Face Time: Robert Irvine

March 2, 2012

The most muscle-bound of the Food Network stars, chef Robert Irvine travels the country to recast failing restaurants in just two days and with only $10,000 on “Restaurant: Impossible” (Wed., 10 p.m.). With 38 episodes done and another 40 on the way, the second-chance reality program is a hit. It brings Irvine to D.C. March 5, though he doesn’t know yet which restaurant he’ll be helping. Follow him on Twitter (@RobertIrvine1) for info.

You’re in motion constantly on the show. When do you eat?
I eat every two hours. I’ve got to, because otherwise I go cranky.

What’s going down your gullet?
Oatmeal in the morning, with egg whites and toast. Then I have chicken sandwiches two hours later. Then a salad with salmon two hours later; then tuna. And I have a shake in between. I always eat.

But you find time to work out. How do you get those muscles?
I do 45 minutes and don’t lift heavy weights. Then I do cardio three times a week for 20 minutes. I’ve got the crew here, including [executive producer/ex “Double Dare” host] Marc Summers, working out in the morning.

Do you ever joke with him about physical challenges?
It’s funny — people keep asking me that. I’ve got him doing the physical challenges.

You deal with many failing restaurants. Why do they flop?
People get this impression that if you run a restaurant, you can invite your friends over and have parties and not worry about if it’s going to make money.

So not thinking about money is the most common mistake?
When you start a restaurant, you’d better have a year’s worth of cost of goods and salaries in the bank. At least, then you have money to play with. Every time you make money, put a percentage into a rainy day fund. Then, if a piece of equipment breaks down, you can replace it.

How do you choose where to put a restaurant?
I look in secondary markets, not in major cities — they are too expensive. I look for good parking, access to everything and spots people can find easily. If you are tucked away in the back of a mall, it’s not going to help you.

Does working for you require having thick skin?
I wouldn’t say thick skin. I’d say you have to know your job. Let your food do the work.

What about in a big city like D.C. — is your strategy different?
I look out, see what fits, what the owners want. I don’t want to change the scope of the restaurant — the minute you do that, you are losing the identity of what they wanted. That’s unfair. But if there are three Italian restaurants on one street, you want to think of something else.

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