The celebrity chef landscape grows even larger in 2017 when Robert Irvine enters the dining scene in Las Vegas. Irvine — who hosts shows such as the Food Network’s Restaurant: Impossible — plans to debut his second restaurant at the Tropicana.
"You know what? I came to America in 1997 and I’ve been coming back and forth to Las Vegas since," Irvine says. "Vegas has evolved into a mecca of food.… If you want to be relevant in food, I think you have to have something in Vegas."
So far, Irvine doesn’t have a name or specific food concept for the new restaurant, but he does say he plans to be in Las Vegas "a lot. The success of the restaurant depends on me being here," he says, echoing many of the sentiments he expressed during 13 seasons and 168 restaurant makeovers on his show.
Irvine is no stranger to Tropicana’s Penn Gaming, which also operates the M Resort in Henderson. His show Restaurant Express brought Jayde Fuzion to the resort after Seonkyoung Longest, the home cook with no professional cooking experience, won her own restaurant in 2013. She left in March 2014.
He also worked with many of the executives from Penn Gaming in Atlantic City. "It’s interesting to go full circle," he says.
The Tropicana recently underwent a $200 million makeover revamped all 500 rooms, the casino floor and more, giving it a more South Beach feel.
And while the details of his pending restaurant remain under wraps, Irvine does tease that the restaurant will be a "whole lifestyle and habit change. Food is a medium to so many things… I’ve got my fingers in every part of this restaurant — the food and uniforms and training, the design elements, how it will flow and run."
He’ll take many of the lessons restaurateurs learned on Restaurant: Impossible and incorporate them into his Tropicana restaurant. "Highlights and failures of those restaurants play a part of the design and thought process that comes to Vegas."
In 2015, Irvine said he traveled 340 days out of the year. In Vegas, he has hopes that television will remain a huge part of his strategy. "I plan to do a lot of TV in Vegas as well. Those days will be reallocated to Vegas."
Also on the horizon, Irvine opens a restaurant dubbed Robert Irvine Fresh Kitchen inside the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., in about a month. There he plans to serve healthy fare, pizzas and sandwiches.
On Monday night, Eric Schippers Sr., the vice president of public affairs for Penn National Gaming, presented Irvine with a $5,000 check to benefit The Robert Irvine Foundation, a not-for-profit that "honors the men and women defending our country, first responders and the many other heroes in our lives."
"The foundation and the military are a big part of who I am," Irvine says. He’s worked with actor Gary Sinise to provide the funding to build 46 homes. Later this week, he heads to Bethesda, Maryland, to feed wounded warriors and their caregivers.
As for Las Vegas, expect more details to trickle out in the coming months. His message to fans? "Expect the unexpected. You won’t be disappointed."