Gwen Fowler



Dinner: Impossible host serves up local fare on Hilton Head

Posted 8/19/2010 11:56:00 AM
Food Network Chef Robert Irvine loves almost everything about Hilton Head Island, his home.

“I fell in love with it on a visit three years ago,” he said.

Seven months after that visit, he and his family moved to Hilton Head. Two years later, he opened his restaurant, eat!

The native of England said he loves the peace and quiet of Hilton Head, its well manicured appearance, the golf and the weather.

“It’s such a beautiful, idyllic place,” he said.

His family also loves it, he said.

“They love it more than me. They spend more time here than me.”

Irvine has been traveling a lot. He’s been working on a new season of “Dinner: Impossible,” where he takes on such challenges as preparing a meal for 850 Marines or food for a Hollywood premiere for 350 guests.

He’s also host of “Worst Cooks in America” and said he is working on a show not related to food about people who work under pressure. He recently filmed an Iron Chef episode.

But when he is home, he is at his restaurant. Hilton Head has more than 230 restaurants, he said, and he visited many of them when he was deciding what his would be like.

He tries to change much of his menu every six weeks.

“We do that because we have a lot of regulars.”

His menu includes a large selection of tapas items, including baked brie, tuna tartar and duck confit spring roll. Entrees have included pan-seared free range chicken with potato dumplings, blackened snapper with havarti grits, and braised lamb shank.

He also teaches cooking classes at the restaurant about every two weeks. The mid-day sessions last about three hours and include a multi-course lunch.

Among the topics he has covered have been making sauces, cooking fish, buying meat, wine pairings and preparing holiday meals.

The Lowcountry offers such a huge amount of fresh produce, and he said he tries to use locally grown produce and products as much as possible.

His newest cookbook, “Impossible to Easy: 111 Delicious Recipes to Help You Put Great Meals on the Table Every Day,” was published in late May.

The 44-year-old said he became interested in cooking at age 11. He was on a school cruise on the SS Uganda when, trying to impress a girl, he made fun of the chef on board. The chef ordered him to report to work at 6 a.m. the next day. It was intended as punishment, but it sparked Irvine's love of cooking.

“What food does to people is the most amazing thing,” he said. “It’s all about food. I tell my staff, ‘If you can put a smile on their faces and they leave happy, you’ve done your job.’
“I don’t know any other job that gives you such instant satisfaction.”

Eat! and drink!, are in The Village at Wexford. It is open for dinner every night except Sunday.