Chef Robert Irvine seeks out and takes on the toughest culinary challenges he can find, motivating and inspiring along the way
by Abby DiBenedetto
We all know him as that crazy talented (and crazy buff!) chef on Food Network who always seems to be grappling with some impossible restaurant problem. The day he and I talked was no exception. “I’m in Ireland,” he said as our connection broke up. “We’re working on re-doing a boys and girls club here for charity.” Two disconnected calls later, Robert Irvine and I finally made a clear connection. We talked about everything from his new Robert Irvine Live series (coming to The Palace Theatre on November 9) to the workout and diet plan he and his new professional wrestler wife Gail follow in order to stay fit. He is extremely motivated to be the best he can be in every aspect of his life, and he’s helping others achieve the same. Get an inside look at what makes this Restaurant Impossible chef tick — it may surprise you.
Your television shows are all based on challenges and competitions. What compels you to challenge yourself culinarily?
To me, most of my work and my competition is against me, myself. I don’t think that I’m the best chef in the world, I just try to be the best Robert Irvine I can be. It’s about how I can become a better person, a better chef, and a better motivator — that’s what’s important to me.
After being so successful on television, what motivated you to hit the road and do your Robert Irvine Live series?
Unless you’re working with me, you don’t get a chance to really understand the motivation that drives me. Taking the show Robert Irvine Live on the road gives people a chance to actually get up close and personal to me. I always go over the two hours, and I don’t leave until every person has touched me or taken a picture with me. I think that’s a very rare occurrence in personalities in television. I know I wouldn’t be on television if it weren’t for the people watching me, and I am very humbled by that. For somebody to spend their money that they work hard for to come and see me, I want to make sure they leave having had a great time.
You’re bringing the show to Pittsburgh on November 9th. What can the audience expect to experience?
I can tell you, you might cry a little, you might laugh a lot — and when I say cry I mean you might cry because it’s so funny you’ve gotta cry. It’s just interaction and having fun, and that’s what I can guarantee to those who come — it’s going to be fun. It’s Restaurant Impossible, Dinner Impossible, and Survivor all mixed into one. Whether there’s food underneath their chair, handcuffs, leg irons, ropes, straight jackets — by the way, then there’s the food. So, it’s not just a cooking show. And, my co-host is a computer named Chad. He is a computer-animated person. It took us a year to put this show together, our own camera configurations, computer configurations, and each show is totally different.
You were in Pittsburgh while filming the Del’s episode of “Restaurant Impossible,” what was that experience like?
I had a great time there. Although it was very intense — I can say that, but we made a difference. I remember the first month after we left, they made a lot of money. I get tweets from them now, and I talk to them often. I know what’s going on there. Social media is such a powerful tool. Everybody that goes there is able to tell me, “Hey, table 32 said that it took forever to get their salad, and they said the sauce has changed.” And I just pick up the phone and call. I keep in contact with everyone that has been on my show, and that’s not a work mandate — that’s our mandate. We get immersed into their lives in those two days. It’s not only about food, it’s about life in general. We all know how tough economic times are — we’re all living it, but it’s about how we handle that. It’s about being smart with money, not only in a restaurant, but when you’re at home. And that’s what the show has become — this amazing motivational program.
You’re newly married, what do you and your wife like to cook at home?
We like very healthy foods. We go to the market often. Our most recent meal was roasted beets and flank steak with a greek salad (without the cheese). I love avocados. We’re almost at the end of avocado season, and I’ve been eating one avocado a day the whole season. I love to eat, and I especially love to eat dessert. I try dessert at the end of each meal, I like to have something sweet, but it doesn’t have to be a lot. I’m not as strict as my wife Gail (she’s a professional wrestler). She won’t do creams and butters.
What is your workout routine like?
I workout every day. We do a lot of light weights and circuits. Twenty minutes of cardio every day and one body part a day — really light weights and a lot of reps.
Where is America’s food culture headed next?
I truly believe that there are no trends anymore. I’m hoping to get back to home-cooked, healthily cooked food that everybody can share. Supper-style stuff. Let’s put family-style supper out and have everybody pick at it. That is the way we like to eat because we want to taste other people’s food. We live such busy lifestyles, but I think we’re starting to figure out family. My parents, every Sunday, would sit and have a meal together with our family. My father worked, my mother worked, so Sunday was our time. We sat around a table and actually shared that meal. I think that’s what the country’s going back to.
This article is featured in the November 2012 issue of WHIRL Magazine.
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