Robert Irvine may be best known as the star of the Food Network’s Restaurant Impossible, but beyond that, he runs an expansive business empire with 11 different companies, including shooting dozens of episodes for his various TV shows, all while maintaining a top-level of fitness. That comes despite being on the road 345 days a year, of which nearly half supports his foundation’s philanthropic efforts. A typical year finds him landing at military bases in the Middle East and small towns in the middle of nowhere. His latest book, Overcoming Impossible, is a must-read for anyone who enjoys practical advice. It’s chock with lessons he’s learned personally, including from helping hundreds of restaurant owners back from the brink of failure.
One thing you shouldn’t bother asking Irvine about is where he likes to go on vacation. It turns out that isn’t on his busy agenda, at least for the time being. “I went to Bali once, and after two days, I was bored,” he said. However, that could change in the future. During a brief interview, the former military cook displays some of how he has applied life’s lessons to create a successful business career. “Years and years ago, I told a certain individual with five assistants, ‘You’re just lazy. We don’t need that.’ Here I am today, using the same systems.”
Another key tool for Irvine is private aviation. He says, “I can finish a show and be home in a couple of hours or onto my next location. We have companies from restaurants to food and nutrition. We have nearly 5,000 employees. There is a plant in Pittsburgh. If I talk about Restaurant Impossible, it’s in every state and small town. There are over 95,000 locations that sell my retail products. Time is my enemy. Private aviation allows me to travel to places I couldn’t get to without multiple stops.”
Like many people, Irvine’s entrée into private jets came because of a need.
The top chef recalled, “After a food event in Houston I was supposed to get to Washington DC for a charity dinner; they shut down the airports. I told my assistant the cost doesn’t matter. I need to be there. And it was $23,000. I’m like, okay, I need to do it because I need to be there. I got to the dinner, and it really gave me a different perspective on the value of my time.”
Since then, he joined Wheels Up as a Core member, although his pathway was a little different than most of the members. He had previously partnered with the private jet provider’s CMO, Lee Applbaum, when he was in a similar position at Patron. Irvine says corporate responsibility was a key factor in choosing a New York-based flight provider: “My partnership with Wheels Up is not only to get from point A to B, but they do so many great things philanthropically.”
In terms of the book, Irvine draws from his own training. A chapter titled “Mise en Place,” a French expression, seeks to show the importance of regimented preparation. Culinary students are taught to measure out each ingredient and have it ready to be incorporated into the dish before cooking begins. Irvine says in poorly run restaurants; these steps are skipped.
Irvine believes, “So many business owners address only the most pressing concerns of the day – putting out fires – when basic daily preparation can stop most of the fires from ever starting.”
Of the book, he says, “If you make it fun for people, they will learn more and retain the information.”
Oh, and how does Irvine maintain his viable fitness despite his crazy schedule? He says he tries to stay at hotels within 30 minutes of a gym that offers daily access, adding, “If there are no gyms available, I use bands. There is no excuse not to work out. In a hotel room, you can use the bed. You can use chairs, and you can use the floor. Put a band around the back of a chair and do arm curls. I also carry eight-pound weights, and you can laugh, but eight-pound weights can do the trick. Or if you can’t bring weights, get cans of baked beans. There’s no excuse.”