Chef Robert Irvine, Peppered in Controversy

The "Dinner: Impossible" star prepared dinner for D.C.'s Pink Tie party on Wednesday. (Food Network)
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By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Friday, February 29, 2008

If you can't stand the heat, don't pad your kitchen résumé. Celebrity chef Robert Irvine, star of the Food Network hit "Dinner: Impossible," spent a tense day in Washington on Wednesday amid rumors that he has lied about . . . well, just about everything.

The jig was up last week, when the St. Petersburg Times published an article discrediting the British cook's bio: no record he graduated from the University of Leeds, worked on Princess Di's wedding cake, or cooked for President Bush, a claim former White House executive chef Walter Scheib flatly dismissed. Irvine's vague answers to the paper's allegations didn't help matters. And that knighthood he bragged about? He's already admitted it never happened.

So the wagons were circled at Wednesday's taping -- nervous producers didn't allow press anywhere near as Irvine prepared dinner for 250 guests at the Pink Tie party, the kickoff fundraiser for the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

As always on Irvine's show, he had just a few hours to cook a gourmet meal -- with a seemingly insurmountable hurdle thrown in. Wednesday's challenge at the Madison Hotel was to create an authentic Japanese menu, a cuisine he knew nothing about. "It was very intense in the kitchen," said festival president Diana Mayhew. "He's a magnificent chef. It was the best fish I've ever tasted." Irvine was introduced to the audience at the end of the meal; he praised everyone who helped pull off the dinner, but made no mention of the backstage controversy.

The show is scheduled for broadcast sometime next year -- if Irvine's still on the air. The Food Network has yanked his bio from its Web site and issued a statement: "It's unfortunate if Robert embellished the extent of his culinary experiences. We are investigating the matter and taking the necessary steps to ensure the accuracy of all representations of Robert on Food Network and"

Which Star Gets the Fedora?

Fresh off his Best Documentary Oscar win, "Taxi to the Dark Side" director Alex Gibney has embarked on a new project -- a doc he plans to release late this year about disgraced superlobbyist Jack Abramoff. Tentatively titled "Casino Jack and the United States of Money" (subtle!), the film "will have it all: wild international intrigue, money changing hands in unexpected places," Gibney told Politico.

But wait! Director George Hickenlooper tells us he's also making an Abramoff flick -- and even more fun, this one's a drama. "It's 'GoodFellas' in Washington," the Emmy winner told us, adding that he's got a producer and a writer lined up. "Capitalism is a wonderful system, but it fosters a system that is out of control. We're starting to live in a very monolithic country, with great polarity between the haves and have-nots."

Yep, yep, great, but you know the next question: Who plays Jack? Hickenlooper shared his dream picks, with the caveat that he hasn't actually approached any of them yet: Jeremy Piven, Sean Penn and Steve Carell. Carell, really? "He's a good dramatic actor and the resemblance is striking."

You gonna sit back and let this happen, Alec Baldwin? Call your agent now!


* Arnold Schwarzenegger got his tank back! Didn't know he had one? Apparently the governor of California bought the M47 from the Austrian army, then lent it to an Ohio military museum in 2000. But he asked to get it back, citing concerns about its upkeep, and last week had it shipped west. A rep told reporters the governor will store it in a private location and offer it for free rides to inner-city kids who stay in school and say no to drugs.


"The whole pregnancy -- the whole thing was easy."

-- La Plata boy Joel Madden on the birth last month of his and Nicole Richie's first child, Harlow , in the new issue of People, which bought the exclusive photos for a reported $1 million. The Good Charlotte frontman quickly added, "Well, I'm not saying the birth was easy for you," but his girlfriend insisted it was, in fact, a breeze.

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