Robert Irvine, if that is your name

I believe we’ve touched briefly upon Dinner: Impossible on the podcast before. I quite enjoyed the first few episodes, with its reality-tv-like challenges, but presumably with a proven chef at the helm etc.

As time went on, I ditched its Season Pass from the Tivo, because the challenges didn’t really become more interesting, and the more I saw of Robert, the less charismatic he became. The best part of the show was trying to figure out exactly what the producers said to the people who were Bob’s primary contact to get them to feel comfortable giving the man grief.

“Okay, now ignore the fact that he’s got a neck bigger than your thigh, is 2 feet taller than you, and that he’s carrying a knife that could go through you and your closest friends if you were all standing one-in-front-of-the-other. He’s a pussycat; he really is. Besides, we have people standing by with Tasers, and he knows it, so it’s cool. So, what I need you to do right now is to say that the bread that he’s making right now is about as weak, and you’ll want to use these exact words, is about as weak as his mother was last night after she thanked you for the best time she’s had since the 60s. No, no, I swear, we do this all the time. It’s good natured ribbing, and we’re very quick with the tasers.”
Something like that, I’d imagine.

In any case, Robby’s going through a bit of trouble. According to the St. Petersburg Times (the one in Florida, not the one in Russia), Chef Bob has made a few things up about his past career. Cooking for Queens and Presidents? Not so much. I mean, kinda, if you squint, it looks a little like it, but not actually, you know, being the Chef in charge, as one might imagine. Being a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order would be really cool, if it were true. Not just any Knight, mind you, but the highest level of Knight. The Super-Knight, if you will.

The St. Pete Times asked around and did some interviewing, and all of their comments are available in the links. For my part, I can’t be bothered to call people up about a controversy that’s months old, so I did the easy bit of research. The bit that even the Food Network could have done with no trouble, had they been of a mind.

If you check his résumé, you’ll note that there’s a bit on there that says, “Recipient of the James Beard Award, 2005-2006.” It’s right at the top of the Awards and Honors section. So I went to the James Beard web site and did a search for Irvine. Irvine Beard Search.pngThere’s nothing. I check for Alton Brown, just to make sure the search works, and I see that he won an award for his first cookbook and was nominated for at least one more. You could check this yourself, but the James Beard folk just modified their web site , and now the award search is broken. It should be up soon, though. Well, I say soon, but it’s been down for weeks now, so maybe not.

So, if I were a proper reporter, I’d call up the James Beard folks and ask if they had any idea what he meant. I mean, after all, it’s possible that he was working at some restaurant where he was executive chef, and the restaurant won the award, or something like that. Something where he may have won the award, but not had his name attached to it. I’ve done much the same. But on my resume, when it says that I won the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences award, it mentions the year and the name of the product that I worked on that won the award, which is conveniently listed in the list of projects section of the resume. That makes it easy to verify.

However, I’m not a reporter, so it’s all gossip gossip gossip gossip gossip gossip gossip.

In any case, The Food Network has decided to go with someone else for the next season of Dinner: Impossible, and they’ve pulled his bio from the site. Interestingly, there’s been a fan-backlash, with people saying they don’t care how much he lied, they like him on the show. They’ve even started an Internet Petition to bring him back, because, you know, internet petitions work. People will post to comments on articles about his lies and complain that people are being mean to him. And, yes, we are being mean to him, but that’s what he gets. Not necessarily what he gets for lying, though that’s part of it. That’s what he gets for being famous.

There are upsides and downsides to fame, and one of the down sides is that people are going to examine what you have said. If something seems suspicious, they’ll pounce. And if it seems as if everything that you said in order to get your Big Break was a tissue of fibs, then people are not only going to find out and tell other people, they’re going to delight in doing so. That’s one of the reasons that Alton Brown is obsessively cautious about what he does by way of sponsorship. It’s why Anthony Bourdain can be a rude, fowl-mouthed, and generally unpleasant person, but not have the sorts of troubles that Irvine has: because he’s genuinely rude, fowl-mouthed, and unpleasant. You know what you’re going to get going in with Bourdain, and he certainly delivers.

So the upside of it is that Iron Chef New Guy, Michael Simon, apparently has some time in his schedule between appearances on Iron Chef, so he’ll be taking over the helm. I’m not convinced that this is entirely proper behavior for an Iron Chef, but hey, it’s better than posing for cheesecake photos.