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'No Chef!'

July 22, 2007 1:23 PM

Chef Gordon Ramsay’s “Hell’s Kitchen” is going strong this summer and his “Kitchen Nightmares” premieres in the fall, yet the famously tempermental chef is absent from TCA.

Reporters wonder if the recent lawsuit by a restaurant manager accusing “Nightmares” of faking several aspects of the production (and a British network’s admission of a somewhat similar sin for one of Ramsay’s U.K. shows) might be the reason. Several Fox executives insist they wanted the entertainingly bipolar chef for a panel, but he was unavailable (he was also a no-show for January’s pre-lawsuit TCA).

Fox reality head Mike Darnell cannot comment on the lawsuit, but a member of the “Nightmares” crew contends the show was largely straight up. The struggling restaurants on the series (which Ramsay attempts to rescue in a weeklong makeover/intervention) “were so disgusting, we didn’t need to do anything" for them to look bad, the source says.

But what about the production stocking restaurants with patrons to make them look more successful at the end of Chef Shouty’s makeover?

That’s accurate, the source says. But viewers of the BBC version of “Nightmares” know Ramsay often invites a group of local patrons to come try the relaunched version of the struggling restaurant for the climax of his visit.

“Guests were invited, and paid a very small amount, like $25,” the source says. “They weren’t told to lie about their experience, only to be entertaining for the camera: ‘If you like the food, then really like it. If you don’t, then really don’t.’”

The litigious restaurant manager is probably in for a rough week when (and if) his episode airs. Darnell estimates he spends about half his work hours in the editing bay, tweaking the network’s reality efforts to his own design. Darnell would have a blast assembling the episode featuring a man accusing one of his productions of fraud. Put this perk in the “reasons to stay at Fox” column.

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