The biggest restaurant debut of July, if not the whole summer, and possibly the whole year, is taking place this month. On July 27 celebrity chef Robert Irvine will open the 275-seat Robert Irvine’s Public House at the Tropicana Las Vegas on the northern side of the casino floor, and will be the new anchor of the resort’s culinary lineup. But, unlike some other Vegas celebrity chefs who shall remain nameless, he promises not to be an absentee owner and plans to spend a good deal of time in Las Vegas overseeing his new restaurant.
The Food Network TV star and host of the syndicated talk show, The Robert Irvine Show, drew attention to his new restaurant a year ago, when he rappelled 22 stories down the side of the Tropicana Hotel to announce his restaurant plans, so he will likely do something equally spectacular to herald the opening of Public House.
Irvine became a US citizen in 2015, but was born and raised in England, and after joining the Royal Navy at the age of 15 spent 10 years touring Europe aboard various naval ships including Her Majesty’s Royal Yacht Britannia. His affinity with the military is evidenced by his passion for charitable work and supporting those who serve in our armed forces.
We sat down with Chef Irvine to discuss his new restaurant’s menu, his life’s accomplishments, commitment to honoring members of our armed forces and why he chose to bring his talents to the Tropicana Las Vegas.
You have more than 27 years in the culinary profession, and have cooked in Europe, the Far East, the Caribbean and in the US. What appeals to you about opening a restaurant in Las Vegas?
Opening a restaurant in Vegas, specifically the Tropicana, is very special because everybody who is anybody is in Vegas. This is the pure city. Forget New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, this is it, and (singing) if you can make it here, you’ll make it anywhere. It’s a challenge. You have to somehow make it different and I truly believe this restaurant—not only the look, but the service and the food—will be completely different from everything on the Strip or Vegas.
How did your partnership with the Tropicana come about?
It was a phone call, literally. I had wanted to get into Vegas for a long time, but had held off to find the right partner. Penn Gaming came and I knew some of the guys from my time in Atlantic City at Trump Taj Mahal, and the relationships I had with senior management were so good that I would never give up the opportunity because I liked the people I had worked with.
How did you arrive at the name Public House?
People are the mainstay of my work, whether it’s on television, whether it’s with our military. I take care of people, and public house means family. It’s about the congregation of people.
What kind of cuisine will you be serving and what can we expect to encounter on the menu?
It’s a mixture of my travels, with some classic dishes presented in a very different way.
You’ve authored three cookbooks: Mission: Cook!, Impossible to Easy and the healthy-living book Fit Fuel: A Chef’s Guide to Eating Well and Living Your Best Life. How will your commitment to healthy living translate to the menu items served in your new restaurant?
There will be healthy items and healthy alternatives but there’s a balance in life and it’s called indulgence and small portions. And you’ll see that when I show you later on.
In July 2016 you rappelled 22 stories down the side of the Tropicana Hotel to announce your restaurant plans. Do you have anything as spectacular planned for the opening of Public House?
Let me tell you something, you have to watch. There’s something coming, definitely. Will it be as adventurous as that? Who knows, but it will be pretty cool.
You host the Food Network series Restaurant: Impossible, where you save struggling restaurants across America by assessing and overhauling their weakest spots. What are some lessons you have learned from your time on the show and what would you recommend to restaurant owners?
Listen. Listen to people, listen to your staff. Don’t be egotistical, thinking your food is amazing when maybe it’s not. If it’s great food, people will tell you—and they’ll tell others.
You have a long connection to the military, having served in the UK’s Royal Navy for a 10-year tour of duty and later worked in the US Navy Mess facility in the West Wing of the White House. Was it your military service that motivated you to establish the nonprofit organization, The Robert Irvine Foundation, which offers support to military personnel and their families?
I came back the day before yesterday from a 22-mile march in Scotland with a coalition of a thousand Wounded Warriors. The week before that I was cooking for a thousand Gold Star families, so the military is a huge part of my work. Obviously, we have a restaurant inside the Pentagon itself, the only one of its kind. To me, giving back to our military plays a big part in my life and in my family’s life. The Foundation’s work is about buying things and paying it forward, and it was set up because I wanted to do more. A huge part of the money raised from my books and products goes into
You’ve received numerous awards over the years, including the Culinary Excellence Award by the Culinary Institute of America and the US Department of the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Award. Is there an award that stands out that you are most proud and honored to have received?
In 2015 I received the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Bob Hope Award for Excellence in Entertainment. Bob Hope was an English guy, most people don’t realize that. I’m an English guy, and for an English guy to receive this award, it’s very huge. We try
to emphasize his work through my work with
How will you split your time after opening your restaurant on July 27?
In the last 18 months I’ve been in Vegas more than other chefs who have their names on buildings, and that won’t change. I’m not going to be an absentee chef.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I don’t have that time; I don’t work. To me, what I do is not a job. I have the best passion and the best exciting moments every day. When I wake up I’m blessed, because I get to be a conduit in someone else’s life, to make their life better.
Would you like to add anything?
Yes, to all the men and women who wear the cloth of our nation who stand on watch every day for us, thank you. Don’t ever forget that we love you and we’ll see you around the world somewhere.
On June 15 Chef Robert Irvine presented a preview dinner to media and other invited guests, including 50 men and women from the USO. Surprisingly, with well over 100 being served, service went smoothly and the dishes brought out were superb, of which Chef Irvine remarked, “This is Dinner Impossible times 20!”
The menu turned out to be a beer pairing, suggesting beer fans will have something to look forward to, and Irvine’s quote printed at the top of the menu suggested the same: “There is no greater happiness than a full pint and a full plate.” We experienced both as we were treated to Buratta & Heirloom Tomato with Firestone Walker Pivo Pils; Chicken Wings with moonshine glaze matched with Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA; the well-named Fork & Knife Burger piled high with Vermont sharp cheddar fondue, mushrooms, onions and smoked bacon paired with Chimay White; Buttermilk Fried Chicken with braised kale and chard and Hachi Ramen with shrimp, lotus root and young bamboo served alongside Brooklyn Brewery Brown Ale; and Tomahawk Ribeye paired with Celebrator Bock. The finale was dessert miniatures of Xo Café Cherry Shake, Banoffee Pie and Espresso Chocolate Budino.
Summer Cookout Raises $40,000 for Three Square Food Bank
The next day, on June 16, Tropicana Las Vegas and Robert Irvine celebrated the kick-off of the 11th annual Las Vegas Restaurant Week with its ‘Summer Cookout featuring Robert Irvine & Friends’ presented by Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. The summer camp-inspired affair for adults raised $40,000 for Three Square Food Bank—allowing Three Square to provide more than 120,000 meals to food insecure residents of Southern Nevada. Locals and tourists, along with over 250 military guests, spent the evening poolside with Chef Robert Irvine at Tropicana’s Sky Beach Club as guests were treated to summertime favorite dishes, prepared by restaurants both on and off the Las Vegas Strip that included Bacio, El Dorado Cantina, Jayde Fuzion, Papaya King, Portion Control, Oakville Steakhouse, Shake Shack, The Sweet Spot Bake Shop and the highly-anticipated Robert Irvine’s Public House.
In addition to the delectable bites, guests were able to imbibe with beer, wine and cocktails galore, including Chef Irvine’s favorite spirit, Patrón Tequila.
“It was an honor to host the first-ever Summer Cookout event benefitting Three Square Food Bank,” said Chef Irvine. “To me, there is no greater happiness than a full plate, and by raising funds for such an incredible organization, we are able to give back to the Southern Nevada families in need. I am excited to soon be a part of the Las Vegas community, and continue to share my passion for food.”