Irvine brings the truth and takes the abuse in Season 14 of ‘Restaurant: Impossible’


‘Restaurant: Impossible’ … but not hopeless

Robert Irvine

Note to restaurant owners: If Robert Irvine is in your establishment, make sure your host is attentive and your bathrooms are clean. Those are the first things he notices.

“The bathrooms should be as clean as your kitchen …,” the British-born chef, restaurateur and host of Food Network’s “Restaurant: Impossible” explains. “It sets the tone for the restaurant – the way the cooks look, the way the servers look, the way they talk to you, the way the host is when you walk in the door. Is she chewing gum? Is she on the phone? You know, all these things that when you’re in a public service – and a restaurant is a public service – from the moment you walk up to this place, the host is the first person you see and the last person you see. And I rarely get met with somebody who’s not chewing gum, which drives me crazy by the way.”

Now back and in its 14th season after a three-year hiatus, the Saturday series finds Irvine returning for more adventures in rescuing failing eateries, helping frazzled restaurateurs in California and Arizona fix issues with their food, cleanliness, management, leadership and attitude in the span of 48 hours and with a budget of $10,000.

And while Irvine was reluctant to get into specifics about the individual cases this season, he will admit that viewers will see a lot of heightened emotion as people who are in danger of losing their homes, health and even families vent their frustrations and sometimes abuse on Irvine, who knows to not take it personally.

“All I do is listen,” he says. “It’s no good me getting agitated at them because they’re in the fearful position of losing X amount of money a year, their family is suffering, their business is suffering, their health is suffering. And as a natural reaction, I presume – or I have been for 13 seasons – that people want help but they don’t want help. You know, when you go in and start judging their food, their management, their leadership, the cleanliness on top of what they’re going through in a different light than their own, they don’t like it.”

One owner this season was a particularly tough nut to crack.

“It took me and her husband more so than me, to talk her off the ledge and say, ‘Listen, you want help? You’re half a million dollars in debt. What are we going to do?’ And I said to her husband, ‘Hey, if I walk out of here, what’s going to happen with your restaurant?’ And he said, ‘Well, it closes and that’s it.’ So then she kind of agreed reluctantly until another six hours later (when) she became really calm and then started to listen.”

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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