Celebrity TV Chef Robert Irvine Reportedly Fired Over Spiced-Up Resume

Mar 17, 2006

Celebrity TV Chef Robert Irvine Reportedly Fired Over Spiced-Up Resume

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Food Network plans to drop celebrity chef Robert Irvine, host of "Dinner: Impossible," from the cable channel's lineup for cooking up a resume with plenty of garnish but light on honest ingredients, according to reports on several online news sites.

Irvine had boasted that he was a graduate of the University of Leeds and had cooked for Princess Diana. Those and other claims were embellishments at best, according to a report Feb. 17 in the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.

News of the the newspaper's investigation spread, and on Friday the cable network issued a statement that was disseminated by reporters covering the food and entertainment industry.

Jeff Houck reprinted the statement on his blog, The Stew, on TBO.com in Tampa, Fla.:

"We looked into the situation and found that, as Robert as already admitted, there were some embellishments and inaccuracies in his resume," Food Network President Brooke Johnson is quoted as saying. "The few and minor incidents of the inclusion of these embellishments into 'Dinner Impossible' have been removed.

"The show is, and has always been, completely accurate in the depiction of the cooking challenges faced by Robert. We will continue airing both old shows and the new season of programs currently in production. We have not renewed Robert’s contract for future seasons but will fulfill our contractual obligations."

The network also released a statement from Irvine:

“I was wrong to exaggerate in statements related to my experiences regarding the Royal Family. ... I am truly sorry for the errors in my judgment," Irvine said, as quoted on Houck's blog.
Mar 17, 2006

TV chef spiced up his past exploits
Robert Irvine plans to bring fine dining to St. Petersburg, but his tales have soured relationships.
By Ben Montgomery, Times Staff Writer
Published February 17, 2008


Celebrity chef Robert Irvine blew into town two years ago with the panache of royalty, the ego of a TV star and a plan to turn St. Petersburg into "the next Monaco."

He was about to launch a show on the Food Network, Dinner: Impossible, and was writing a cookbook. Soon the muscle-bound Brit was downing oysters, clinking glasses and telling incredible tales.

He was a knight. He owned a castle in Scotland. He had cooked for presidents and royalty and was pals with Prince Charles.

Robert Irvine's magnum opus - side-by-side restaurants called Ooze and Schmooze - was supposed to redefine upscale dining.

The restaurants would open with 7,000 square feet at the base of a sparkling condominium tower at 400 Beach Drive, a crepe toss from sailboats lolling on Vinoy Basin. He promised chef's tasting menus, polished personal service and 100 wines.

Everyone bought it.

* * *

It is now three months past the planned opening. Look through those windows, past the giant posters of chef Robert Irvine, and you'll see a dirt floor, exposed pipes, lonely ladders.

Irvine's relationships have soured like month-old milk. His Web site consultant claims he owes her thousands. His restaurant designer has backed out. His interior decorator is suing him.

Another woman, St. Petersburg socialite Wendy LaTorre, says Irvine owes her more than $100,000 for marketing and promotions and for helping him find property.

She met him at a 2006 charity auction, and was taken with the big man with the British accent. She introduced Irvine to an elite circle who saw financial opportunity in his rising celebrity.

Early in their friendship, she asked how he wished to be introduced.

"He said, 'Sir Robert Irvine, Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order,'" she recalled. "He said there were five levels of knights, and KCVO is the highest level of knight you could be. The queen handpicks you."

Irvine repeated the claim several times. No one questioned it.

The St. Petersburg Times photographed him in June surrounded by swooning women, with the headline "Knight moves."

Some of his moves were odd.

"We went out one night and hit several restaurants," said Paul Guillaume, of Professional Restaurants in Sarasota. "He was flat-out rude. At one of the restaurants, he told the waiter, 'That was absolutely horrible! Get me the chef! What is this?'"

At Salt Rock Grill in Indian Rocks, Irvine ordered oysters and asked for a mignonette sauce. When the waiter couldn't produce it, Irvine ordered the ingredients brought to the table, and prepared the sauce himself.

In early 2007, LaTorre heard that Irvine had been asking for financing for the restaurants. She thought he had plenty of money.

"I asked him why he was asking ... for money, and he said, 'It's none of your freaking business,'" she recalled. "He was upset. ... And then the house of cards began to fall."

By December, Irvine had canceled his lease on his St. Pete Beach condo. He had stopped returning phone calls, several of his contacts said. And he was scarcely seen in St. Petersburg.

What had happened? Who was Sir Robert Irvine?

* * *

Robert Irvine's tales are difficult to verify.

Here is what is known:

He is an excellent chef.

He is the star of Dinner: Impossible, a hit show in its second season on the Food Network.

HarperCollins published his cookbook and biography, Mission: Cook!, in 2007.

He lives in Abescon, N.J., in a modestly priced house with his wife and two children.

Beyond that, it's hard to separate truth from fiction.

