When Robert Irvine teamed up with executive producer Marc Summers in 2011 to create “Restaurant Impossible,” he had no idea how emotionally invested he would become in the show, which recently passed the 100th episode milestone.
To mark the occasion, Food Network airs a special behind-the-scenes episode called “Meet the Impossible” on Wednesday, May 7, in which Irvine and his production team open up about what goes into salvaging a failing restaurant in two days on a $10,000 budget.
Instead of merely assembling clips from previous episodes, the hour includes a number of special features including a segment in which Irvine sits down on camera for the first time with construction manager Tom Bury and the three designers who rotate in and out of the show.
“We’re on a stage in Philadelphia, where … Lynn Kegan, one of my designers, created the set, which is everything that I hate about all the restaurants that we have done. Each of these people has their own take on each other, and me – which is very interesting, I might add,” Irvine tells Zap2it, chuckling.
He adds that he rides Bury, the designers and even local volunteers so relentlessly because they represent the last hope for the families they’re trying to help by turning around eateries on their last legs.
“If you had asked me three years ago if I would be so closely connected with these people’s lives, I probably would have said, ‘Are you crazy? We’re going in there to do some painting, change the menu and so forth, and then walk out,’ ” Irvine says. “But that’s not the case, because within the first couple of episodes, the show just took on a life of its own. I’m really proud of it.”
What are some trends you’ve noticed in restaurants?
“Tapas are very popular. I think we like smaller plates because we like to share. It’s also a way to eat less food. The farm-to-table movement is definitely here to stay. Consumers have become much smarter, and they want to know where the food comes from and what has been done to it.”
What fad is on its way out?
“I think ‘organic’ has been something of a fad, because when people hear ‘organic’ they think ‘expensive.’ I think that’s going to be dying to some degree.”
Given the economy, is fine dining on the way out, too?
“There will always be a place for fine dining, but fewer of them. We don’t want to dress up, and we don’t want all that service, unless you’re in the upper echelon of business people, and even that is changing. Fine dining is becoming more casual. You’ll still get fine food, but the dress code and the service will be less pretentious.”
How do you feel about genetically modified foods?
“Obviously there’s a big red flag there. But until something is formally outlawed, I don’t think that’s going to change. We modify things so easily these days. Change is very slow.”