From nearly anywhere on The Strip in Las Vegas, Robert Irvine can be seen looking over the infamous road.
Well, the English celebrity chef's likeness is up there anyway. Large decals of his face adorn the Tropicana Las Vegas, where Irvine opened his latest restaurant, Robert Irvine’s Public House, earlier this year.
The restaurant's menu is full of Irvine’s takes on classic comfort food, as well as a wide array of beers, ranging from local Las Vegas beers to international standards.
Known best for the Food Network shows Dinner: Impossible and Restaurant: Impossible, Irvine is tirelessly busy. On the road nearly nonstop, the chef tours the country in support of the military, children and his TV shows. In 2018, Irvine is launching more products in his food line, four new TV shows, and possibly more restaurants.
October caught up to Irvine at Robert Irvine’s Public House and chatted about his hectic schedule, future restaurants and, of course, beer.
First things first, how do you feel about having a giant picture of yourself on a building?
You know what? It’s the gift that keeps on giving. When it was full length, I was kind of embarrassed. It seems very vain. It gets people in. It was up there for a year, and I’d get texts from people saying they’re staying at the MGM and looking at Robert Irvine. It was a great marketing ploy for sure, but I’m used to it now. When you fly in that’s what you see. But it draws people into the restaurant, so it works, but I always apologize to people, “I’m sorry about the picture.”
People want to be comfortable with beer and spirits.”
You get recognized a lot, watching some of your shows, you can be kind of angry…
Not angry, it’s intense. When I say to you, 'You have $10,000 and 36 hours to fix someone’s life,' there’s no time for errors. Because at the end of the day, it’s not like a TV show where there’s no consequence, it’s a real family and a real consequence if I mess up their lives. They go out of business and it’s very serious. Intense, I would say.
Okay, intense. But when people approach you, you’re so friendly.
I am friendly! I’m nice. This is my home that I’m inviting you to come eat and drink and I wanted that when we started Public House. I don’t mean it as a pub, I mean it as a place to meet people and form new friends. So, it works. We literally have a lot of locals that come here and I wanted the local market as well as the transient market. They know me, and they know I’m not mean, nasty, or angry. It’s good.
You have two restaurants, one in the Pentagon and on here. How did you decide to open one in Las Vegas?
I came to Trop and I talked to them before, and it never happened. Then Penn Gaming took over and I did a show at the M years ago. I got a phone call out of the blue and asked if I’d be interested. And I needed to meet with people who I’d work with, because I have a very specific idea of relationships. I want them to have the same thought process otherwise it doesn’t work. They were really into charities and military and giving back and it was a no-brainer to partner with Penn Gaming.
They’re in this the same as I am. It’s a marriage made in heaven, we don’t argue.
How did you come up with the Public House concept?
I grew up, my dad was a pub frequenter for years. Six days a week. In England, that’s what you do. From his military days to when he passed away a few years ago, and it was a concept I grew up with. I was living in a pub at 11 years old. My dad was always drinking, I grew to love beer and I still love beer. It’s a great concept, very casual. You can watch TV, get great food and meet people. A pub to me in England is warm, you get to meet the locals, the regulars, it’s a meeting place. It’s an event every night you go out in England and that’s what I wanted here.
The Strip isn’t a beer-heavy place. It’s dominated by wine, spirits, and free light beer. How has it been?
I don’t think it’s just The Strip, but the general public. There was an upper echelon who said wine is above and people don’t want that. People want to be comfortable with beer and spirits. We have 78 beers and are about to add 15 more beers. You can taste everything and get the best of both worlds, great beer, great food and if you want to know what goes well with what, bartenders will tell you. Beer to me, we had our first beer dinner recently and it was amazing. Next year we’re going to do beer dinners every third week a month with a different brewer. That’s exciting. I just think that’s the way to go.
You’re supposed to use this gift for other people. That’s why I stay busy.”
You do a lot of traveling, a lot of drinking of beers, did you travel around Las Vegas trying the local breweries?
I went to a couple. I didn’t go to all of them, I relied on some local folks. I went to all the restaurants to see what they carry and we have a greater selection. I went to Wisconsin a couple weeks ago and found a beer I really liked, and got the card of the guy and brought the beer here. If I travel and find a beer I like, I want to bring it here.
Where is your favorite place to drink a beer?
I can go to any pub. I don’t like bars. When I say bar, I don’t want to sit in a hotel and drink a beer. I’d rather go off The Strip and sit in a quiet place and drink a beer. I sit near the service station. I can watch what goes on. I normally do a beer with a shot until I can’t take any more shots.
You’re busy, why are you so busy?
I could sit here, about 10 years ago. Kind of had a conniption, you’re successful with TV all these things, I could pull back. I went through a phase of 'its all about me, I’m the best' because I was successful. When I was at Trump Taj Mahal, I was doing Dinner: Impossible two days a week, and I worked as executive chef for five days. I did that for a year. Then when you become successful you get new fancy things, 'look at me.' But eventually something changed, I don’t know why.
A young man sitting outside at Atlantic City Bar & Grill, cold, wet miserable homeless guy. I was getting in my car. I said 'come on let’s get you out of the cold and get something to eat.' I could have gotten in my car and driven off. But I don’t know why, still to this day, I took him to have some food. I got him a room for a week. And got him a job and he is still doing amazing.
You’re supposed to use this gift for other people. That’s why I stay busy. I do 150 days with the military; we do kids’ cancer stuff. I want to make sure, it’s not about fanfare. We have the foundation with Gary Sinise and the USO, but when you’re successful to help with others who are less fortunate. And I want to be a good example to my kids.
You’re also very active on social media…
Absolutely. I think it’s the quickest way to A) get a message out, but B) to connect with your fans. Up until the restaurant, we have 38,000 people at the Pentagon, so I get to see all those men and women in uniform when I’m there. People don’t travel to Vegas to see me because they don’t know when I’m here.
It’s really cool to touch your fans and be a positive influence in their day because you never know what’s happening in their world. I made friends with an eight-year-old girl who had cancer, she’s now 14. I talked to her every week since she was eight. You can lift people. At times when she went in for chemo, she’d FaceTime me and that made a big difference to her. I think that’s why I love social media.
If you follow me, there’s nothing about politics, religion, nothing about negativity. If people are negative, get off. I literally will block them.
What’s in store for 2018?
Got a lot of new TV shows. Four new shows. Travel Channel, Food Network, CBS. That’s exciting. New products for the food line, new ice teas, new protein powders. A few more of these. Looking at some other restaurants not in casinos.
This is a concept you want to do more off?
I love this concept, yeah. We can put this into any Penn Gaming property. We’ve come a long way in six months. I think right now, it’s perfect.
And other restaurants outside of casinos?
Yea, places like airports and looking at one in New York right now. Who knows? Lots of good stuff in 2018 and I’ll be here even more. I love the place and it has a great vibe, great people. We have a great team here and I don’t say that very often.