A Southern Gal’s Take on Chef Irvine and Restaurant Impossible

A note to my most wonderful reader…I feel as though I need to preface this as I do with some of my writings. I need you to remember, while reading this, that I am a very passionate and caring person that always tries to be kind to people. It is true that you never know whose day you are going to turn around with just a kind smile or a simple acknowledgement of their existence. Life is short…be kind to one another!

And so it began….

It was about 8:30am when we arrived at University Grill. Mom, two friends, and I. It was drizzling and decently chilly. We walked up to the building right at 9am, just as instructed. Oh wait…I can’t forget to mention that we were almost run over by a light blue Lexus SUV while walking up to the building. It randomly came out of nowhere, and what to our wondering eyes would appear??? Well, it was Chef Robert Irvine driving the Lexus like a bat out of hell. He spun out into the middle of the street, almost hitting another vehicle. We were told to stand on the side of the building while the production crew signed us in…but you had to stay out of the view of the windows since they were doing some filming inside. Heaven forbid we stepped in front of a window, because we would be swiftly corrected.

We stood outside for about another hour, in the cool drizzle, until we were finally told we could walk in to the warm restaurant. The production crew ushered us in, and look who was standing right inside the door! Well, it was Chef Robert Irvine standing with arms crossed at the door like a Greek God. Yeah, he’s built…I can appreciate that. I stepped up to him, being the big fan that I am, and said charmingly “Welcome to North Carolina.” We were standing perpendicular to each other. He looked my way with a cross look on his face, stared at me for a couple seconds, did one of those quick flashes of a fake smirk, and quickly turned back around, never uttering a nicety to me or the others around me. I was perplexed to say the least.

Let’s talk a second here…I have met Chef Gordon Ramsay. He wasn’t at all what you see on television. At the MasterChef auditions, he was a complete gentleman. He was kind and generous even off camera. It could bring the good tears to my eyes just knowing that I met my number one favorite Chef, and he was all I hoped. Hell, I was prepared for him to yell at me or tell me something looked bad…and I would have happily taken it like a champ! *smiles* I expected that from Chef Ramsay. On to Chef Irvine…when my amazing cousin let me know about the posting in Craigslist for extras on the show, I jumped at the chance! Who was I wanting to meet??? Well, it was Chef Robert Irvine that I wanted to meet with a smile on my face and a smile on his. I have this list in my head of who I really want to meet, and he was certainly towards the top! He seemed like he would be such a nice guy to meet, and my hopes were high like the bar that Chef Ramsay had set late last year.

It only became more irritating as the production went on. After being rattled by his rudeness, we were all shuffled back outdoors for another 20 minutes in the rain. When we finally got in and settled into a booth out of the camera shot, he began the opening interviews with the restaurant owners. Bless their hearts…he was sadly, a jerk…as I believe some of you saw on the episode and asked me if he really was that mean off camera as well. We ended up being moved to the other side of the restaurant so we would be in natural lighting along with the production crew’s lighting. They began doing some taping of everyone seated….this is at about 11:30am. Keep in mind that we got here about 8:30am, and I think a majority of us were expecting some sort of breakfast service…cue growling tummys. Beside us there was a buffet, and guess who wanted to film some of the temperatures of the items sitting in the buffet??? Well, it was Chef Robert Irvine standing beside the buffet and yelling at the camera men to stand in certain positions and copping an attitude.

My oh my was he grumpy!

The extremely KIND production crew!

Our food was finally delivered around 12:30pm, by an extremely nice waitress, and then Chef made some comments that caused us to not finish our food. *grrrr* Cue growling tummys…again! The production crew finished up taping some more shots, and we were ushered out with not a kind greeting or word from Chef Irvine. This may be a good time to mention that this production crew was so incredibly kind and accommodating. Let me reiterate that….EXTREMELY KIND!

I had spoken with one of the heads of the production crew, and she said I could come back in and see if I couldn’t get a photograph taken with Chef. Let’s be honest, he was not on this redheads good side. I had looked up to this man, admired his build, and wanted to talk to him about his world of food. I wanted to learn. The other women with me left, and I hung around for another 30-45 minutes for the lady to come get me for my photo-op. While waiting, I met a very nice production assistant outside (a fellow Foodie), and she and I occupied each others time…in the rain. Yep, still raining, folks.

