Celebrity Chef Robert Irvine is known for his tough-love approach helping restaurant owners turn around their failing businesses on his hit Food Network show Restaurant Impossible. But tonight he’s taking a softer approach. He’s preparing a three-course meal for Harris Teeter’s 30th Annual Chef’s Best at the Charlotte Convention Center.
The proceeds from the event will benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank. Speaking with WFAE, Irvine says as a military veteran this kind of charity has special meaning for him.
“Food banks are essential. They’re an essential part of America just like apple pie is. As I worked very closely with one in Las Vegas...I think 60-something percent of their food given out is for veterans and veterans' families," Irvine said.
"Some people can't afford food in our society. We’re not a third world country, we are America and it saddens me.”
Irvine says he grew up in a poor family in England. He knows what it’s like to be in need. He says support for agencies like food banks are needed now more than ever.
“You know, we all have a responsibility to make sure those that are less fortunate have opportunities and means and that’s what this is about tonight and what it’s about every day for me," Irvine said.
"By giving hope to somebody that has either lost their way or needs help financially, we can use our talent to be able to help those folks.”
For Irvine his cooking talent was harvested as a young man in the military. It was there that he decided to cook professionally, but that decision came with a cost.
"I became a cook and my dad did not like it. For two years, he did not talk to me because he thought it was beneath me," Irvine said. "Luckily before he passed away he got a chance to enjoy what I do and change his opinion."
Irvine said for many decades food service was looked down upon as a form of servitude, but a new generation of chefs have become rockstars due inpart to exposure from television.
"It's great to see young kids doing these TV shows like Chopped and Masters Junior. You ask a kid 5 - 10 years ago are you going to become a cook?"
"They'd probably laugh at you."
Irvine began cooking for the thousand-seat dinner this morning. He calls the menu a progression starting with a grilled shrimp salad, dry-aged rib eye for the entree and a lemon strawberry tart for dessert.
Irvine says this is what he was born to do -- cook and give back. After tonight’s event, he’s back to filming season 16 of Restaurant Impossible.