Chef Gordon Ramsay can’t stomach some of TV’s realities

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay says he’s getting an ulcer. It’s not from the stress of running restaurants from West Hollywood to Dubai. Nor is it the launch of his newest cookbook.

This ulcer is courtesy of “Kitchen Nightmares.”

The Fox reality show -- which returns tonight for a two-hour special at 8 p.m. -- drops Ramsay into U.S. restaurants on the brink of bankruptcy in a last-ditch effort to turn them around.

The normally hard-charging Ramsay says it’s one thing to put himself on the line or bark at contestants who willingly sign up for the abuse they’ve got coming on Ramsay’s other Fox reality show, “Hell’s Kitchen.”

But it’s another when a family is looking to him to save them from financial ruin.

“You can’t just be too blasé with this,” Ramsay said during a recent telephone interview from his new restaurant at the London hotel in West Hollywood. “It’s highly emotional, packed with jeopardy. This is their livelihood at stake!”

“I have an ulcer. I only got told recently. No wonder,” he added.

Ramsay said it’s frustrating when the restaurant owners try to save face and attempt to cover up the mess they find themselves in.

“They’re so tight with opening up and telling you the truth,” he said. “It’s like pushing a string up a hill. . . . They have to unhook me at the door, let me go and sniff them out like a dog, give them a good shake and then take it apart and put it back together.”

Tonight’s episode sees Ramsay revisiting restaurant owners to find out whether they’ve taken his advice, which often goes beyond the menu and delves into dysfunctional family dynamics.

We won’t give anything away, but suffice it to say the episode plays out like “Dr. Phil” meets “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” (You may want a hankie for one father-son showdown.)

Viewers might have one question, though, about one restaurant whose kitchen is so roach-infested and stocked with rotting, moldy meat that Ramsay orders it shut down immediately. Didn’t the restaurateurs know that Ramsay would be stopping by at some point?

Ramsay says it just underscores how in-over-their-heads some of these eateries are. “You’d think they’d clean up a little bit more, yes?”