Robert Irvine's Guidance For Preparing Comfort Food - Exclusive

Comfort foods are the dishes we find ourselves most drawn to when we're under the weather or in need of a pick-me-up, and the foods or culinary styles each of us experience as comforting are as unique as we are. At this year's New York City Wine & Food Festival (NYCWFF), we had an opportunity to speak with former British Royal Navy chef, entrepreneur, and philanthropic supporter of the military, Robert Irvine to hear about his social activism as well as his guidance for preparing comfort food for others.

For Irvine, comfort foods' most important attribute is that it has the ability to bridge barriers between people, which is one of his deepest life missions. "We have to feel comfortable and at ease with people to be able to talk," he says. "I think comfort food that is relatable opens up that conversation."

Irvine believes that the comfort foods each of us feels passionate about are highly influenced by the regions we were raised in as well as the foods that we ate when we were young. "For me, comfort food, no matter what it is, is comfortable [because of] the setting that you are in. If you're from India, [comfort food] is a curry. If you're from England, it's fish and chips. If you're from Germany, it's schnitzel," he notes.

What are Robert Irvine's comfort foods?

When Irvine considers the importance of comfort food, he reflects on the multitude of human experiences that cause people to seek out comfort. "Whether you have post-traumatic stress, whether you've been raped, whether you've been assaulted, food is an integral part of [finding comfort]. It really is because we [have to] go to a place where we feel comfortable and food is always comfortable," he explains.

So, what dishes does Irvine consider a source of comfort for himself? "Mashed potatoes and chicken — roasted chicken. It reminds me of my childhood. That and cornflakes," he shared. Mashed potatoes have a reputation as a dish that has the ability to evoke childhood memories and provide diners with an intense feeling of nourishment.

Irvine's mention of the breakfast cereal, cornflakes may strike some as unusual. But as he noted, the foods of our childhood can be deeply linked to the way we experience comfort, and what better resembles childhood than a big bowl of cereal?