Why Kitchen Nightmares Was Canceled Back In 2014 (And Why It Came Back)

You can probably picture his irate face as clear as day as he gesticulates across a counter, directing his irritation toward some poor soul you are more than happy is not you. That's right; we're talking about celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and his hit reality television series, "Kitchen Nightmares." The show, which involved the star chef attempting to save struggling restaurants through good old fashioned tough love, ran successfully for a decade in the U.K. (2004-2014) and seven years in the United States (2007 to 2014). Everything was going brilliantly ... until one day it wasn't.

Seemingly without warning, many people's favorite show was ripped out from under them, taken off the air and never to be seen again. At least, not until nearly 10 years later, that is. That's right — 2023 has brought with it a reboot of "Kitchen Nightmares." The first new episode aired on September 25. And while we are just as thrilled as you are to see Ramsay's intimidating — yet somehow heartwarming — countenance grace our TV screens once again, it brings up many unresolved questions we thought we had left in the past. What happened? Where did the hit show go in the first place ... and why has it returned all these years later? Well, we dug up some answers that will hopefully put your wondering mind at ease. Here is why "Kitchen Nightmares" was canceled back in 2014 and the reasons it came back.

It wasn't for lack of popularity

If there's one thing not a soul could claim regarding the cancellation of "Kitchen Nightmares" in 2014, it's that it was brought on by the show being unpopular among viewers. On the contrary, the show was an indisputable success, both in the United Kingdom where it originally aired and in the United States. It boasted positive ratings and had five industry award nominations, including for best reality show in 2008, 2009 and 2012. Gordon Ramsay himself was also nominated for best host in a reality or game show by the Online Film and Television Association in both 2008 and 2009. "'Kitchen Nightmares' is an enjoyable show that allows the viewer to better understand what goes on behind the scenes of the restaurant business," reads a review on IMDb. "[Gordon Ramsay] truly makes the show great as he is hard but fair. He seeks to raise the bar to improve skills, decor and ultimately business." 

In addition, the show's official YouTube channel has maintained a massive following — even throughout the show's 10-year absence. The online platform Reddit has gifted the show its very own subreddit (r/KitchenNightmares), which has remained active by users and is listed among the top 5% of groups in the online platform based on its size. Featured among the many humorous, colorful posts is a bingo card with some of the show's most classic moments to watch for — including a few of Ramsay's best insults, of course.

Gordon Ramsay's frustrations with the show likely grew over time

While the end of "Kitchen Nightmares" may have seemed to come out of the blue for viewers, it doesn't appear to have been the same for the star of the series. Surprisingly or unsurprisingly, it seems that the fervent emotion we felt from Gordon Ramsay on-screen as he directed his efforts toward fixing the destitute kitchens he entered was, in fact, legitimate. "I keep it real," the star chef said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly regarding his philosophy for filming his reality TV shows. "It's drama but unscripted. It's incredible pressure and I equally need to be under the same amount of pressure that I'm applying ... I don't like failure."

That being said, failure was par for the course — even when he did everything within his power. Some things were out of Ramsay's control, like whether or not a restaurant would revert to its old ways after he and the cameras had left the scene. Many of the restaurants featured on "Kitchen Nightmares" would later go on to fail — 82% of the U.S. locations on the show have since closed, according to Reality TV Updates. This must have felt extremely disappointing and frustrating for the invested star chef.

Gordon Ramsay was pushed to his breaking point by one restaurant in particular

There comes a point when a person has had more than they can take; and in Gordon Ramsay's own words, that moment decidedly came while making "Kitchen Nightmares." According to the TV chef, there was one situation specifically that broke the camel's back. "I woke up in the middle of the south of France after filming a week with a British guy I wouldn't trust to run my bath, let alone my restaurant," Ramsay said candidly in his interview with Entertainment Weekly.

Ramsay believed that the chef in question, who was operating an isolated food establishment within a ski resort, was "taking advantage" of customers because he knew they had nowhere else to dine. The man was apparently extremely difficult to work with and not at all open to Ramsay's brutal honesty. "I thought, 'I'm done',” Ramsay said in the interview. It was a pinnacle moment in the undoing of the original show.