Reached on the phone, Irvine said he only had a few minutes. He said he was angry.

Irvine's bio on his own Web page lists a B.S. degree in food and nutrition from the University of Leeds.


"That was a program set up through the Royal Navy," Irvine said. Then he paused. "We don't call it a bachelor's of science."

Sarah Spiller, a press officer at the University of Leeds: "We cannot find any connection in our records between Robert and the university."

Irvine claims in his book to have worked on the wedding cake for Prince Charles and Princess Diana, a claim he repeated to a number of locals.

"It was an English fruitcake that weighed over 360 pounds," he told the Toronto Sun. "I worked on these elaborate side panels, which told the history of the royal Windsor and Spencer families - in icing!"


"I was at the school when that was happening," he said. "They made the cake at the school where I was."

Did he help make it?

"Picking fruit and things like that."

And his table manners?

"I have never berated a chef in my life," Irvine said. "If somebody asked me what you liked and what you didn't like, I'd tell them. Not to belittle anybody, but to make it better."

What about that knighthood?

Jenn Stebbing, press officer at Buckingham Palace: "He is not a KCVO Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order and he wasn't given a castle by the queen of England."

Irvine admits that.

"When I first came down there and I met people down there with all this money, it was like trying to keep up with the Joneses. I was sitting in a bar one night and that came out. It was stupid."

He said he tried to stop the story from spreading.

Nevertheless, Irvine's restaurant designer, Paul Guillaume says Irvine asked him to create a shadow box to display his royal uniform, which looked like a Three Musketeers costume.

Irvine's resume notes he has received a Five Star Diamond Award (not to be confused with AAA's five diamonds or Mobil's five stars) from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences for several consecutive years. But as Radar magazine pointed out last year, the "academy" is housed in a Manhattan apartment, and recipients pay for the honor.

As a trustee of the award, Irvine has given out several. He tried to award one to Walter Scheib, the White House executive chef from 1994 to 2005. Scheib refused.

"His award seems to be available to anyone willing to post it on the wall," Scheib wrote in an e-mail to the Times.

Irvine has been identified in several newspapers as a White House chef.

Scheib: "Irvine's ONLY connection with the White House is through the Navy Mess facility in the West Wing ... never in the period from 4/4/94 until 2/4/05 did he have ANYTHING to do with the preparation, planning, or service of any State Dinner or any other White House Executive Residence food function, public or private."

Asked to explain, Irvine said he trained military cooks at the White House.

Did he also serve presidents and heads of state, as several of his bios note?

"I cannot talk about that," he said. "I can't talk about it because it's the White House."

He is not friends with Prince Charles.

* * *

Irvine's business partner, J. Randall Williams, said the misinformation "has nothing to do with him opening a restaurant. All of these elements are unfortunate and irrelevant, but they're just noise."

What's not is a lawsuit filed by Susan Nice, a St. Petersburg interior decorator. Nice claims Irvine breached a contract when he opted to use another interior designer after hiring her.

Late last year, after LaTorre confronted Irvine, he stopped returning calls to acquaintances.

That includes Monica Taylor, who helped plan his Web site. She says Irvine owes her and her partner about $10,000.

Paul Guillaume, the designer, has been paid, but dropped the project when others were not. "When I see people going down this route, I back out."

Irvine's business partner wouldn't talk about Nice's lawsuit. "Everybody ... involved in the restaurant is up to date," Williams said. "Robert is not interested in avoiding any obligations at all. What I'm trying to do is gather all of these claims and figure out what's real and what's not real, and it's difficult because everyone is claiming to have agreements with Robert."

Irvine says he was pressured into starting the restaurants by LaTorre. He says he wanted a much smaller restaurant, and could have afforded a smaller place without financial backers.

"Wendy is a very, very intense woman. She'll say things and I'll go yeah, yeah, yeah, and then she'd just go with it."

Irvine says LaTorre was working on her own and he never expected to pay her until she demanded a cut.

"It's almost like I'm being held hostage," Irvine said. "I get a pain in my gut any time I hear this woman's name."

* * *

The sign in front of the empty restaurants suggests Ooze and Schmooze will open this spring, though experts say it will take at least six months.

Irvine has found a new backer, Orion Communities in Clearwater. But he also has had second thoughts.

"I just don't want to go into a negative environment," he said. "To me it's sad that I'm trying to do something good for the area."

LaTorre still has two of Irvine's white chef jackets in a closet. In her desk is a resume she made for him. At the bottom, in bold letters, is a quote from Irvine:

My passion is to reach beyond inspiration - to be spectacularly creative.

