Star of Food Network’s Dinner:Impossible and owner of Eat! Restaurant in Hilton Head, Chef Robert Irvine agreed to meet with a few of his fans in a low-key gathering at the Crew’s Cup Lounge at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort Friday night. Chef is in town for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, and the gathering was organized by a few of his facebook fan page fans! Our fearless columnist, Chef BigFatPanda, had a front-row seat for the shenanigans of the evening. Take it away, Chef!
The Anticipation Part
A few Food Network fans on Facebook heard that Chef Robert Irvine was going to be in Walt Disney World this weekend. They thought it would be great to have an informal intimate gathering of less than 20 people to just sit down and enjoy a drink with the Chef — but this sounded impossible. Surely, Chef Irvine would be very busy and not really have time to casually meet up with a few select fans.
I met up with a few friends at the Crew’s Cup Lounge for the scheduled 6 o’clock meeting (I was surprised word had not leaked out on Facebook resulting in hundreds showing up). We were asked not to turn it into a media event with never-ending picture flashes and interview questions.
The Scary Part
As we continued to wait for the Chef to arrive, one of the organizers was in touch with Randall, the Chef’s assistant, by phone. It seemed as though Chef Irvine would be unable to attend because some previous filming had gone into overtime.
We were saddened, but understood that our rendezvous was not exactly a Food Network/Disney priority. We were still having some fun amongst ourselves as we contemplated calling it a night and going home.
The Exciting Part
That’s when the phone call came in that the Chef was on his way! Despite prior warnings to keep it low key, there was quite a buzz when Chef Irvine finally did arrive, apologizing profusely for being late as though it were his fault. This apologizing, which was really not needed, immediately gave me a positive first impression.
We all thanked him and took turns posing for pictures. Some of the women begged Chef Irvine to “show his guns,” which he was more than happy to do. Disney staff stood sentinel, waiting on Chef Irvine for anything he might need, prepared to intervene if needed.
Soon the Chef ordered us all a round of Tequila shots (wow, that was strong Tequila; it tasted like the good stuff!), and when I was able to get a word in edgewise, I informed the Chef that our very own AJ from the Disney Food Blog said “Hello,” as she has met Chef Irvine previously. After my short description, he remembered AJ and gave his good wishes back! (Editor’s Note: Wow!! Thanks Chef BigFatPanda!)
This evening was definitely instrumental in shaping my opinion of Chef Irvine. Sometimes, you just don’t know how a celebrity will be in real life. I am happy to report that he was the genuine article. He was funny, engaging and appeared to truly care about his fans.
Thanks to Chef BigFatPanda for taking the time to head to the meet-up, and thanks to the Facebook fans (shout-out to Marc!) who organized it. What an incredible opportunity! Props to Chef Irvine for being so generous with what I’m sure is very limited free time.