It was getting late and my tummy was incredibly hungry. With hesitation, I walked quietly back into the restaurant while they were taping and stood hidden behind some waitresses that were folding silverware (not on camera). I looked across from where I was sitting, and look a’ there…who do you think I was looking at??? Well, it was the texting machine Chef Robert Irvine (not on camera either) glued to his phone and not paying me a bit of mind. It came time for the lady to pull me over for a photograph. Chef Irvine seemed visually perturbed that I was interrupting his texting time, and he said “Let’s hurry up, we have filming to do.” I handed my phone to the production crew lady, someone on the crew kindly told the lighting guys to turn the lights around to give us some light for our photograph, and the photograph was taken. He asked, “Do you need to make sure it looks ok?” I turned to him (maybe with a bit of redhead attitude showing after this whole ordeal…I couldn’t help it!) and said, “No thanks, sorry to bother you.”

Gosh it irritates me how photogenic and sweet he looks in this photo…

I walked out the door, said goodbye to my new Foodie friend, and I drove into the now afternoon sun in search of delicious food to cure my growling tummy! Is it funny that Mom and I headed to IHOP?

In closing,

It irritates me personally that this is the memory I have of one of my favorite Chefs. He was met with pure kindness from the extras that showed up for his show, but I guess he had not had a very decent morning before the taping. It’s certainly unfortunate. I do, however, hope that his day improved vastly. He’s a hard-working man, and he deserves to be a smiling man also. *smiling*

As far as the restaurant goes…Mom has been back since the reveal, and the footage on the show seems to be a vast change. I, personally, am afraid it went the wrong direction. The town it neighbors is Glen Raven…an old mill town. There are other restaurants that cater to our wonderful Elon University down the road, but it is important for the restaurant to not lose sight of the other areas. The show went to Elon University only (it appeared in the editing) for opinions of what the “students” wanted. A place to “chill”. Really? There seems to be a lot of long-time customers that go there. From construction and mill workers, to older and close to poverty level people. Glen Raven is a quaint little town with a good amount of Southern Charm. I just hate that it wasn’t captured in the makeover, and all they did was a makeover for the University students. (Yes, I realize it’s called UNIVERSITY Grill.)

I feel it probably would have been nice to have a good Southern restaurant with downhome foods that would please the other side of the community along with Elon University. They have enough “chill” places in the heart of Elon, and I know for a fact that a lot of the Elon students from up North love a good and tasty home-cooked Southern meal. You would be hard pressed to find one that didn’t!

I truly do wish Eleni and her brothers the best of luck. They were brave to reach out for help, and I hope that all surrounding communities band together to support them in their journey. It’s a long road ahead of them, but I have a feeling they’re not going anywhere. Just call it a hunch from a Southern Foodie. *wink*

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26 Comments Add yours

  1. Well, at least it’s an experience to right down for memories and it gave you a very interesting blog. I’m sorry that he wasn’t all that wonderful, as it’s never fun when people one admires turn out to be, well, not so great. Maybe he really was just having a bad morning; who knows?

    Anyway, dear, YOU look great in the photo, and now you have another great story to tell friends and family when conversation time starts!! Plus, I enjoyed reading the blog.

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    1. Awwwww! Thanks, Beaux! I also can claim that I was on Food Network! ;) But, yes, maybe he was just having a bad day. One can hope that’s not how he is all the time. :) Thank you for reading, and I’m glad you enjoyed it, my friend. :)

      Like

  2. Janis says:

    As I read this, I am reliving the experience right there with you. It was an interesting day – an eye opening day. It was everything you describe with the exception of one thing – we had a good time in anticipation, enjoyed our time together, and I don’t think those pancakes at IHOP have EVER tasted that good! hahahahaha! Thank you for including me on yet another Foodie Adventure. I can’t wait for the next one! Love you!

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    1. It was quite a wonderful time despite the sourness. Those pancakes were amazing at IHOP that day!!! :) What are we doing next? :)

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    2. Treska says:

      What a great blog, Janis’ DD! I, too, am a huge foodie – just ask your Mom! I had no idea Chef Irvine was such a “fill in the blank here”. I sure do appreciate your sharing your experience. I can’t wait for the next one! BTW, your IHOP sounds a lot better than mine.

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      1. Thank you, Treska! Yeah…he caught us all off-guard I believe. That IHOP was probably the best IHOP we have ever had after that experience! ha!

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  3. John Robertson C.E.C says:

    Must be the steroids…..

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    1. Let’s just chalk it up to a bad day. I’d like to think the buffness is natural, John. :)

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  4. Jennifer says:

    The blog fits the experience to a tee. You couldn’t have written it any better. It was a great experience and very different. I am glad that I was able to experience this with you and hope that you invite me to future foodie events that are local. LOL :)

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    1. I am so glad you were able to join me! I’ll think of something for us to do next. ;)

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  5. Thanks for giving us the inside scoop, the real reality of this “reality” show. Ah what comes with getting ratings…

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    1. You’re welcome, Andrea! Truly was interesting seeing what the owners were asked to do just for ratings.