Researcher Shirl Kennedy and staff writers Janet Keeler and Laura Reiley contributed to this report. Ben Montgomery can be reached at bmontgomery@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8650.
Mar 17, 2006

A Possible New Show For Robert Irvine, “Dinner: Canceled”
Posted Feb 29, 2008 at 10:48 PM
Updated Mar 02, 2008 at 08:59 AM

Two weeks ago, St. Petersburg Times writer (and former Tampa Tribune reporter) Ben Montgomery broke the story that Robert Irvine, star of the Food Network show ”Dinner: Impossible” had padded his resume and, generally, acted like an arse in the Tampa Bay area while portraying himself as being on the verge of opening two restaurants in downtown St. Pete. The spaces for those restaurants, named Ooze and Schmooze, remain vacant on Beach Drive, despite more than a year of pronouncements of impending openings. (He did so with me as recently as September during my Table Conversations podcast interview with him.)

Soon after the Times story, Food Network yanked Irvine’s bio from FoodNetwork.com and redacted a few pronouncements from the intro of the show. Irvine also was scheduled to appear at the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival last weekend in Miami Beach, but became chef non grata at the event and canceled at the last minute.

Even Anthony Bourdain, a former Food Network personality who has since become one of the network’s fiercest critics while vaulting to success as host of the Travel Channel series “No Reservations,” joked about Irvine on his blog.

Bourdain posted from the SoBe festival about his bestowing of the dubious Golden Clog food awards with writer Michael Ruhlman. In that post, he mentions that the Food Network actively campaigned for their stars not to attend the makeshift ceremony. (Only Rocco DiSpirito and Aaron Sanchez did.)

Bourdain wrote:

“My other concern, of course, is that Robert (Dinner Inconvenient) Irvine, deranged by his suddenly disappearing [online] biographies and his rudely canceled event, will somehow focus some hormone-fueled rage on ... me - and wrap his tiny little hands around my neck while flexing those oversized guns. My brains would squeeze out of the top of my head like toothpaste coming out of the tube …”

Irvine is still making appearances, including taping an episode of the show Wednesday night in Washington D.C. at the Pink Tie fundraiser for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The Washington Post reports that the press was kept very far away from Irvine as he prepared dinner for 250 guests.

At a about 12:15 p.m. today, Food Network spokeswoman Lisa DelColle e-mailed me a statement by network president Brooke Johnson saying that Irvine will finish the rest of the production schedule but will be replaced as host at the end of the season:

“We looked into the situation and found that, as Robert as already admitted, there were some embellishments and inaccuracies in his resume. The few and minor incidents of the inclusion of these embellishments into “Dinner Impossible” have been removed. The show is, and has always been, completely accurate in the depiction of the cooking challenges faced by Robert. We will continue airing both old shows and the new season of programs currently in production. We have not renewed Robert’s contract for future seasons but will fulfill our contractual obligations. We rely on the trust that our viewers have in the accuracy of the information we present, and Robert challenged that trust. We appreciate Robert’s remorse about his actions, and we can revisit this decision at the end of the production cycle, but for now we will be looking for a replacement host.”

The network also released a statement from Irvine that read:

“I was wrong to exaggerate in statements related to my experiences regarding the Royal Family. I am proud of my work while serving in the Royal Navy and on board the Royal Yacht Britannia, also as part of the Guest Chef program in the White House with the United States Navy, in addition to my culinary accomplishments. I should have stood on those accomplishments alone, without embellishment. I remain committed and enthusiastic about my work with Food Network and other future endeavors. I am truly sorry for the errors in my judgment. To all my family, friends and loyal fans, I will work tirelessly to regain your trust and continue to use my show and life to benefit the less fortunate.”


Light-skinned, with no Negro dialect.
Feb 11, 2006
Washington D.C.
This was the big British guy?

Never liked him.

Biff Hardslab

I have the t-shirt
Jan 15, 2007
Who cares? His show is entertaining.
Because bullshit artists need to be called out on it. I care. Quit giving these liars and phonys a pass.

It sucks that he felt he had to lie in order to get respect on a cooking show. I love watching his show and seeing how he pulls off these challenges. But now he has stank on him. I can't respect a liar. Once I find an entertainer that I really liked being full of shit or not what they say they are, I'm not interested anymore.

That said, I've cooked two of his recipies "Pepper Crusted Corned Beef in a Bag with Honey Mustard Sauce" and "Peanut Butter and Jelly Donut Sandwiches" and they are fucking great. Especially the PB&J donuts.

Mother Shucker

I'm over here now.
Oct 13, 2004
Your Mom's box.
Uh, he is a cooking show host, not a brain surgeon. OK, the douche bag lied, but who really gives a flying fuck?
Mar 17, 2006
Who cares? His show is entertaining.
Uh, he is a cooking show host, not a brain surgeon. OK, the douche bag lied, but who really gives a flying fuck?
Exactly. Make him apologize (which he did), make him do some "Acts of Contrition" and get on with life.

Unless, of course, his ratings aren't good and they weren't planning on re-upping his contract, and this gives Food Network and out.


Registered User
Feb 20, 2005
he added nothing to that channel anyways...fuck 'em


So now everyone gets fired for padding their resume?


What dimension did I wake up in?