Ahead of tonight’s fifth season premiere of Fox’s Kitchen Nightmares in the States, Arthur Smith (pictured), CEO of A. Smith & Co., talks to realscreen about the challenges of his show.
Calling from the set of season 12 of Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen, Arthur Smith says that despite Kitchen Nightmares keeping the same format – where chef Gordon Ramsay visits struggling restaurants and whips them into shape – each restaurant produces a completely new experience for the show.
This season will kick off with a two-part episode, which the show has only done once before. “What happened at this Boston restaurant is so interesting and compelling that we had to do it in two-parts,” says Smith. “It’s these two women who opened an Italian restaurant literally half a block from their parents’ restaurant.”
Aside from Boston, the series will also visit new cities, including Tennessee, Arizona, and Seattle. Despite being on its fifth season, Smith admits that producing the show isn’t easy.
“It’s one of the most difficult shows I’ve ever worked on,” he says. “We do our research on the neighborhoods, on the business, what’s working in the community, but when you get there, there’s a number of other things you get surprised by,” he admits. “You can have a plan, but so many times Gordon looks at me and he goes, ‘We were going to go in this direction, [but] we’re going to have to completely change course.’ And we do.”
As for Hell’s Kitchen, the culinary competition series that sees Ramsay challenge budding chefs, Smith and his team have just entered post-production on season 11 and are currently shooting season 12.
He believes the show has had such lasting power primarily due to Ramsay. “He’s just a compelling character, but to go along with that, we have a live sporting event in the middle of our show, and that’s our dinner service,” says Smith.
“The drama that comes before service and after service is like pre-game and post-game of a sporting event. That makes for very compelling TV.”
In addition to the two Ramsay-fronted series, A. Smith & Co. are very busy with a number of other series, including CMT’s The Chainsaw Gang, premiering in November; truTV’s Jesse Venture Conspiracy Theory, also in November; truTV’s Full Throttle is going into its fourth season at the end of the year; and the recently announced Fox series Divorce Hotel.
According to Smith, Divorce Hotel is based on a real business that started in the Netherlands. “People check in on Friday as a couple and check out on Sunday as divorced,” he explains. “It’s a real business, so it’s not a television format that we created. We’re just bringing it to America. It’s going to be very interesting.”
With a full slate on a number of cable and broadcast networks, Smith says they’ve counted 41 networks that his company has worked for. And having achieved that, his strategy is simple: “Generally our philosophy is to develop shows we really like and then we find the best place to take it.”