Saturday, June 9, 2012

Chef Robert Irvine talks avocados

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Food Network celebrity chef Robert Irvine with a fellow avocado lover in Universal City, CA

When I get an opportunity to chat with a celebrity chef, I grab it.

Yesterday Chef Robert Irvine, who stars in Food Network's completely addictive show Restaurant: Impossible, kicked off an 85-day "Add-vocado" campaign with Subway here in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the Subway where he was slinging subs was clear across town from my office. I couldn't get there on a work day, much as I would have liked to check out his legendary biceps in person.

But a polite request to Subway's public relations group got me an early morning phone call with the chef. I was bleary, but Chef Irvine, who had already finished his morning workout, was wide awake and firing on all cylinders. I asked him a slew of avocado-related questions, which I'd brainstormed the night before with Emery, my 13-year-old son and a huge Robert Irvine fan. Read on for Chef Irvine's answers, including off-the cuff recipes for an avocado martini and an avocado panna cotta.

A note to blogger friends about interviewing celebrities: You're only going to get a few minutes. Go in prepared. Know what you want to talk about and move the conversation there. Otherwise you'll get the prepared promotional comments from the press release - and that's boring for you, your audience and the celebrity.

(Interested in more of my celebrity chef encounters? Here you go: Giada De Laurentiis, Alice Waters, Curtis Stone, Scott Conant, Claire Robinson, Lucinda Scala Quinn)

That's one big avocado - almost as big as Robert Irvine's biceps

Erika: Why avocados?


Robert Irvine: Avocados are a great healthy food, with lots of vitamins and good fats. Why use mayonnaise on a sandwich when you can cream avocado with yogurt and spices and use that instead? Add avocado to a boring BLT and it's creamy and delicious.

Erika: You've pledged to eat avocado every day for 85 days. Do you have your menu planned out?

Robert Irvine: I don't. I travel 330 days a year and eat every two and a half hours - I'm a big guy. I always carry a fork, little bottles of spices, and Sriracha [hot sauce]. I eat what I feel like eating. I'll be documenting my 85 days of avocado on Twitter and recipes will be posted on the Subway Facebook page.

Chef Robert Irvine making "Add-vocado" sandwiches at Subway in Universal City, CA

Erika: You grew up in England. Did you ever have avocados as a boy?

Robert Irvine: No, never. I had my first avocado on a cruise ship; I was 14, traveling with the Sea Cadets, and I'd been raised on steak and kidney pie and fish and chips. I thought, what is this? The chef taught me about avocados and told me to add lime juice.

Erika: Have you ever climbed an avocado tree?

Robert Irvine: No.

Erika: Feel free to stop by my house and climb mine. My 10-year-old climbs it all the time. That's how we get the avocados at the top.

Robert Irvine: [Laughs] I'd love to!

Erika: What's your favorite way to eat an avocado?

Robert Irvine: Blend vanilla yogurt, mustard, sriracha, lime juice and paprika with avocado and layer it on bread. [I expressed skepticism about the vanilla yogurt.] Yes, vanilla yogurt. I make a sweet potato bread pudding with cinnamon Tabasco ice cream at my restaurant, and when people hear that they make the same noises you just did. Trust me. It's delicious.

Erika: What's the most gourmet avocado dish you've had?

Robert Irvine: Avocado souffle, served with onion chutney. It's the best thing I've ever had.

Erika: Where did you have that avocado souffle?

Robert Irvine: In my restaurant, of course.

Erika: Name your three favorite sandwiches with avocado.

Robert Irvine: BLT; chipotle steak; turkey with bacon. They're all on the Subway menu.

Erika: Any ideas for avocados in cocktails?

Robert Irvine: I'd make a cucumber avocado martini. Juice the cucumber and puree the avocado. Mix those together and make a martini. Add a little tabasco. Garnish with diced seedless cucumber and little Parisian balls of avocado.

Erika: If you were going to open a restaurant that served avocados in every dish, what would you call it?

Robert Irvine: Let's see....The Add-Vocado Pit. I think it would work! Someone asked me once about a restaurant that only does eggs - turns out there's one in Chicago that does $3 million a year in eggs. As long as you're creative and consistent, I truly believe you can succeed with a restaurant like that.

Erika: If you were competing on Chopped and got avocado in your dessert basket, what would you make?  
Robert Irvine: I'd do avocado panna cotta. Pureed avocado with eggs, cream and sugar, with gelatin added to form a mousse. I'd make a cold salad with diced avocados, fresh mint, kiwi, strawberries or cherries, and I'd serve that on top of the panna cotta sprinkled with a little black pepper. That's pretty good for off the cuff, hey? That actually sounds amazing. I'm going to make that next week for sure.

Erika: When you do, be sure to reference this conversation.

Robert Irvine: You know I will.

Erika: You were married last month [to professional wrestler Gail Kim]. Were avocados on the menu at your wedding reception?

Robert Irvine: Yes! There was avocado on Chef Morimoto's sushi and Michael Chiarello's salad. And also avocado with oysters: a blanched lettuce leaf wrapped around a raw oyster with avocado, onion and mignonette.

Erika: Guacamole: How do you make yours?

Robert Irvine: I score the avocado flesh and put in bowl. Then I add fresh tomatoes, skinned and seeded; red onion; cilantro; lime juice; Tabasco or Sriracha; and salt and pepper. That's it.

Erika: I have to ask. Do you read any food blogs?

Robert Irvine: I read anything where my name pops up. Even when someone says I'm mean, I like to respond - I like to educate people about what I do. There's a lot of great writing on blogs. I think a lot of blog writers should be syndicating and writing for bigger audiences.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to the day when you find Chef Irvine in your avocado tree! Delightful interview, Erika.

Amy said...

Great interview! And I love his responses - how amazing! So happy you got to speak to him. I just found your blog looking for zucchini recipes and can't wait to try the 3 I pulled. Thanks for a wonderful post!

Erika Kerekes said...

@Anon - yes, that would be quite amusing, don't you think?

@Amy - I'm so glad you found your way here. Which zucchini recipes are you going to try? I just made the chocolate zucchini muffins this week....

Dorothy at Shockinglydelicious said...

What great energy he has! I love his panna cotta idea.

Amy said...

Well it is going to be the zucchini gratini and/or the zucchini squares! Then I can't wait to try the Mexican chilaquiles breakfast casserole recipe! So far, those are my favs of the ones I found. Looking forward to looking through the other recipes as well.

Marinda said...

I adore Chef Robert. He's a no nonsense guy that gets things done. Great interview. I'll be following your blog more closely now. :)

Gloria said...

Nice interview Erika! That avocado souflee with onion chutney sounds like something I'd like to try.

Betsy said...

I love Robert Irvine, and it seems like he was pretty cool "in person" too! Great interview! Can I come climb your avocado tree?

Erika Kerekes said...

@Amy please do come back and let me know which zucchini recipes you tried. I love that gratin...

@Marinda glad to see you here and looking forward to getting to know you!

@Gloria avocado souffle me too

@Betsy anytime, come on over!

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