The decision to cancel was his alone, not the network's

According to the revealing interview with Gordon Ramsay by Entertainment Weekly, the network behind "Kitchen Nightmares" — Fox Broadcasting Company — was not at all excited about the chef's decision to cease filming. Cancellation of a popular and high-performing television series with no warning, after all, is less than ideal. Would viewers be angry? Confused? Would people stop tuning in to the network for content altogether?

"I canceled my own show," Ramsay said before going on to reveal the network's reaction. "I got a phone call [from Fox] and the call went like this: 'You know, Gordon, before you take your own show down, don't you think we should talk about that together, as your partners?'" The network went on to suggest a break rather than a full-scale cancellation. Though we know that this "break" did, in fact, turn into a decade-long stoppage, there was another rekindling — of sorts — that would take place three years later. 

Fox didn't want to let go of the TV hit, so '24 Hours To Hell and Back' was released

After three years of nothing but crickets on the air due to the cancellation of "Kitchen Nightmares," the Fox network finally talked Gordon Ramsay into coming back to produce a similar program. "We'd like to come back with something stronger," Ramsay divulged the network's words in his interview with Entertainment Weekly. That "something stronger" ended up being "24 Hours To Hell and Back," which debuted on June 13, 2018.

The idea behind the show was the same: Ramsay attempting to fix failing restaurants through his own bittersweet — often controversial — methods. But this re-imagining came with a few changes, too. Unlike in "Kitchen Nightmares," the new show called for Ramsay entering the restaurants under fire in disguise. He would begin by covertly ordering something off the menu. After tasting the food — and usually hating it — he would then reveal his true identity and subsequent plans for the spot's turnaround. Whereas "Kitchen Nightmares" had allowed for Ramsay to work with an establishment for a full week to aid in its transformation, "24 Hours" was put on a condensed timeline. True to its title, everything from the renovations to the development of the new menu was done in one single, intense day. The staff of each grappling restaurant had only 24 hours to whip themselves into shape before Ramsay would leave them to stand on their own. 

The replacement TV show just wasn't the same

"24 Hours To Hell And Back" was produced for only a few short years — from 2018 to 2020 — before the plug was pulled. While it's not entirely clear as to why this decision was made, it's not too hard to speculate when you start looking at reviews and ratings. While there seemed to be initial interest in the re-imagining — perhaps due to nostalgia for the highly missed "Kitchen Nightmares" — "24 Hours" did not grow in, or even maintain, viewership season by season. Unlike its predecessor, the popularity for "24 Hours" steadily declined. Come its third and final season, the newborn series was down by 35% in viewership when compared with season 2, according to TV Series Finale.

But it wasn't only metrics that spoke poorly of the replacement reality series. Complaints abounded by naysaying viewers on platforms like Reddit and IMDb, with many watchers referring to the new series as overly scripted and far too heavily dependent on drama. Many criticized the overall idea, referring to the 24-hour turnaround rule as being unrealistic, even downright cruel. One particularly scathing review on IMDb, which gave the series a 1/10 stars, was aptly titled, "Reality cr*p at its worst." Yikes. By all accounts, it's safe to say that Gordon Ramsay's replacement show didn't quite fit the bill among his loyal fan base.

Gordon Ramsay stated that a return of the original 'Kitchen Nightmares' felt right following the pandemic

There's no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic hit restaurants especially hard. Our favorite food spots everywhere shut their doors — and sadly, many of them never reopened. There are about 10% fewer restaurants operating in the United States in 2023 than there were in 2019, reports CNN. The number of restaurants is expected to drop further before the industry bounces back, with many estimations putting the return to pre-COVID-19 levels at around the year 2026 — and maybe even later.

It appears that this catastrophic blow to the restaurant industry gave Gordon Ramsay a change of heart and a renewed interest in giving "Kitchen Nightmares" another go. In an interview with Variety regarding the comeback, Ramsay said, "It means a lot for me personally to bring this show back. The time felt right. After the pandemic, Americans were eating out more than ever while restaurants were also still struggling. Over the last three years, the industry has seen some of the most difficult times in the history across the food and drink hospitality sector. So for me, it really upsets me when I travel the world and see so many restaurants that have closed through no fault of their own." It would seem that Ramsay saw "Kitchen Nightmares" as a way to make a real difference in the lives of some hard-working restaurateurs, a cause we can all wholeheartedly get behind.

