Quick Stats: Robert Irvine TV host/chef/author/restaurateur
Daily Driver: 2014 Cadillac Escalade (Robert’s rating: 8 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: see below
Favorite road trip: around the country
Car he learned to drive in: Hyundai
First car bought: 1997 Honda Civic
More than a TV chef, host Robert Irvine has been on the road for most of the year now. To accommodate his lifestyle, he keeps SUVs on both coasts, with a 2014 Cadillac Escalade in Los Angeles, where he tapes his new daytime talk show “The Robert Irvine Show” for the CW network.
Irvine rates the Escalade an 8 on a scale of 10 because it’s not as smooth a ride as he would prefer. “I like the fact that it’s big. We travel with a group of people. It’s very luxurious. It’s a hard ride is what I don’t like,” he says. “Maybe a newer model has a better suspension, but it’s a hard ride, which is going to feel every bump in the road, but inside it’s luxurious. It sounds really oxymoronish. It’s comfortable, but when you go over a bump, you know you’re going over a bump, especially in L.A.”
Irvine got the Escalade because it was roomy enough for his travel needs. “I needed something big that can put a lot of luggage. We travel with four or five people all the time and an average two suitcases per, so we can get a lot of luggage in it,” he says.
2016 Ford Expedition
Irvine keeps an Expedition in Florida, which gets higher marks because it’s more comfortable than the Escalade. “I like it a lot. I’ve got two girls, a wife, me, and there’s normally two or three people that travel with me all the time,
he says. “We’re bicoastal. We travel 345 days a year, so I have a big car on the East Coast and a big car on the West Coast. Obviously, if we don’t use those cars and we need people to pick us up, then we use the same type of car because we know it fits the luggage. That’s the biggest thing for me. It’s not even about comfort, it’s about usability.”
There isn’t anything to dislike about the Expedition. “I like this one,” he says. “The suspension is a lot better in the Ford Expedition than it is in the Cadillac, believe it or not, you don’t feel as much. Maybe that’s the age of car, I don’t know.”
Since the Escalade was a rougher ride, Irvine’s local Ford dealer suggested trying an Expedition. “I wasn’t a big lover of Expeditions,” he says, “and when I tried it, I really liked it.”
Car he learned to drive in
Irvine learned to drive in a Hyundai (Editor’s note: Most likely a Hyundai Pony or Pony II) at a driving school in Salisbury, Wiltshire in England, where he grew up.
“I learned to drive when I was 15 years old, so whatever Hyundai was at that point,” he says, with a laugh. “I just remember it was a blue Hyundai. And it was just before I went to the Falklands. I passed my test. I failed it and I literally took it again in the afternoon because I was shipping out the next day. They must’ve felt sorry for me.”
Although he learned to drive at a driving school, Irvine also got practice time on the family’s cars. “Dad used to have a Vauxhall Cavalier hatchback, the old ones. I learned to drive pretty much in that and the Hyundai, and a Cresta 101 Deluxe, it was a Vauxhall. It was a big car,” he says. “He used to have a few cars. He had a Cavalier, a Cresta, a TR7.”
Although Irvine’s driving was mostly on suburban roads, driving the Cresta on British roads was a bit of a challenge. “The Cresta is a big car and England has small roads, so that was more difficult than the Cavalier and the Hyundai, that’s for sure,” he says. “You think of America with big cars, well, if you put an American car in an English road, they don’t normally work that well because the roads are a lot narrower.”
The Cresta was big enough that he had to sit on a cushion to see over the steering wheel when his dad tried to teach him to drive. “It was difficult to drive because I could only just use the steering wheel and I was learning to drive in it with a father, who had no patience,” he reflects. “I could only just see over the steering of the wheel and my father, who was Irish, would be bugging the crap out of me, ‘Don’t do this,’ ‘Don’t do that,’ ‘Do this,’ ‘Grab the steering wheel,’ etc, etc, he wasn’t a good patient teacher.”
First car bought
Irvine bought a new 1997 green Honda Civic when he was the executive sous chef at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. He chose the Civic based on what he could afford with his $50,000 salary at the time, and the fact that it could fit his family, with his young daughters and baby seats.
The car became a target for staffers who weren’t thrilled with him. “I kept it for almost three years and while I worked at Trump Taj Mahal, it was vandalized because they didn’t like me. It was like ‘Road House,’” he recalls. “I’d park the car and it would be scratched, and tires punctured, because at that time I was not liked in that environment. It was a union house and I was the tough guy that changed things to try and fix the problems there. I was the enforcer.”
Irvine’s first splurge car came not when his Food Network show “Dinner: Impossible” debuted, but while he was still at the Taj Mahal and made more money, buying a BMW 525 after the Civic. “My 525 must’ve been a 1998 to 2000 because I got the 750 in 2000 and used it in the show. If you look at the opening of the show, you’ll see that was the 750. I had a 525 BMW, a 750 BMW and hardtop 6 Series BMW and I loved them,” he says. “I bought the 750 that was used in the Food Network show, and I did the pilot in the 750, the first that was called ‘Dinner: Impossible,’ but I got the car in 2000.”
