It was a great pleasure to meet up with Chef Robert Irvine during his weekend visit to Walt Disney World.
The chef is in town for the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival. He will be doing some culinary demonstrations and cooking at the Party for the Senses.
Chef Irvine is the star of Dinner: Impossible, one of my family’s favorite Food Network shows. He’s also the owner of Robert Irvine’s Eat! in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and he admitted last night that he often pulls all-nighters working in the restaurant’s kitchen.
The first time I saw Chef Irvine in person was back in February, when he filmed an episode of Dinner: Impossible at EPCOT during the Disney Social Media Moms Conference. It was fun to see him running back and forth across the park to complete his mission, and it really seems to happen the way they portray it on the show.
I was impressed then by his willingness to come out of his outdoor kitchen to meet fans and take pictures, and last night was no different. Chef Irvine posed for pictures with the dozen or so people there, and then sat down with us for a drink and a chat.
He told us that he has a computer screensaver of more than 600 pictures, many taken with fans and people he has met in filming his TV shows and on book tours. He even told Disney Moms Panelist Suzannah DiMarzio that her picture was there!
He told us about two additional Food Network shows he has been taping: a second season of “America’s Worst Cooks” (“I had to eat some of the #*&%-iest food I ever ate.”), and a new show – “Restaurant: Impossible.”
“Restaurant: Impossible” follows the plight of restaurant owners who are struggling to keep their restaurants open. Chef Irvine, along with a restaurant designer, have 48 hours to redesign the restaurant and its menu before a grand re-opening. Irvine told us dealing with the restaurant owners can be tough.
“They want to fight with you because they think their restaurant is great, even though the restaurant is going broke,” he said.
He’s happy to show off his guns, when asked, and he even shared some workout tips. Irvine said he doesn’t lift heavy weights to maintain his physique. “The most I lift is 45 pounds. Lots of sets. No rest.”
And what of fans who would profit over their brush with the celebrity chef? Chef Irvine told us about a time when he left his underwear in a hotel room and then got it back, in a rather unusual way: “I bought it off eBay for $26.”
I asked Chef Irvine what keeps him coming back to visit Walt Disney World:
“I love the people. I love what they stand for,” he said. “When I walked into the kitchen this morning, they said, ‘Welcome home, Chef.’”
And then, they brought out the tequila. Seriously. Chef Irvine bought us all a shot of tequila. Someone asked him about cooking with it, and he gave us an on-the-fly “Dinner: Impossible”-style recipe:
Saute onion, green pepper and yellow pepper. Add shrimp. Deglaze with the tequila. Add cream, salt and pepper, and you’re done.
I have a shellfish allergy and can’t try this, but I’m thinking about trying it with chicken this week.
Chef Irvine, who is a big supporter of charities for the armed forces and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, left us with the following advice:
“If we would all do something for someone we don’t know every day, the world would be a better place.”
I am an even bigger Chef Irvine fan after meeting up with him last night (and not just because I was sitting next to him when he pulled out those guns!). I am always happy to see celebrities who are gracious with their fans.