Food Network Canada’s new culinary realty show Restaurant Express combines life on the road with high-stakes pressure in the kitchen and restaurant challenges. It’s something chef and host Robert Irvine (a former British Royal Navy chef) knows a bit about: he’s used to cooking under the gun (sometimes literally) and says that with his current schedule he’s on the road 345 days a year.
Although he considers himself a Bimmer fan who’as “had every BMW there is from the 760 to the M3,” Irvine is currently driving a Toyota Sequoia. He first encountered that model was when he was helping the Red Cross in the wake of the tornado that ripped through Joplin, Missouri, and he admired the large, practical shuttle vehicle so much he decided to buy himself a new one. Irvine recently returned to the Joplin to cook a massive Christmas feast for the residents; the Food Network aired the show as its Restaurant Impossible Holiday Special.
We had a little chat with Irvine about his passion for his truck and why he sometimes has to wrestle his formidable wife, Toronto-born wrestler Gail Kim (the current TNA Knockout champion), for protein bars.
Things you love about your ride:
I love that it can fit eight people. I love that when I don’t need to fit eight people it’s got great luggage space. I’ve have two daughters so if they want to watch videos they can. The GPS and stereo systems are state-of-the-art. It’s a great ride. I’m used to small sports cars that you feel every bump in the road and in this car you don’t – it’s really comfortable.
What don’t you love about it?
Filling it up with fuel (laughs). The gas has ranged from $70 to $105 to fill a tank. But I don’t mind putting the fuel in and I don’t mind the cost of the fuel because to me the car is a workhorse and it’s comfortable, it does what I need it to do, and I paid a lot more when I had my (BMW) 760!
Best piece of technology?
It’s perfect the way it is.
We know your TV persona – tough but kind – but what are you like behind the wheel?
I am a man with a mission. I’m a kind driver; I’m a good driver. I’m not erratic and I’m not one of these road rage people.
You must have learned to drive in England…
I was 16 years old.
So you were already in the Royal Navy.
That’s correct. I was in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy before I learned to drive. I wasn’t even old enough to drink but I could shoot somebody.
I’m guessing you learned on a stick shift.
Yes. My father used to have a Triumph Spitfire and a Vauxhall Cavalier.
You spend a lot of time on the road – what tunes are you listening to right now?
You’re going to hate this: I have military band music (The Band of H.M. Royal Marines and US Army marches), ABBA; and, don’t laugh now, Celine Dion and Pink. Pink is one of my new favourites. She’s a huge supporter of Restaurant Impossible.
What are you hauling around in the Sequoia?
Suitcases. I mean I travel literally with 80 pounds of luggage everywhere I go. I only get home probably once every three months on average so I take everything that I need: my workout gear, protein powders, my polo shirts, my 79 black and blue T-shirts that I have, 14 pairs of the same jeans.
Do you take any kitchen accoutrements with you?
Yes, the Robert Irvine knives – they’re actually my own branded knives that I carry with me. Two or three cases of my protein bars because I snack on the road.
What does your wife (wrestler Gail Kim) take with her?
My wife is worse than me. My wife is a workout queen. She will leave an airport for a three-hour layover to work out, that’s how nuts she is. She adores my protein bars and takes probably about eight boxes with her because she eats them three or four times a day.
What’s your favourite car colour?
Black or blue.
The most amazing car you’ve driven or been in?
Aston Martin DB9. I love Aston Martin. The DB9 is the most luxurious car ever created.
What’s the car of your dreams?
Probably the Vantage. The Aston Martin Vantage.
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