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17 Dec 2021

Munchies: Mission “Impossible”

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December 17, 2021 Category: Food And Beverage Posted by:

Chef Robert Irvine will bring a little “Dinner Impossible” to the Live! Hotel and Casino on Saturday night…and because it’s interactive, participants can join in on the fun.

By Denise Clay-Murray

If you watch as much Food Network as your “Friendly Neighborhood Food Columnist” does, chances are you’ve seen Chef Robert Irvine do something that makes you ask, “How did he do that?”

As the host of the programs “Dinner Impossible” and “Restaurant Impossible”, Irvine challenges himself to do a bunch of things ranging from cooking a multi-course meal for a charity function to helping restaurants ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic get back on their feet.

Irvine has also been a judge on several Food Network shows including “Worst Cooks In America”, “Guy’s Grocery Games”, “Chopped” and “The Next Food Network Star”. He’s also the author of several books including “Mission: Cook”, “Impossible to Easy”, “Fit Fuel” and his latest, “Family Table”.

On Saturday, Irvine will be sharing his insights as a chef, a businessman and as an authority on fitness with an audience at the Live! Hotel and Casino Philadelphia, 900 Packer Ave., in South Philadelphia as part of an interactive Holiday Feast he’ll be making at the Casino’s Live! Event Center.

The SUN spoke with Chef Irvine about what the audience can expect Saturday night, how he got into cooking, how you can put together your holiday dinner without spending days in the kitchen, and a little bit about his new Cooking Channel show, “Cheat Day USA”, in which a physically fit chef noshes on such things as Garlic Bread Chicken Wings.

SUN: Chef Irvine, thanks so much for taking the time out to talk with us. I guess that my first question is, how did you get into cooking? What made you want to become a chef?

RI: It’s really simple. My mother was a terrible cook. And I wrote a whole chapter in my [first] book about it. I started cooking at 11-years-old [in] a home economics class because it was 30 girls and me. And I thought it sounds wherever we’re gonna go from there will be really good. Then I made my first Quiche Lorraine and food took over my life. And that’s how we started, literally. I didn’t get a girlfriend, but I got the food bug.

SUN: What can people expect from your appearance at Live! Casino this week?

RI: Well, first of all, a great three course meal. Shorts ribs, cheesecake, a great salad. I’m going to demo that. But you know, every time I do something, my team tries to mess me up. Literally. So, you can expect a lot of humor, a lot of interaction. A lot of people doing the cooking and not from the audience. A lot of interaction, a lot of silliness, a lot of education.

SUN: Now in a way, that sounds a little bit like some of the shows that you do like “Dinner Impossible” and “Restaurant Impossible,” where you’re put in these situations where you’re like, ‘Okay, are you really going to be able to pull this off?”

RI: It is, and that’s, that’s the way we’ve done it in my career, you know, not knowing   things. I find it much, much more fun. I always want to put an educational piece in there, of how to cook and what oils to use, what salts and peppers, etcetera, etcetera. Because people really don’t understand the basics of what salt and pepper actually do. And when I show them, they’re amazed. So yeah, it’s gonna be a lot of fun.

SUN: Normally, when you see cooking shows, they’re usually someone showing you how to make something. But in the case of the shows that you do like “Restaurant Impossible” and “Dinner Impossible”, they’re more like reality shows with cooking in them. What made you decide to do this kind of show? 

RI: If you remember way back when, 14 years ago when “Dinner Impossible” started, that was based on a year of my life. That’s what I did in my life, I would go to aircraft carriers, I would go to middle of nowhere, with nothing. And that was part of my whole world, with the military and various other things. 

So, I went to Food Network and said, “Hey, listen, I want to do this show!” It was originally called “Fit For A King”, and it was food that we do in stadiums, it was food that I would do in an aircraft carrier, at the Pentagon, or at the White House. And that’s where literally “Fit For A King” came from. And then it changes after I pitched it to “Dinner Impossible.” And that’s how I started in television. Basically, I’ll put it out anyway. “Restaurant Impossible” was also something that I was doing in my real life. I was helping people in restaurants, but it was slightly different obviously. I would go to a restaurant and get paid to help them. But I’m like, “Well, if there’s family restaurants that are failing out there, then the must be a way somehow to help them not fail.” And that’s where “Restaurant Impossible” came from. And here we are 13 years later, still doing the show.

SUN: So, the holidays are coming up. What would you suggest to someone who is making their first Christmas dinner?

RI: Well, first of all, I would never try something that you haven’t done before. I always tell people that if they’ve never done a turkey before, go to somebody and go through it with them. Christmas dinner for me is the biggest dinner; bigger than Thanksgiving for me because I’m from Europe. So, for me it was potatoes, mashed potatoes, carrots, and turnips, brussels sprouts and ham and beef and chicken. 

I would say that you define the menu that you’re going to make, get the recipes out, and you can prep all of your vegetables three or four days ahead of time. You can put your vegetables in ice and cold water, put some lemon in the water and cover it with plastic wrap. Just refresh the water every day. One of the things that I feel that people make mistakes on is that they rush on their day off to try and get things done. You can make everything days ahead of time. I think that the more you’re prepared and you understand and time your experience out, the better it is. You shouldn’t be standing all day over the stove. This holiday is supposed to be about having fun with your family. You know you’re supposed to a family. That’s about having fun with families. So that’s my advice to anybody. Take your time, figure out your menu, prepare it early and finish it on the day, just like the restaurants.

SUN: There’s another show that I caught you on on the Cooking Channel called Cheat Day USA. One of the things that has always stood out to me about you as a chef is that unlike a lot of chefs I’ve run into, you’re in really good shape. So, what does a cheat day look like for you? And what made you decide to turn it into a show?

RI: Cheat Day for me is the one day a week where I get to eat anything I want the whole day from 9 in the morning [to] 9 at night. The show idea came because I really wanted to highlight those chefs that do the great foods that I like to eat on my cheat day, but never get the recognition in this small hometown. We look at po boys. I’m a big dessert eater, I love anything sweet. But I can’t eat it all of the time because I’m a fit guy and I’d like to stay fit because of my work with the military. 

SUN: On the show that I saw, I saw a place that made garlic bread chicken wings. I gained 5lbs just looking at it.

RI: Yeah. And the food is on this show is tremendous to the point that I’m like, “Oh my God, I’ve got to stop eating it because I do three visits per show to three different restaurants. The key to eating is to eat slowly and let the food, you know, get into your stomach. And it takes four hours to digest, so you’ve got to be careful.

SUN: Well, thank you for your time, Chef. I really appreciate it.

RI: You’re welcome. Take care of yourself and have a nice holiday!

Tickets for Chef Robert Irvine’s appearance at the Live! Casino and Hotel Philadelphia on Saturday night are $175 dollars apiece and include the three-course meal in addition to the demonstration. You must buy the tickets in pairs, and they must be purchased in advance. You can get tickets at The show begins at 7p.m., but doors open at 6p.m..

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