New Orleans Restaurant Sues Gordon Ramsay Show for Exaggerating Its Grossness

Oceana Grill claims a seven-year-old 'Kitchen Nightmares' segment posted on Facebook fabricated many of the messes.
August 22, 2018, 2:00pm
Photo: Ethan Miller / Getty Images Staff

This has not been the best summer for Gordon Ramsay. At the beginning of August, two customers at his Hell’s Kitchen restaurant in Las Vegas were burned by a flaming cocktail. And, last week, Ramsay was sued by the owners of a New Orleans restaurant, all because of a seven-year-old video clip that was posted to Facebook.

The Oceana Grill was featured on an episode of Ramsay’s long-since-cancelled television show Kitchen Nightmares. The French Quarter seafood joint wasn’t delighted at the way it was portrayed—it actually sued in 2011 to prevent that episode from ever airing—and it wasn’t ready to click “Like” when a clip from the show was recently posted on the Kitchen Nightmares Facebook page. (The video quickly accumulated more than a million views before being removed).

According to The Advocate, the parent company for Oceana Grill filed a lawsuit against both Ramsay and the production company behind Kitchen Nightmares almost immediately after the five-minute clip reappeared online, claiming defamation, seeking damages, and asking the court to stop that footage from being used again. (According to this court filing, the two sides had reached an agreement in 2011 that “restricted” the use of that footage; apparently this recent Facebook post violated that.) The lawsuit also alleges that the producers faked scenes to make the restaurant look extra-bad on-air.

“During the episode's filming, defendants went to great lengths to over-dramatize and even fabricate problems with the restaurant in order to increase ratings,” the lawsuit says. “The footage intentionally portrayed Oceana and its employees in a patently false and negative light, as it depicted the appealing restaurant as an unsuccessful, unsanitary, and mismanaged restaurant.”

So what was in that clip? A whole lot of nasty, especially for anyone who might consider eating at Oceana Grill. Or for anyone who currently owns Oceana Grill. The segment—which did air during the show’s original run on FOX—includes footage of Ramsay “vomiting after opening a bin of shrimp,” finding three dead mice in a rodent trap, and arguing with the chef. It also shows customers complaining about their food, sending it back, and being more-or-less ignored by the chef.

“None of the above-described events were real, but were contrived and orchestrated by defendants to manufacture drama for their show,” the restaurant’s attorneys say. A former member of the waitstaff would probably agree with them. In a 2016 post on Chowhound, a user who said he or she was a server at Oceana Grill when the episode was filmed denied that the restaurant was anything like what was seen on TV.

“Firstly, the editing is substantial. The days are out of order in the episode,” the user wrote. “It was mostly staged. [ Kitchen Nightmares] actually ripped the dates off of the food in the cooler. Ramsay didn't actually vomit. The rat in the oyster room magically appeared. We were told to intentionally serve bad food. I'm not lying. And then we were told to charge people for it.”

From Oceana Grill’s perspective, not only were those scenes (allegedly) fabricated or exaggerated, they were also filmed seven long years ago. “The problem we have is the fact that it’s so misleading,” Daniel Davillier, an attorney for Oceana Grill, told the Advocate. “People think it’s something current, when in fact it’s very old.”

And that outdated Kitchen Nightmare could turn into a very expensive Courtroom Nightmare for someone, too.