Irvine wanted a BMW because of its reputation among enthusiasts. “BMW is a performance car,” he says. “It’s a fast, fast, hard, road gripping car. If you have anybody that’s a driver, there are certain cars that stick out in your mind – they are BMWs, they are Maserati, they are Aston Martin, they grip the road, that you can drive hard and BMW is one of those cars. It was also for me, a status symbol of, ‘Hey listen, you’ve made it.’”
But now, rather than fast cars, Irvine has cars that fit his fast-paced life. “Then when you have kids and you grow up a little bit, then it’s about ‘I’m a lover of fast cars, but are they practical when you travel the way we travel now?’” he says. “The answer would be ‘no’ because we’re on the road 345 days a year, so a practical car for me is an SUV rather than a Maserati or an Aston Martin, although they are amazing cars.”
Favorite road trip
Besides shooting TV shows and traveling the world to support United States troops, Irvine enjoys going around the country for his “Robert Irvine Live!” shows, which includes a May 13 stop near Minneapolis. He relishes these shows, where he gets to interact with fans, as well as spend more time with his crew, since much of the time he’s in a car with them in tow in these quieter moments in a fast-moving schedule.
“Some of my best road trip memories are from when I travel with my team for the ‘Robert Irvine Live!’ show,” he says. “There’s something very pure about getting out on the road with other people. The miles roll on underneath you, the scenery outside your window flies by and you’re isolated in the best possible way. As a society we don’t gather around the fire anymore.”
These drives allow for a chance to just “be” a little bit. “We rarely sit down just to be with each other, so that leaves the car as one of our last great refuges. Want to really get to know who someone is? Get in a car with them for 1,000 miles or so. People’s passions, fears, quirks, their sense of humor – all of it reveals itself,” he says. “It brings people closer together in a way that air travel never could. I absolutely love a good road trip. By the way, when you take a road trip with me, I do the tailgating and you will eat well. Ha!”
“The Robert Irvine Show” on the CW Network
While many first came to know Irvine on his Food Network show “Dinner: Impossible,” and the subsequent “Restaurant: Impossible,” among the many jobs that take up Irvine’s time now include his daytime talk show on the CW network, which puts him in Los Angeles two days a week to do nine shows.
“The new show on CW, it’s five days a week, it’s conflict resolution unlike anybody else,” Irvine says. “We actually go back and we put people in rehab, we follow up with them, we get them jobs after they’ve finished. So it’s unlike any other show that’s out there. We find out the issues, fix issues, and follow up with issues.”
For Irvine, this new talk show that has nothing to do with cooking is a natural extension of what he became known for on the Food Network. “I wanted to do this because, think about ‘Restaurant Impossible’ –‘Restaurant Impossible’ is fixing the restaurant, but before you can fix the business, you have to fix the people,” he says. “Take the restaurant away you’ve got (‘The Robert Irvine Show’). it’s the same thing except different time of day. It’s a 430 pound obese woman, how do I get her fit and back on track? It’s all the same, just take the business away. I’ve wanted to do that for a long time. So I got the opportunity to do it and here we are.”
On Food Network, he was recently on “Guy’s Grocery Games” with fellow chef and Celeb Drive Guy Fieri. “It’s an exciting time right now,” Irvine says. “We’re working on some new shows with Food Network.”
Robert Irvine Foundation and Pentagon’s Fresh Kitchen
To say Irvine is a one man powerhouse might be an understatement. To top off all his projects going on, in addition to authoring his third book, producing his food line Robert Irvine Foods, with items available at places including Walmart and Sam’s Clubs, last month, Irvine opened a Gold Gym in Largo, Florida.
Last year, he rappelled down the side of the Tropicana Hotel in Vegas to announce his first restaurant there in Sin City to open this year. “The rest of the time I’m on the road, with our military and the other shows that I do, and my food line and the restaurant Fresh Kitchen,” he says. “We travel to Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Italy, Germany Spain.”
Having started out with the British Royal Navy, Irvine is always close to the military. His foundation is set up to help those who defend our country. The world travel he logs are for his foundation supporting the troops with actor Gary Sinise and the USO, as well as helping to feed U.S. troops in a healthier way. “We have protein bars, food. All the money that we make goes into a charity and we build homes with Gary Sinise,” he says.
Last fall he also opened a restaurant in the Pentagon “Fresh Kitchen.” “Seeing the change in the feeding in the military – we’re doing that in a huge way, we opened a restaurant in the Pentagon, now we’re taking over the bases in the military, changing how to feed our military men and women,” he says. “We literally are changing the way the military feeds on their bases from three meals a day to eight meals a day, and talking about education of food and fitness. Menus, healthier cooking, training.”
Irvine, an American citizen, is particularly passionate about working with our troops. “We spend millions of millions of dollars taking care of equipment and we never worry about people that use that equipment and now’s the time to take care of those people,” he says.
By the end of last year they built 48 homes, fed 124,000 people, all of which is very gratifying for Irvine. “That’s a big deal. Definitely,” Irvine says. “Our men and women, Medal of Honor winners, we were in Dallas feedings 12,000 troops and all the chefs are cooking for the all the veterans and medal of honors. And on the back of our packaging, we’ve just come out with healthy food, and on the back of it, it tells you where the money goes to the foundation.”
For more information on everything Irvine as well as his foundation, please visit chefirvine.com
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