BTU #299 - Royal Navy to Celebrity Chef (Robert Irvine)

If someone tells me ‘no’, I take that as a challenge to do everything I possibly can to prove them wrong.
— Robert Irvine

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About Robert Irvine:

"With more than 27 years in the culinary profession, Chef Robert Irvine has cooked his way through Europe, the Far East, the Caribbean and the Americas, in hotels and on the high seas. Robert hosts the Food Network series Restaurant: Impossible, where he saves struggling restaurants across America by assessing and overhauling their weakest spots. He also previously hosted Dinner: Impossible and Worst Cooks in America. Robert has authored two cookbooks, Mission: Cook! and Impossible to Easy, and one healthy-living book, Fit Fuel: A Chef’s Guide to Eating Well and Living Your Best Life. He tours with his interactive live show, Robert Irvine Live, and appears regularly as an expert guest on national morning and daytime talk shows.

In 2015 Robert launched Robert Irvine Foods, a company that features a nutritionally improved line of food products without compromising great taste. He recently established his eponymously named nonprofit organization, The Robert Irvine Foundation, in an effort to support military personnel and their families. In recent years he was honored with two very distinguished recognitions for his dedication to the armed services and our country’s heroes. He was first designated Honorary Chief Petty Officer by the U.S. Navy, and later that year awarded the Bob Hope Award for Excellence in Entertainment and Support of our Service Members, bestowed upon him by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Continuing his support of the military, Robert became the first celebrity chef to open a restaurant — aptly named Chef Robert Irvine’s Fresh Kitchen — at the Pentagon, in the fall of 2016. His other recent projects include the Robert Irvine Magazine in May 2016; the opening of a new Gold’s Gym in Largo, Florida, in January 2017; and the opening of a new restaurant in Las Vegas at the Tropicana in late 2017. For more information on Chef Robert Irvine, visit”

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Selected Resources: 

Transcript & Time Stamps:


What was it about cooking that attracted you to pursue it as a career?

I took a home economics class in high school where we were able to cook. It was 30 girls and me. 

I was in the Sea Cadets for a few years in high school. The Royal Navy interested me and I signed up at fifteen and a half years old. I had to take an English and math test in order to join. I didn’t do well on the tests but I did qualify to become a chef in the Navy so that’s what I went for. 


What was it like serving on the Royal family’s yacht?

For me, to be in the presence of royalty and serve the highest family in the land was an honor for me. 

My father didn’t love my choice to join the Navy. He didn’t talk to me for two years. He went to a garden party for an Admiral and realized what a cool business it was. We were able to mend our relationship after that. 


What was your transition out of the Royal Navy like?

When you transition out, you need to make sure you take all the skills you learned with you in the military. Especially your leadership experience. 

The transition was hard for me. The civilian world is really cutthroat. I knew I wanted to cook but there were a thousand cooks out there. I had to really think about what made me different and try to highlight that. 

The qualities you learned in the military will serve you triple in the civilian world so be confident in what being in the military has taught you. 


Your personal mantra is that nothing is impossible. Can you share a little bit more about that?

When I was in the military, I would try to share ideas I had with my superiors. I wouldn’t really get taken seriously, though. I think one of the problems what that my ideas were very vague. 

Once I was out on the civilian side, I tried to be more specific on exactly what my goals were and what I could achieve. When I talked to people, I was very specific about what value I could bring to them.

When someone says ‘no’ to me that’s like a bull with a red flag. It’s a challenge for me to overcome that issue and find success. 

Companies are now really starting to see the value veterans bring to an organization. Comcast has changed the way they interview veterans so that the candidate is better able to demonstrate his or her experience. That’s the same with Wal-Mart and other large corporations. Comcast specifically has made a commitment to hire 20,000 veterans by the year 2021. 


You’re on the road 345 days a year. How do you maintain that high pace of operation?

I love what I do. I get to spend 345 days a year filming television shows. We also do many USO and Gold Star Family tours. To me, it’s an excitement. The high operational pace is outweighed by the good that we can do. When a servicemember asks for a photo with me, that motivates me to keep doing what we do. When you feel good about what you do, it makes a huge difference. 

Food is my second passion. The military is my first passion. So anything I can do to bring a positive impact to servicemen and servicewomen brings me a great deal of fulfillment. 

Our military is 1.4 million active duty members. Last week I met up with a group of servicemembers returning home from Afghanistan. I had previously met many of the servicemembers in that group. That was such a high for me - to be meeting these men and women multiple times and to try to make a positive difference in their eyes. We really need to take care of our military members both during and after deployments.  


What would you like people to know about your foundation - the Robert Irvine Foundation?

The foundation was born about 6 years ago because I wanted to have a greater impact on servicemembers. We just gave $1 million away to various service members. We send people to the WWII Museum and we also give dogs to service members. I do a cooking class for wounded warriors. We also take kids of fallen service members to Disney World for a week. 


Is there anything else you’d like to share with listeners?

I just want to extend my thanks to the men and women of our nation’s military. Only 1% of America chooses to do that. I’m here to support you in any way that I can. When you leave the service, create your own destiny. Bring greatness to the civilian world.