Q&A: Celebrity chef Robert Irvine
Having cooked your way around the globe, it only figures that you’d eventually land in the city where most of the globe comes to dine. Riding that rationale, celebrity chef Robert Irvine added his gastronomic gusto to the Strip’s culinary glitter in July when Robert Irvine’s Public House opened its doors at the Tropicana Hotel, revealing a 275-seat eatery with a fully stocked bar, open kitchen layout and a come-one/eat-all attitude. Recently, the peripatetic, British-born food czar, Food Network star and daytime TV talk-show host slowed down just long enough to chat up Las Vegas Magazine’s Steve Bornfeld.
Why did you name it Public House?
I mix and mingle with folks, and I wanted something generic that meant people gathering. Not to be confused with, oh, you can get drunk in a pub. I wanted a gathering place where people could meet, mingle, talk, exchange ideas, friendships.
What can patrons expect of Public House?
It’s going to be beautiful, that’s for sure. The food is very different, the setting is very different. I’m not going to tell you what the waiters are doing, but it will be very different from what the mainstream restaurants on the main drag are doing. We have a different philosophy. And I’m not going to be an absentee owner. For the last three or four months I’ve been there, doing the training myself, training our busboys, our waiters, our bartenders. People have told me that’s so cool, so unique. And when you see the price and the menu and all the things we’re going to do, you’re going to go, “OK, he really gets it.” I’m not a guy who is going to put a name on a doorway and then stay away and then walk in the door and expect it to be perfect. That’s not who I am. I’m a hands-on guy.
Will you be schmoozing with the diners?
Absolutely! How many times have you been to a restaurant and the person whose name is on the door is not there? So you bought a T-shirt but you didn’t really have a great experience. My whole goal is to be there as much as possible, work with the local charities, be a part of the community as well as the dining scene.
Why was it important for you to participate with the mission of Southern Nevada’s Three Square Food Bank?
It’s huge, not only in the distribution of food, but also feeding the folks. Every day in my life is meant to help somebody less fortunate, and that’s their mission. There is going to be a huge relationship there. Anything that can help a community I’m going into, the effort’s got to be there.
You’ve described the fare at Public House as “modern American cuisine with a nothing-is-impossible attitude.” What exactly does that mean?
I travel 345 days a year, I’m just about to go to Korea and Afghanistan, and I’m taking all those journeys and implementing those flavors and cuisines into the food. They will be approachable and exciting and flavorful, sometimes simple, sometimes more complex. There will be something there for everybody. If you don’t like this, there will always be this. And I have something very unique—my own liquor. We’re bringing in gin, Scotch, vodka with carrot juice. You can drink a vodka and cranberry with a real infusion of cranberries. You can drink and stay healthy—how’s that? Less calories!
Did you have any second thoughts about entering such a competitive culinary scene in Las Vegas with so many celebrity chef-owned restaurants?
There’s a thousand restaurants and a thousand celebrity chefs. I don’t get into that celebrity-driven stuff. I cook for a living, I try to make people happy with food, it’s as simple as that. If I’m on TV, it’s to help other people, every day of my life. It’s not about making gazillions of dollars, because if you know me, you know I’d give it away anyway.