By Mackenna Cummings
Robert Irvine, celebrity chef and fitness inspiration, has become well known for his work on the Food Network Channel and restaurants everywhere from Vegas to the Pentagon.
He champions for healthy eating and living, and for all current and past members of the military, having served in the Royal British Navy himself for 10 years. And now he is taking on even more to aid military members and veterans.
While visiting a military base, Irvine usually keeps things upbeat, using the time to encourage and celebrate their service. However, on a recent visit in the last year (Irvine kept things unspecified for the sake of privacy), he was approached by a service member who was contemplating ending his life. This inspired Irvine to work with the Voice Awards, a program that recognizes and honors individuals making a difference in mental health and substance abuse through education, accessibility, and support.
Veterans and active duty service members make up around 20 percent of the suicides that happen every year in the United States, and Irvine says one of the biggest problems facing both active duty men and women and veterans is that they are afraid to ask for help. Recognizing the people making a difference and providing help is a key resource in helping members of the military find and reach out to the right people.
The Voice Awards has a unique platform and is able to tell real stories of people who received help and highlight the best resources and opportunities by recognizing and awarding their success. This can have a powerful impact on anyone struggling and encourage them to reach out for support. It also works to bring awareness and education, two other aspects Irvine appreciates about the program.
While it is clear that he has passion for universally aiding veterans, his newest goal is to provide anything “that has to do that gives them a better equality at life. You know we think about the services that are tangible, we all want to help and do that, but what about the things that are not tangible; we don’t know what post-traumatic stress looks like, we don’t know how these other things that they have look like—there’s no face. So, I think that’s why I’m involved; I’m helping them find those resources in the range of things that spoke to me.”
This year, Irvine hosted the Voice Awards and does not want to end his partnership with them. He hopes to find a network to host the awards show on to reach a bigger audience. As a veteran himself, he is well aware of the realities that veterans face and hopes to be a source of positivity of what the other side of serving can look like.
Irvine recognizes the difficulties of bringing the awareness to larger audiences, but he does not let these negative aspects discourage him from seeing a bigger picture to the work he and those he partners with are doing. “If we can make a difference, one person at a time, then we are doing something,” he says.
Irvine has come a long way and continuously ties his abilities as a chef to accomplish a multitude of things. He got his start in a home economics course while he was still young, and that was all it took to push him toward his career as a chef. In the beginning of his career, it was all about the food. He cooked for multiple venues, beginning with the Royal British Navy where he mastered his skills for 10 years and then for everything from cruise ships to casinos, learning more about why he loved being a chef along the way.
Irvine hosts several shows on the Food Network Channel, including Restaurant: Impossible and Dinner: Impossible, and has inspired and helped hundreds maintain restaurants and manage their culinary skills and desires. And it is through these projects that Irvine has come to realize his skills in making food are not what is most important. While the food is still a key ingredient to what Irvine does and every part of his work, it has become secondary to the way food can bring people together and break barriers.
Irvine has managed to help people all over through his passions as a chef and determination to use those skills in service to others. When discussing how he has grown as a chef, he says, “For me, it was all about food, and now, it’s about helping people. Food is the conduit to helping people.” And there is no doubt he has helped. He is working to bring better tasting and fresher meals to the Military by partnering with Sodexo. He stays in touch with the restaurant owners, who he helps on his show Restaurant: Impossible, to give advice and support long after the filming has finished. He has authored cookbooks and owns restaurants himself as well.
Irvine takes his cooking skills to military benefit events and programs, most recently inviting several serving military men and women to engage in an ice cream sundae eating challenge at a celebratory reception for Walmart’s grant to Hire Heroes USA. Even while focusing on helping and doing his job, he manages to bring an element of fun and joy to everything he engages with as a chef.
Irvine lives to support people using food and cooking as a means to communicate and bring together all the right people for the best way to move forward.
It is clear to see that Robert Irvine is much more than a chef, although he insists he’s a simple guy. It doesn’t end with the shows on the Food Network, which he hosts and loves, or his restaurants. Irvine is an unstoppable force of determination and support for everyone he encounters.
He recently opened one of his Fresh Kitchen restaurants in the Pentagon, providing the best food for the people who serve our country, and it has found great success. He also recently opened his restaurant Public House in Las Vegas, to which he invited active duty service members to be the first guests. The menu is inspired by Irvine’s travels all over the world, travels he finds time to take when he’s not hosting several shows, running the Robert Irvine Foundation, managing his protein bar business, and his restaurants. Not only is Irvine incredibly busy, but he seems to strike gold with every project he puts his efforts toward.
His protein bar, FIT Crunch, has been well received, voted best-tasting fitness protein bar by Bodybuilding.com and is loved for its taste as well as nutrition. He has his own live show, Robert Irvine Live, which has been praised for its innovation and entertainment. The show is not a traditional cooking show to instruct, but rather an entertaining and engaging show that challenges the audience (literally) to lead fit and healthy lives.
Irvine is much more than a chef; he is an entrepreneur who has found a way to support an important community. He is open about speaking up for supporting the military, mental health, and using food to bring the people who can make a difference together. With every project, show, product, and restaurant Irvine has, he ensures to give back and help the military, among many others. His success is constantly going into his foundation, which does so much for every member of the military, from supporting financial costs of making their homes accessible if they have injuries, to (of course) serving food, and bringing awareness so others can also use their skills to help. Irvine says, “I created the Robert Irvine Foundation to serve as the cornerstone of everything I do. All of my shows, products and partnerships support my mission to grow the Foundation.”
With all of these accolades, this self-described simple man proves that you can always find a way to use your passions and skills in the service of other people. Irvine’s actions, passion, and voice are doing incredible things to bring awareness and aid to members of the military and the issues they face. To learn more about what he does or how you can help, visit: robertirvinefoundation.org/
If you or a loved one is facing a crisis, please call 1-800-273-8255 or visit veteranscrisisline.net/ for ways to chat online or via text.