‘Impossible’ Chef Robert Irvine brings new possibilities to Fort Lauderdale
By Angela Caraway-Carlton | Photography by DowntownPhoto Fort Lauderdale
Robert Irvine admits every day is impossible; the energetic chef and TV star just instead chooses to see the possibilities. Sometimes, this simply involves a can-do attitude and tequila. “Before each show, I pray, I drink a shot of tequila, I do a few pushups, and we go have fun,” he says. “And we change the world one second at a time.”
There’s the focused Irvine who militantly works to save failing restaurants on Food Network’s TV show, “Restaurant: Impossible,” and then there’s the Irvine who’s just a grown-up kid who doesn’t take himself too seriously. During Lifestyle’s photo shoot at Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach’s Jove Kitchen, Irvine couldn’t stop clowning around. He would spontaneously place small white plates on his head like Mickey Mouse ears or use the restaurant’s cheese graters as arms, pretending to be a robot. (Don’t worry, they were properly cleaned before placed on tables for guests.) “People think I’m such an intense guy, and I am when I’m doing a job,” says the muscular chef, who’s known for his trademark uniform of fitted T-shirts and jeans. “I also love to have fun.”
To date, Irvine has completed more than 150 episodes of “Restaurant: Impossible.”
“The show is about caring, not about making people look bad. I turn cameras off,” he emphasizes. Irvine says his track record has an 80 percent success rate in helping businesses survive. “I recently went back to a restaurant that we did four-and-a-half years ago and had one of the best meals of my life. That was extremely rewarding.”
The brawny Brit recently published his own self-help fitness book, “Fit Fuel,” (despite publishers wanting him to do a cookbook) and launched his own line of protein bars, FIT Crunch. While he’s the first to admit that the restaurant business is “very fickle, where you’re not going to make a lot of money,” he says it’s about taking calculated risks. “We’re opening a restaurant right now in the Pentagon. Around 38,000 people are in the Pentagon every day and they’ve got to eat somewhere. That’s a pretty good risk.”
Irvine’s world of possibilities will now have roots in Fort Lauderdale. Later this month, the chef will kick off the South Beach Wine and Food Festival’s expansion into Broward County with the inaugural Taste Fort Lauderdale Series, which will be five nights of parties and dinners showcasing Fort Lauderdale’s culinary talent. Familiar with the notoriety of South Florida’s dining scene, Irvine admits he’s been taking note of how much it is changing. “We hear about ‘Miami, Miami,’ and it’s great, but there are some amazing chefs in Fort Lauderdale,” he says. “I think it’s the right place to expand the festival.”
Irvine is hosting the series’ first event, Seaside Eats, at the historic Bonnet House, where 12 to 15 Fort Lauderdale chefs will offer their best interpretations of seaside-style dishes. “Food is about fun,” he says. “You get a chance to meet the chefs; this is up-close and personal.”
The fearless Irvine is ready for his own close-up. “Fort Lauderdale better get ready for Robert Irvine, because it’s going to be crazy.” Just have a shot of his favorite Don Julio waiting.
Extras with Irvine
What do you consider impossible in your life?
“I truly believe that anybody can achieve anything if they have passion and a can-do attitude.”
You say you travel 345 days a year, what is your idea of a day off?
“My wife and I sleep in, normally until 10 or 11. We work out together, and then we’ll do shopping and errands and then go to a movie theater where we watch two movies back-to-back.”
What kind of movies do you enjoy?
“I’m a soppy, emotional movie kinda guy; I’m always the one who cries at the movies.”
What is your go-to meal?
“Roast chicken and mashed potatoes, green beans or asparagus. I’m a real simple eater.”
What advice would you give someone opening a restaurant?
“You need six months of revenue in the bank. You need six months of capital expenditure in the bank, outside of whatever you’re already spending. And then you have to think of a fund so if something breaks, you’re not dipping into those other funds. It takes six to 12 months to get your name out there.”
Do you take your own advice when starting a new business venture?
“I do; and if I don’t, my wife is a good conscience. I run everything by her. She doesn’t give me the answers that she thinks I want. In the real world, there are a lot of people who will do that. She’ll give me the hard truth.”
Fort Lauderdale’s Finest
By Angela Caraway-Carlton Photography by DowntownPhoto Fort Lauderdale Photo Shoot at Burlock Coast, Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale
It’s not just celebrity chefs like Robert Irvine that are taking center stage during SOBEWFF’s inaugural Taste Fort Lauderdale Series. From a bloody mary brunch to a DJ jam session mixed with fab food, five of Broward’s best chefs invite you to join them for a taste of what our county has to offer during the festival. Taste Fort Lauderdale Series, Wednesday, Feb. 24 – Sunday, Feb. 28.
Gavin Pera, Executive Chef, Burlock Coast
Bloody Mary Brunch hosted by the Cast of “Chopped” at the Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale
Sunday, Feb. 28, at noon
“Brunch is my favorite meal of the day and I especially love bloody marys! I can’t wait to see what everyone creates during the Bloody Mary Challenge. There are so many talented chefs taking part in the event, it is an honor to be participating.”
Alex Becker, Executive Chef, Kuro
New Style Remix Dinner at Kuro at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Saturday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m.
“We are bringing together two talented chefs to construct a menu that you would not be able to get otherwise and pairing it with a popular DJ. We’re combining the elements of food and music to create an amazing night.”
Adrienne Grenier, Executive Chef, 3030 Ocean
Seaside Eats at Bonnet House Museum & Gardens Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m.
“There are so many brilliant chefs in Broward and it’s a great feeling to be able to partner with them and the amazing Robert Irvine.
We’re on the coast and there is so much beautiful seafood – I love raw seafood crudo, ceviche and tuna tartare. The event is going to be exciting!”
Chris Miracolo, Executive Chef, S3
Peter Boulukos, The Restaurant People
Dinner hosted by Todd English and Chris Miracolo at S3 Restaurant
Thursday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m.
“Hosting a nationally recognized chef like Todd English is a great way to showcase Fort Lauderdale and S3. We’ve developed a menu that will feature local ingredients and interesting combinations.”