Return of the Irvine


I believe it was Emily Dickinson who said, “Fame is a fickle food.” Now, I don’t know how much credence I’d put in a food-based metaphor from 150 years ago. After all, I’m fairly sure that they ate squirrel back then. Still, knowing what we now know about fame, celebrity and how quickly one can go from the top to the bottom, it’s doubtful that anyone would argue with the premise of her poem. We see it playing out in nearly every area of public life, be it politics, Hollywood or sports.

In order to prove that you’re worth your salt when it comes to public awareness, it’s not enough just to have one of your stars publicly humiliated and cast into oblivion. No. In order to prove that you’re ready for the spotlight, you have to go the full J.C. Downfall, followed by the required time in purgatory, and, finally, resurrection.

That’s where Robert Irvine comes in. After being publicly humiliated in the resume-padding scandal and being banished from Dinner: Impossible in favor of Michael Symon, he’s coming back to the show…

From a Food Network statement:

“Our audience has continued to demonstrate its interest in and support for Robert. He has taken responsibility and made a conscious effort to clear the air, rebuild the relationship with Food Network and apologize for the earlier inaccuracies,” said Food Network spokeswoman Carrie Welch said in a written statement.

Think about your favorite troubled celebrity…your Amy Winehouse or your Adam “Pac-Man” Jones. Why, despite providing ample evidence that they are raging batshit crazy and willing to engage in behavior that is destructive to both themselves and those around them, do they manage to worm their way back into our lives? It’s easy. There is money to be made in music and sports and these folks have demonstrated an ability to generate money and attract interest in the past, and so they’ll always be able to find a willing employer.

Now, thanks to the Food Network empire, the print and online food press and the rest, “food celebrity” is a multi-billion dollar industry, which makes it something less than professional sports but something considerably more than it was ten years ago.

Irvine’s return may point to the fact that Food TV has moved into a higher echelon of popularity. Food Network has programming hours to fill and Robert Irvine, for all of his baggage (which you likely don’t even know about unless you follow this stuff on the Internet), is a known commodity who has proven his ability to carry the show. And so, it’s “welcome back, Sir Robert.”

And, hey, just because someone is returning from the wilderness doesn’t mean he can’t end up back on top. Sure, there’s always the chance you could end up the food-world equivalent of a pudgy Brittany sleep-dancing her way through an MTV appearance, destined to forever be a punchline.

Or maybe you’re an optimist. Food celebrity, you may now have your very own Robert Downey, Jr. That’s fine, because America loves a comeback story.

What do ya’ll think? Does Irvine deserve another chance, or should he be banished to the wilderness?

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  • T. Piper January 21, 2009  

    Aw, who doesn’t pad their resume a bit these days? As long as he’s creating good television, I say let him continue. It can’t be any worse than Michael Symon’s show. I mean, how many times were they going to give Symon a “no pork” or “all veg” challenge? It got old fast.

  • Digigirl January 21, 2009  

    I think he deserves a chance. He’s been up front about how it happened and that yes, he did make some stuff up. And even though I do like Michael Symon, the show was more interesting when Irvine was on it. Besides, have you seen the guns on that guy? Where else can I find beefcake like that on food tv?

  • T. Piper January 21, 2009  

    @Diggirl I dunno… Tyler Florence is pretty beefy. (at least my wife thinks so)

  • Tina G January 21, 2009  

    It’s not like he was up for Secretary of the Treasury and didn’t pay his taxes. Resume padding aside, the guy had a good show. Who cares about his background unless he is an escaped convict? Welcome back, Chef Irvine.

  • Chip Ramsey January 22, 2009  

    The truth is the show is better with him. They know this. I think they never intended to fire him, just suspend him. The Michael Symon shows were his suspension.

    Besides, what he did wasn’t awful. And now, Bobby Flay is getting flack because his restaurants didn’t pay his employees. What’s worse?

  • Michael January 22, 2009  

    I never knew about this scandal, I love Irvine! He’s a good entertaining personality on TV and I say bring him back.

  • Tina G January 22, 2009  

    Fo what it is worth, Irvine did a better job that Symon. I always thought Symon really was going to fail, and I do like him. But Irvine was better. I love when he worked in the bakery in Philly.

  • Jennifer January 22, 2009  

    I was pretty sure the guy was gone for good and I did not care atfer he has been deceitful HOWEVER, after stalking, I mean watching him at the Sun Wine Festival in CT this past weekend, I am excited he is back.

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  • Rachaelle English January 31, 2009  


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