NJ Chef On ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ Jumps Off GWB

TRENTON, N.J. (1010 WINS/ AP) — A New Jersey chef who described “overwhelming” personal debt when he was featured on Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares” show jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.

The body of 39-year-old Joseph Cerniglia was found floating in the Hudson River on Friday. Grace Burgess, a spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner’s office, said the office on Tuesday ruled Cerniglia’s death a suicide.

Cerniglia owned Campania in Fair Lawn, N.J., which he bought in 2006. In 2007, the debt-ridden Italian restaurant was featured on Ramsay’s show.

During the broadcast, Cerniglia estimated he owed purveyors about $80,000.

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“I’m financially in trouble. The debt of the restaurant alone is overwhelming,” he said. “My personal debt — wife, kids, mortgage — that’s a lot of debt.”

His wife added, “If this business fails, we will lose everything.”

“Why did you become a chef-owner if you haven’t a clue how to run a business?” Ramsay asks him on the show.

A self-taught chef, Cerniglia worked for the famed New York-based Gallagher’s Steakhouse chain for a decade, where he became the executive chef.

Jim Edwards, the culinary director at Chef Central in Paramus, was a close friend for the last seven years. He last saw Cerniglia three weeks ago and said he seemed his cheerful self.

“He never gave the outward appearance that there was anything bothering him,” Edwards said. “He was always very creative and upbeat. He had a very infectious smile and a way of making you feel at home.

“It’s very tragic, whatever it was he couldn’t overcome,” Edwards said.

Edwards said his friend benefited from being on Ramsay’s show and said he thought it portrayed him in a favorable light overall.

“I thought he fared well,” Edwards said. “I was never at the restaurant when it wasn’t packed.”

Cerniglia is the second former contestant on a Ramsay television show to commit suicide. The other was a former contestant on Ramsey’s “Hell’s Kitchen” chef competition.

Calls and e-mails sent to Ramsay’s publicist in London were not immediately returned Tuesday.

Cerniglia leaves behind his wife and three sons, ages 13, 11 and 9.

The family is holding a private funeral service on Wednesday for Cerniglia in Wayne, where he grew up. Relatives declined to talk about him Tuesday when reached by The Associated Press.

In his obituary, his family spoke positively about the show: “He was honored to have his restaurant featured on an episode of ‘Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares’ and the television experience was thrilling for him.”

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

  • Jason

    Rachel Brown (season 2 contestant of Hells Kitchen) shot herself. Ramsey shouldn’t even be mentioned in these articles, just goes to show how the media likes to blow things out of proportion. If not for Ramsey, this guy probably would have jumped off the GWB 2 years ago instead of now.

  • http://topsteakhouses.com/steak-house-info/11055/11055/ TopSteakHouses.com » Blog Archive

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  • Steve

    You can not blame Ramsey, but he is a dbag!

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    […] TV personality's show "Kitchen Nightmares," where he was told by Ramsay …NJ Chef On 'Kitchen Nightmares' Jumps Off GWBCBS New […]

  • Evan

    The first contestant to commit suicide was a chef on the Greek version of Kitchen Nightmares. Very sad. Another article I read said this guy had a wife and 3 sons. What a selfish act. These kids will grow up without a father now because this guy couldn’t deal with his issues.

  • Tom

    Here we go with people blaming Ramsey instead of letting people take responsibility for their own actions.

  • g/l

    that was a good prediction he did swim down the Hudson just upside down

  • gabriela

    Its been 3 years since Ramsey stepped into his restaurant. The media makes it look like it was resent. In 2008 Ramsey went back to the restaurant and Joseph said things improved since the last time Ramsey was there. Ramsey HELPED him.

  • Ryan

    I wonder who the first chef to commit suicide was.

  • OMG

    Interesting…a sad, sad world we are living in. I agree Ramsay is a hard ass, but sometimes it’s the tough things in life that either make you stronger or weaker. Some people are afraid to ask for help…

  • hellinahandbasket

    maybe ramsey just a little too tough on these people

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