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updated 9/29/2010 10:04:40 AM ET 2010-09-29T14:04:40

Gordon Ramsay is mourning the suicide death of New Jersey restaurateur Joe Cerniglia who once appeared on Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.

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

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The body of the 39-year-old Cerniglia was found floating in the river after jumping off the George Washington Bridge in NYC, it was reported Tuesday. Cerniglia, a married father of three, reportedly was deep in debt.

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He 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.

Chef was reportedly deep in debt

Copyright 2012 Us Weekly

Video: ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ chef commits suicide

  1. Transcript of: ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ 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


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