Interview: Impossible — Meeting Robert Irvine

“You can ask me any question you want, but be ready for the answer.”

Already wrapped with Season Five and on a media blitz, Robert Irvine was allowed one interview after performing at the OC Fair, and we were lucky enough to grab the brass ring. Some of our questions were answered as he worked his way through the audience, but he inspired a few more. Not the persona you generally see on Food Network, Robert was sincere and candid in his responses.

How many of your 330 days working do you spend entertaining the troops?
Eighty to 100. I try to fit my charities–armed forces, veterans and kids–between my shows. My life is on the
road. My life is dedicated to other people, which sounds like I'm a
masochist, but I enjoy doing it. I get such a feeling of giving back
from it. This is like a big high for me. Like putting food on a plate
and people loving it–it is just a cool thing to do.

I won't leave
somebody that's stood in line; I won't ever do that. I choose to do that
because I understand that I wouldn't be on TV without people watching,
and these are the people who are watching. If you look at the
demographic, it's so huge. From little kids to 96-year-old grannies to bikers–people whom you would never really
associate with the show or liking you. It's just, to me, amazing.

funny because out of 4,000 people, 100 people will say, “Oh, you're tough.” They won't say, “You're an asshole.” They'll say, “You're tough ” and, “Your heart's in the right place” because all I want to do is the right thing. And the timing in getting that done is very short–so intense. And that's why I say I'm intense. For me, it's a labor of love.

What is your favorite meal?

Roasted chicken and mashed potatoes.

Where are sous chefs George and David?

George runs a catering business in New Jersey, and David has a pizza truck.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten?
Umeboshi pear. It's just so disgustingly salty, and I had to eat it in the spelling bee episode.

What's your workout regimen like?
I work out six days a week. I do 20 minutes of cardio a day, and I do 45 pounds, but I do 50 repetitions, then 40, then 30, 20 and 10, with a minute in between. I do not lift heavy weights.

Tell us the best/worst part of doing the show?
Unraveling the mystery into the why they're failing, why their relationship is failing. Honestly, when we started this show, that's not what it was. It was about doing a makeover, putting food on the plate (and) redoing the menus. And it's turned completely into people, the psychological part of the relationships breaking down, then it goes into the restaurant. It's more of a lifestyle show than it is a food show; although, you know, ultimately, it's the restaurant.

I've been asked because of the show to go into the military, police and Fortune 500 companies to do the same thing. Stockbrokers say, “How do we run our business better?” Businesses run the same: You make money, you spend money, and you should have some left over, just like a household. It's interesting to me to see the viewership grow. It's broke dozens of records for viewers, so I'm very happy with that.

You said you still keep track of places you've been to.
I keep in contact with every restaurant we've ever done. Every week, I get a profit and loss statement; we get the changes in menus. Some go back to their menu, and they fail. Four have failed. Two have closed, one was sold, and one was taken back by the tax man.

To me, I promise them. When I go into a place and I meet them for the first time, the first eight hours are very, very tough for them because I'm getting information. It takes about eight hours for them to realize that I'm there to help them, not there to be them.

And it's not about TV for me. I throw people out, and that's the truth. You can call Marc Summers [creator of Restaurant: Impossible] and put him on the phone. I throw him out all the time because there are certain things, I think, that should not be on camera. As much as they would love to have it on camera, I don't think it's the right thing. For me, it's about the people who are asking for help.

Are there any restaurants you're particularly proud of?
There are 46 restaurants that I'm very proud of. You heard me mention San Diego, The Trails. Hoffman's just opened their second restaurant, and they were $3,000,000 in debt.

The 50th episode is coming up, and you're gonna laugh because you'll see the goofy side. I think what this [show] does is show a different side of Robert that people don't really see. Because I'm actually a funny guy; I like to have fun, and I like to goof off. I live my life like the television show. My restaurants are run just like I work on the show. There's no difference between my restaurants and what I'm like on the show. It's the military side of things.

That's why the Grove show is going to be amazing. It's going to be the first of its kind. I'm so excited. We've got 20 dates across the U.S. and Canada, and we're only doing the four-course meal with the show here. I always want to make the shows better. And it's going to be killer, I can assure you of that.

Most undervalued ingredient?
I'd have to go with rice-wine vinegar. It's my go-to item. I love when people use vinegars, especially rice-wine vinegar. It can be sweet or savory. You can use it in marinades or reductions.

What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?
I'd be in the military or something that I believe in. What people get out of it are leadership skills, loyalty, experience, honor, respect–all the things that we look for when we try to teach children. I think it gives more back into society, like an actual service. I'm not saying go to war. That's not what I'm saying. It just teaches basic stuff.

The 50th episode of Restaurant: Impossible will air Aug. 25. Viewers will see behind-the-scenes footage and a follow-up on all the people who have been successful (as well as the ones that didn't make it and why).

In addition, Robert's wedding to Gail Kim will air Aug. 18.

Lastly, he will be performing a live version of Dinner: Impossible at the Grove of Anaheim on Nov. 4. Click here for more information.

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