The Oceana Grill in New Orleans has made a name for itself serving Creole and Louisiana cuisine, but after a clip from an episode of Kitchen Nightmares resurfaced on Facebook last week, their lawyers are now serving up a lawsuit.
The clip is from a 2011 episode of Kitchen Nightmares featuring the Oceana Grill. In the video shared by Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares Facebook page, the show's host and chef Gordon Ramsay explores the restaurant's kitchen. He observes several examples of unsanitary conditions in the storage areas. After noticing that seafood is being held at a higher temperature than food safety regulations allow, the opinionated host smells a container of shrimp and noisily vomits into a trash can. Later in the clip, Ramsay discovers a rodent trap with dead mice inside. The video had over 1.2 million views before being deleted.
As reported by the New Orleans Advocate, lawyers for Cajun Conti, the restaurant's parent company, claim that the episode fabricated and exaggerated issues within the restaurant to increase the show's ratings.
"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 states. "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."
In 2011, Cajun Conti filed a lawsuit against Fox Broadcasting and Upper Ground Enterprises in an attempt to block the broadcast of the episode. The episode aired as scheduled. According to the current lawsuit, Cajun Conti alleges that the two parties came to an agreement restricting the future use of footage from the episode. If the show's producers wanted to air "re-mixed" footage from the show, they would need to pay the restaurant $10,000 and append an "update statement" explaining the restaurant's current state.
Daniel Davillier, an attorney for Oceana, objects to the portrayal of the restaurant, and calls attention to the fact that this episode was filmed nearly a decade ago.
"The problem we have is the fact that it's so misleading," he said. "People think it's something current, when in fact it's very old... It's very successful. The food is great and people love it. They should come down and see for themselves."
Kitchen Nightmares aired on the Fox network from 2007 through 2014. In each episode, Ramsay visited a struggling restaurant and teamed up with the owners and staff to improve business. In June 2018, a new take on the show's concept returned to the air with the premiere of Gordon Ramsay's 24 Hours to Hell and Back.