Robert Irvine, the cranky host of Food Network's Restaurant: Impossible, was a lot less cranky than he is on the show—where he browbeats failing restaurant operators to make changes to turn around their businesses—when he hosted a recent event at Columbia University's Ferris Booth Commons. Irvine oversaw the preparation and serving of a menu featuring recipes from his cookbooks that included lobster tacos stuffed with avocado salsa, cowboy strombolis, tomato onion flatbread pizza, shrimp scampi and rice pudding topped with whipped cream.
The event was advertised through signage and TV screens in the dining halls and on the Columbia Dining website and Facebook page (see here for more photos of the event). Student media were also informed and asked to provide coverage. As a result, about 1,800 students attended over the course of the 90-minute event.
Columbia Dining worked with distributor Sysco Corp. representatives to arrange Irvine's appearance and event logistics. Irvine did not do any actual cooking but did give menu approval and also assisted the dining staff with preparing some of his own recipes. During the event, he advised the staff on preparation, served food and interacted with students.
"We have a partnership with Sysco and Chef Irvine is Sysco’s spokesperson," says Victoria Dunn, executive director of Columbia Dining. "As our focus at Columbia Dining is on local, sustainable, and quality food we felt that Chef Irvine could help us to highlight these pillars of our organization in a way that gets students excited and engaged. This was a unique event designed specifically for Columbia Dining."