELISSA CERNIGLIA: You know, it's his dream and I know he's giving it his all to, you know, try and succeed.

    ROSSEN: But today she's left alone with the restaurant and their children.

    Ms. WYNN: Joe was one of the most beautiful people that I've ever known. Just so loved. So, so loved.

    ROSSEN: By the way, it's important to mention the restaurant here in Fair Lawn is actually doing quite well now, much better than when Gordon Ramsay was here a few years ago. And they give Ramsay partial credit for that. In fact, just last year, friends say Gordon Ramsay came back because he and Joe stayed in touch to do a follow-up show about the success. We should mention, Meredith , as well, that Gordon Ramsay released a statement saying that Joe was a brilliant chef and that his thoughts go out to his family, friends and his

Image: Chef Joseph Cerniglia
Timothy A. Clary  /  AFP - Getty Images file
Chef Joseph Cerniglia, seen in 2004 posing at a luncheon promoting the Belmont Stakes, has committed suicide after struggling with his restaurant.
updated 9/28/2010 10:50:11 AM ET 2010-09-28T14:50:11

A New Jersey restaurateur once featured on Gordon Ramsay's "Kitchen Nightmares" — who was told by the TV chef, 43, that his debt-ridden eatery was "about to swim down the Hudson" — has committed suicide.

The body of 39-year-old Joseph Cerniglia was found floating in the river after jumping off the George Washington Bridge in NYC, the New York Post reports.

PHOTOS: Stars gone too soon

Cerniglia, a married dad of three, owned Campania in Fair Lawn, NY, and was said to be deep in debt.

While on "Kitchen Nightmares," the hotheaded Ramsey once told Cerniglia: "Why did you become a chef-owner if you haven't a clue how to run a business?"

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On the show, Cerniglia lamented, "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 ... I owe my purveyors about $80,000 right now in cold, hard cash . . . I can't see us going on another year." Sobbing on the show, his wife added, "If this business fails, we will lose everything."

PHOTOS: Reality show rumbles

Cerniglia's family posted a message on his Facebook page, thanking "all of the friends that have sent their condolences" and asking that donations be sent to support his widow and their three sons.

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 2006's "Hell's Kitchen."

Copyright 2012 Us Weekly

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