Best known for his role as the steely biceped, no-nonsense chef who rehabs failing family restaurants on the Food Network’s “Restaurant: Impossible,” British-born Robert Irvine is first and foremost an entrepreneur. He started his cooking career at 15, when he enrolled in the British Navy. He now appears on several Food Network shows, has a line of protein bars, a restaurant in South Carolina, a forthcoming book, and a partnership with Comcast, where he appeared in Manchester, N.H. We wondered how much time he spends at the gym (less than you think) and how restaurants do after he’s left the building (according to him, very well, thank-you).
Q. What do you do after a “Restaurant: Impossible” show wraps?
A. I stay in contact with every business we have ever touched. We are 86 percent successful. Example: One contestant, Stacey Poon-Kinney, went from $500,000 a year in sales to $1.2 million. People love it, and social media and technology tell me, because they police it.
Q. What is your typical advice to restaurateurs?
A. You’ve got to look at yourself, and you’ve got to look at your business, and sometimes you don’t like what you see. But you can’t mask over it, because nine out of 10 times it’s going to cost either you or your family. Don’t keep plodding on if you know it’s bad. If you think it can be saved, look at your business in a different light. And if you are doing well? Great! Put money away, because you won’t be doing well forever. And invest in technology that’s right for your business.
Q. How is technology going to affect restaurants in the future?
A. Tablet solutions for menus, which a lot of people do badly. You have to train your servers to interact with guests. Inventory: There will be no more paper; technology will show you what’s missing and what’s not. Technology is happening whether we like it or not and mom-and-pop enterprises that want to survive are going to have to embrace it.
Q. How do you balance your love of delicious food and healthy living?
A. I’ve gotten a lot better. I used to love steak and french fries with blue cheese. If you’ve got a restaurant you can have it every night, and I used to. But eventually it’s going catch up with you. On the road I try to eat healthy. I do a lot of room temperature salads with a hot protein, some haricots verts, or asparagus, and an acidic vinaigrette.
Q. Why did you develop FIT Crunch protein bars?
A. My kids would never eat breakfast, they’d never get up early enough. They are 13 and 16. It took me a year to develop, because I wanted it to taste good and be healthy.
Q. What do your teenagers like to eat?
A. They love for me to cook and do chicken and healthy stuff, but I also love to take them everywhere. I’ve always taken them out. I wanted them to experience things, try something different.
Q. Do you cook together at home?
‘You’ve got to look at yourself, and you’ve got to look at your business, and sometimes you don’t like what you see. But you can’t mask over it, because nine out of 10 times it’s going to cost either you or your family.’
A. The idea is to cook with your kids, clean with your kids, and have fun. There is a connection between food, fitness, and family. You’ve got to carve time out, especially now with mom and dad both working, the world has changed.
Q. How many hours a day do you spend in the gym?
A. I don’t believe you have to spend any more than 45 minutes. If you are going in to talk to your girlfriends and do your hair and gossip that’s one thing. But if you are really going to work out hard, that’s all you need. Fifteen minutes of hard cardio, then half an hour focusing on one body part a day. I use very light weights, but lots of reps. I do not believe in heavy weights, no more than 25 pounds on either side.Interview was condensed and edited. Catherine Smart can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.