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  6. Bobbie2545 says:

    I’ve just stated reading your Blog and I’m enjoying it very much.
    Thanks,
    Bobbie♥

    Like

    1. Thank you, Bobbie! Welcome to The Onyx Plate! Make sure you subscribe to the blog to receive email updates. :)

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  7. Bobbie2545 says:

    Hi, and thanks for giving us your take on the show. I’m a friend of your Mom on Just Friends and the Pollies. I appreciate your taking the time to give us the inside story. He re-did a restaurant near where I live, It was Moss’ Steak House in Elyria,Oh. i haven’t been there since the make over,but think it’s still for sale…I do know that they went back to several items on the old menu.
    Thanks again,
    Bobbie♥

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    1. You’re welcome, Bobbie. A friend of Mom’s is a friend of mine. Yeah, University Grill brought back some of their old menu items already as well. It was a very interesting process. I hope that your restaurant, Moss’, will survive. Local restaurants are a dying breed nowadays.

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  8. Tommy says:

    Hi! Our restaurant will be featured on RI in February. Everything you said is so true! It was a horrible experience and Robert is a jerk! We’re looking forward to going on our local news programs and telling the truth of what really happens when the cameras are off.

    Like

    1. It’s quite sad how it is that way. Let me know what restaurant is yours, and I’ll check out the episode. I’ll be rooting for you and good luck! :) If you don’t want to put it on here, you can email it to me at theonyxplate@gmail.com. Take care!

      Like

  9. william says:

    Why do you capitalize the word “chef”? These people are nothing but tradespeople–cooks.

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  10. Mark says:

    I have never gotten the impression in watching anything starring Chef Irvine that he is anything but arrogant and rude, both to his staff and the people he is “helping.” And what is the Food Network thinking by giving him yet another new show? For God’s sake Robert, you’re a chef, get over yourself.

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    1. I saw the preview for the new show! Needless to say, it won’t be on my “must-see” list. I just wish I could have been more impressed with him, but I’m glad I’m not the only one. Thanks for commenting, Mark! :)

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  11. Kandice says:

    I came here (a couple years after the previous commenter lol) because of a theme on Chopped where Robert Irvine served as guest judge. They chose 3 chefs to compete against him to potentially win up to $40k. His attitude towards the female chef that won the 3rd spot was a little intimidating. He really came down hard on her and at the end, as she went to shake the judges hands after her win, the regular judges shook her hand and RI simply gave her the thumbs up and smirked. I thought that was a little rude. Also, he kept mentioning over and over again that they “might” go up against him. JEEZ dude, we know you’re the celebrity but you’re not Almighty! !He really got on my nerves. I was just checking to see if anyone else saw him the way that I now see him -ARROGANT!

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    1. Ha. You’re definitely not alone. I get at least one hit a day from someone googling “is Robert Irvine an ass”, so you are not alone. :). I always follow up conversations about Irvine with how genuinely nice Chef Gordon Ramsay is in person. That man is amazingly kind. Thanks for stopping by, Kandice! :)

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      1. Kandice says:

        It’s funny that GR is the kind one because you would think based on their respective shows, he would be the ass.

        Oh, and just to update about the Chopped Impossible episode that I referred to above, the follow up episode that decided the winner of the $40k showed that the young lady (Emily) BEAT THE PANTS off of Robert! Made me jump for joy!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ha! That’s perfect! He just appeared as a suggestion for me to follow on Instagram…I politely skipped him. :)

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    2. Tom says:

      I am watching a rerun of this whole competition.
      Chef Emily, who, ultimately, kicks Irvines butt, was a little shaken, at times but, held her own against someone she properly described as a bully who, on camera, tries very hard to be, seemingly, Yoda-esque like, be “encouraging ” Lesser mortals to rise to his level.
      Dude ….
      You cook food.
      With learned techniques.
      Upon which you can build through experience.
      Happens every day.
      Being a prima Donna is portrayed as being a necessity in this profession.
      I’ve known many great Chefs that were vastly kind and creative without the bullshit.
      Robert Irvine is an overblown shyster, bully who knows his way around a kitchen.
      His attitude simply fits the current trend of shows that are hugely negative regardless of the portrayed intent.
      And that’s key.
      It’s a portrayal.
      Not real.
      Set ups.
      Irvine’s an ass.
      Can flip an omelet, sure.
      Still …. an ass.

      Like

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