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Food world parses resume

Culinary circles buzz over revelations about a TV chef with plans for St. Petersburg.

By Laura Reiley, Times Staff Writer
Published February 19, 2008


Robert Irvine, star of Food Network's Dinner: Impossible, prepares a dish during last year's Titanium Chef Challenge at the first Tampa Bay Wine and Food Festival at the Don Cesar Beach Resort.
photo
[Scott Keeler | Times (2007)]
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photo
[Scott Keeler | Times]
Chef Robert Irvine's photos are posted on the windows of retail space in a new St. Petersburg building where Irvine's restaurants, Ooze and Schmooze, were scheduled to open this spring.

A world of foodies, from bloggers to Food Network executives, mobilized on Monday to divine the truth about celebrity chef and would-be St. Petersburg restaurateur Robert Irvine, whose boasts of knighthood and friendship with Prince Charles were debunked in an article Sunday in the St. Petersburg Times.

Irvine, who plans to open side-by-side Beach Drive restaurants called Ooze and Schmooze, is also contending with business contacts who say he misled or didn't pay them.

The fallout from Sunday's story, headlined "TV chef spiced up his past exploits":

- The Food Network, which airs Irvine's show, Dinner: Impossible, pulled his biography and celebrity chef status from its Web site, though a page about the show still appears there.

"It's unfortunate if Robert embellished the extent of his culinary experiences," Food Network spokeswoman Lisa Del Colle wrote. "We are investigating the matter and taking the necessary steps to ensure the accuracy of all representations of Robert on Food Network and foodnetwork.com."

She wouldn't comment further.

- Dave Avery, the chef responsible for baking Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles' wedding cake, questioned Irvine's claim that he helped create the cake.

Irvine - who has said he has part of the frozen wedding cake in his freezer - describes his involvement in his 2007 book, Mission: Cook!: "Earlier work landed me a coveted spot at the Royal School of Cookery and found me assigned to a special detail that aided in the construction of the cake for the royal wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer."

In an e-mail to the Times, Avery wrote: "Robert Irvine may have been a trainee student at the Royal Naval Cookery School whilst I was making the royal wedding cake. He most certainly was not involved with me in making or baking the cake. I did make two identical wedding cakes, just in case of accidents. The second cake I cut up and distributed to all the trainees in the Naval Cookery School. So, there is a possibility that he may have a piece of that one. It would only be about an inch-square finger of cake."

- The controversy was picked up by Chowhound.com, a site "for those who love to eat." Readers added their own Irvine tales.

The fates of Ooze and Schmooze are uncertain; Irvine's partner J. Randall Williams did not return calls. Former Bern's partner Jeannie Pierola said she visited the space on Monday, then called the Realtor to see if it is available.

No, she was told, Irvine's restaurants are still coming in.

Laura Reiley can be reached at lreiley@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2293. Times staff writers Ben Montgomery and Chris Sherman contributed to this report.

[Last modified February 19, 2008, 16:10:56]


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