Robert Irvine Talks His Top Cooking Tips And Follows Up To Restaurant: Impossible - Exclusive Interview

As a household name on Food Network, Robert Irvine does the impossible — literally. "Restaurant: Impossible" has captivated our television screens for over 20 seasons, showcasing the chef's best cooking tips to failing restaurant owners. Aiding now over 350 presumably successful restaurants across the United States, Irvine has held up his entrepreneur title in stride, and rightfully so. The "Restaurant Rivals" host has created a spirits brand (Irvine's Spirits), a foundation honoring veterans (Robert Irvine Foundation), and a protein bar brand (FITCRUNCH).

Tasting Table had the pleasure of sitting down with the celebrity chef at the Mohegan Sun Wine and Food Fest, where he demoed a dish featuring a shepherd's pie, caramelized mushrooms, garlic confit, a triple-churned brie that he likened to fresh cream, and more. In our exclusive interview, Irvine revealed the one "Restaurant: Impossible" restaurant he never checks up on, his go-to seasonings for wings, and the secret to the perfect martini. (Hint: Sit at a bar with a really good bartender.)

Irvine checks up on almost every restaurant he's helped

You're now on your 22nd season of "Restaurant: Impossible." Are there any restaurants from the beginning seasons that you still check up on today?

I check up on every restaurant we've ever done every week ... It's only one in Ohio I don't, because he didn't listen. He went out of business shortly after I did the show because he was selling all-you-can-eat steaks at $3, and they were costing him $5. I said, "I'll see you in bankruptcy." Four weeks later ... Everybody else out of the 352 episodes we've done, I talk to them every week. They're my "Restaurant: Impossible" Robert Irvine family.

I'm sure. You've come across a lot of filthy kitchens when you've done the show — that's an understatement. What is one appliance that you should be cleaning in your kitchen at home that people often pass over?

The oven is the most overlooked, not only in the restaurant business but also at home. We do the range top because we see it, but we never clean the oven until it's so caked with dirt [that] we have to clean it or we get a new one. The oven is one of those things.

Wings are all about the sides

You're well known for your smoked seasoned wings. With the Super Bowl coming up, what do you think are the best seasonings for wings and why?

It depends on the wing. Wings come in different sizes — big, small, medium. I prefer the smaller wings because they're more flavorful. It's like when you reduce something down, it becomes more intense. Garlic pepper, fajita, and smokey rotisserie are my three go-to flavors, and we use sauce on the side. I never coat the wings, because I want you to coat the wings the way you want them, so we'll have the wing sauce on the side. But it's fajita mix — which is a dry powder mix — and smokey rotisserie, and a garlic pepper.

What would you say is the secret to perfectly cooked wings? What are your tips?

We all say we want to eat thin, but we think fat. Fried wings are the best — end of story. You fry them, get them crispy, and finish it in the oven. That's the only way to eat wings.

Seafood and martini tips

I'm going to revert to talking about seafood dishes in general. What is your favorite way to use canned seafood?

I don't really use canned seafood ever. I use it for myself for canned tuna when I'm on the road for my own meals, but I don't use cans ever.

I saw you have a good amount of whitefish recipes. If you're looking to keep costs down, what are your thoughts on using fish like tilapia?

Tilapia is fine, but remember, tilapia is a bottom fish. It's a muddy, gritty kind of fish. If you're going to do that, you have to impart flavor because there's not much flavor. It's not like sea bass. I would use tilapia without the skin, make a bread crumb, and a hard-boiled egg, chop it up, [add] onion, add a little bit of butter to it and fresh parsley or chives, and then roll it up like a paupiette. Cook it in the oven and use some kind of sauce over the top of it.

That sounds good. You're also recognized for your crab cake dish. I noticed that you used ginger root juice. How does ginger root juice add or enhance the flavor of crab cakes?

It gives heat to it, but it also brings all the other ingredients together. The juice of ginger is powerful. If you look at ancient times, it was a medicinal drink — same with chocolate. Chocolate, cacao, used to be a drink. It was not hard chocolate.

It was only the Swiss and Nestlé that took the drink of chocolate, the cacao with water, added sugar and milk, and that's how chocolate was born. I feel the same way with ginger. I make a ginger vodka — 100 proof — and the flavor's tremendous. It brings all the flavors together like salt does.

You have a spirits brand [Irvine's Spirits] as well. What would you say is the secret to a perfect martini?

The bartender. You always have to start with great liquor, but each bartender has a little twist. Look, the liquor is important, but when you put olives and you put everything else in there, it changes the liquor profile. It's a bartender that's the key.

Do you have any other upcoming projects or anything else exciting coming up?

We have a new HGTV pilot coming up, "Restaurant: Impossible" is [coming] back, four new shows ... There's a lot coming up this year.

New episodes of "Restaurant: Impossible" air Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on Food Network. Keep up with Robert Irvine's latest projects on his Instagram page. For more information about the Sun Wine and Food Fest, visit Mohegan Sun's website.

This interview has been edited for clarity.