South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Robert Irvine tackles new show, ‘Restaurant Express’

British chef Robert Irvine.
British chef Robert Irvine.
Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images

Judging by Robert Irvine’s chiseled physique, you pretty much know instantly this guy doesn’t shy away from a challenge. Whether it’s lifting weights or aiding failing restaurants, the super muscular chef likes to be front and center, literally sweating it out.

The Restaurant Impossible star likes doing things for other people, even at his own expense.

With Irvine’s new Food Network series Restaurant Express, premiering at 9 p.m. Nov. 3, the 49-year-old Brit heads to Las Vegas to give nine chefs a chance of fulfilling their lifelong dream of launching their own place. The winner gets the sweet executive-chef spot at M Resort Spa Casino.

In February, Irvine will hop into the South Beach Wine & Food Festival fray, attending numerous events including the always entertaining Fun and Fit as a Family at Jungle Island. We spoke to the Tampa-based television personality from his second home, the road.

You’ve helped so many businesses with your show “Restaurant Impossible.” That must make it feel good to wake up in the morning.

You know, it does. I also am involved in a lot of charity work. Doing something good doesn’t cost anything. I’m blessed with very special people in my life, like my wife [he married pro wrestler Gail Kim last year]. I feel like you want to do something for someone else each day so you’re worth breathing air on this planet.

It seems like you are always moving around. Do you ever sit still?

I really don’t have much down time. I’m literally going one place to the other. I’m either on a plane or a bus or a car going from location to location. I try to catch up on sleep on planes. I first have to see if I’m on the right flight [laughs] then usually I tried to close my eyes, and someone comes over, ‘Mr. Irvine, can we take a picture?’ I think fans know me from the back of my head!

What do fans usually say to you?

Oh I get everyone, from dishwashers to a woman asking me how to lose baby weight to a couple trying to keep their marriage working. I’m a tough guy and I give straight, down and dirty answers. Some people can handle it, some people can’t. I think they know I’m a good guy.

Obviously, you must make time for the gym.

I do. I have to. It’s really important because a workout keeps me energized and focused. You know, stress is a killer and with my pace...I usually do about an hour of quality chest work, then about 20 to 30 minutes of cardio. I try to get outside with my girls [daughters Annalise, 16, and Talia 12, from a previous relationship]. You don’t want them sitting inside and letting the computer be the babysitter. Nothing can replace the one-on-one time you get with your kids.

Have they inherited your love of food?

They have. They’re just not mac and cheese and chicken fingers. They just came back from Paris and were eating snails! I used to shop for food with them when they were little. Kids listen if you make education fun.

Madeleine Marr

Tickets go on sale for the SoBe Wine & Food Fest beginning Monday at or 877-762-3933.

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