Some speculate the writers' strike helped speed along the show's return

While the inspiration behind the return of "Kitchen Nightmares" may have stemmed from the struggling restaurant business, additional theories about the motivation behind its reboot abound. Some Reddit users speculate that another factor may have been the recent writers' strike.

On May 2, the Hollywood writers' strike officially began after studios and screenwriters failed to agree upon new contracts that both parties thought were equitable. Many popular late-night and daytime programs stopped running as a result. "As soon as the writer's strike went into effect, I told my husband we were gonna get reality TV out the wazoo, including 'Kitchen Nightmares.' Looks like it's happening! Woo!" said a Reddit commenter in a subreddit about the show. It is an interesting and admittedly thought-provoking theory, given that reality television does not have a need for writers in the same way that shows requiring written scripts do. Whether or not the theory has any validity, however, will likely remain a mystery. All we as consumers can do is speculate ... happily and in front of the TV, of course, while watching new episodes of "Kitchen Nightmares."

New episodes seem to be styled after the U.K. version of the original show, and many watchers are loving it

Multiple shows have been produced in both America and the U.K. The Office, for example, as well as the paranormal melodrama Being Human, had separate but similar versions made in both parts of the world. But many people don't realize that "Kitchen Nightmares" was also dual-produced, and though both takes had the same star players and overlying theme, there were some notable differences in the production styles of the American and British versions.

The U.K. take watched more like a documentary than a reality TV show, and was described as being more toned down than its U.S. counterpart, which alternately amplified the drama and the yelling. "It's really genuine, authentic," a user on Reddit said about the U.K. version. "In the US version, the music is overwhelming, the timeline is disrupted [...] It's just ridiculous."

But for those who preferred the mellower tones of the British version, there is good news regarding the new episodes. Season 8 seems to be following the same format as the original U.K. formula. While some viewers on platforms like Reddit remarked that the premiere episode was underwhelming, there were plenty who were ecstatic. "Loved it," said one Reddit user. "Felt more like the Uk one in tone." Another user observed: "It felt like a mix between the American and Uk versions. A lot more chill."

Gordon Ramsay seems passionate about the show being back to stay

Though Gordon Ramsay made the decision to say goodbye to his efforts on "Kitchen Nightmares" through its cancellation back in 2014, it doesn't appear that this choice sat very well with the chef over time. "Yes, it was wrong to pull my own show off air, but that's it," Ramsay told the New York Daily News in 2017.

Given this — as well as Ramsay's self-proclaimed dedication to helping the flailing restaurant industry in the post-pandemic world — it would appear that he is passionate about the reboot of "Kitchen Nightmares" and the show being here to stay. "The biggest demand over the last four years is for 'Kitchen Nightmares' (to come back)," he was quoted as saying during that same interview in 2017. With all the buzz behind the show's return, as well as the fact that the first few episodes have been positively rated by users thus far, it would appear that the likelihood of its longevity is pretty high.

Whether the reboot will be able to keep up in today's entertainment market remains to be seen

While the return of "Kitchen Nightmares" is indeed a happy day for reality television, intentions for success aside, it remains to be seen how the reboot will perform in the long term. Gordon Ramsay has grown in his fame over the years and has many more shows on air than he once did. "MasterChef," "MasterChef Jr.," "Next Level Chef," "Hell's Kitchen" will be competing with his newest project for viewership.

The other, and perhaps more prevalent, concern lies in the fact that the market for restaurant fixer-upper shows is more crowded than it was back in 2004 when "Kitchen Nightmares" first began. "Bar Rescue," for example, premiered in 2011 and is still going strong — the concept is similar to "Kitchen Nightmares" in that a professional in the industry (Jon Taffer) assists failing bars. The same goes for "Restaurant: Impossible" starring Chef Robert Irvine, a show that also got its start in 2011 and involves helping failing restaurants. Either of these could easily have become the viewers' new favorite during the absence of "Kitchen Nightmares." We suppose only time will tell whether or not the returning classic will be able to keep up in the current market. For now, we will pop our popcorn, sit back, tune in, and watch what happens.