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Food Network drops tainted chef

The Dinner: Impossible host will be replaced.

By Laura Reiley, Times Food Critic
Published March 1, 2008


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photo
[Handout]
Robert Irvine is currently filming new episodes for Season 4 of Dinner: Impossible but will unlikely be back for another season.

The future of celebrity chef Robert Irvine's Ooze and Schmooze restaurants in St. Petersburg remains uncertain, and there may be other long-term repercussions resulting from the Food Network star's resume padding.

The network announced Friday it is looking for a new host for Irvine's show, Dinner: Impossible.

"We will continue airing both old shows and the new season currently in production. We have not renewed Robert's contract for future seasons but will fulfill our contractual obligations," said network president Brooke Johnson in a statement. "We appreciate Robert's remorse about his actions, and we can revisit this decision at the end of the production cycle, but for now we will be looking for a replacement host."

The network found embellishments and inaccuracies in Irvine's resume and has removed them from completed episodes of Dinner: Impossible and its Web site. Irvine is currently filming new episodes for Season 4 and there are 13 episodes per season. The Food Network, however, has not yet made a decision about the Irvine episode of the series Chefography, a biographical show that was to air in March.

In a Feb. 17 story in the Times, Irvine admitted misrepresenting his educational background, his relationship with the British royal family, his duties at the White House and culinary awards he has received.

Breaking a two-week silence, Irvine issued this statement Friday:

"I was wrong to exaggerate in statements related to my experiences regarding the royal family. I am proud of my work while serving in the Royal Navy and on board the Royal Yacht Britannia, also as part of the guest chef program in the White House with the United States Navy, in addition to my culinary accomplishments. I should have stood on those accomplishments alone, without embellishment.

"I remain committed and enthusiastic about my work with Food Network and other future endeavors. I am truly sorry for the errors in my judgment. To all my family, friends and loyal fans, I will work tirelessly to regain your trust and continue to use my show and life to benefit the less fortunate."

Home Shopping Network has not reversed its decision to remove Irvine's products from its Web site. HarperCollins, publisher of Irvine's 2007 book Mission: Cook, said Friday that "if there are any inaccuracies, we will make a correction."

Even fellow celebrity chefs have taken note of Irvine's exaggerations. At the South Beach Wine & Food Festival last weekend, chefs Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman awarded Irvine a mock "Golden Clog Award" for "most fame based on least actual culinary achievement."

Still, according to John Hamilton of Beach Drive Retail, Irvine's restaurant projects are moving forward at the base of 400 Beach Drive, a 29-story condominium tower at Fifth Avenue N. Although Hamilton has not spoken with Irvine directly, he has stayed in communication with his New York business partner and managing director of Irvine Thyme, J. Randall Williams.

"There's been a lot of talk, but from our perspective, the lease is the lease. Whether Irvine pulls out or not, we have a lease," Hamilton said. "All of this media attention puts it in a different light, but we're moving forward. He offers something from a culinary standpoint that will bring something to this city. We hope the plan hasn't changed."

Williams was more circumspect in a phone interview Friday afternoon.

Are Ooze and Schmooze full speed ahead?

"With the restaurant opportunities, a lot of elements have been happening over the past two weeks and it's a very different environment. We've invested a lot of money, but there's a lot more money needed still to have it go forward."

While Williams insists that everyone involved has been supportive and that Irvine is still motivated to have a business in St. Petersburg, he adds that, "Strictly from a business perspective, I'm standing back and looking at all the pieces and asking, 'Can we execute this in a manner that will represent all the stakeholders adequately?'"

Laura Reiley can be reached at lreiley@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2293. Her blog, the Mouth of Tampa Bay, can be found at www.blogs.tampabay.com/dining.

[Last modified February 29, 2008, 22:33:16]


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