Behind the Scenes of Dinner: Impossible
Packing for a Mystery Trip
Robert Irvine invites a writer from Food Network Magazine, Alan Sytsma, along on a Dinner: Impossible mission. There's just one problem: Neither one of them knows where they're going. How do you pack when you don't know your destination? To be prepared, Robert and Alan must pack for extremes. Parkas are packed alongside flip-flops, heavy sweaters and sunglasses.
Food Network Magazine photos: Mark Peterson
Robert’s hard at work long before the mission starts. Prior to his departure, he polishes his shoes to a military shine.
The Night Before the Mission
The guessing game begins as Robert gets picked up just before 4am. It’s pitch-black, but Robert is pumped: "Didn't sleep at all last night!"
Robert Mentally Prepares
This is Robert’s 65th mission so he no longer searches for clues to the challenge at each location; instead he waits for his producers to reveal the challenge. Upon arrival at the secret location, he spends the day doing his normal routine. He eats lunch, works out in the hotel gym, grabs an early dinner and then performs an unlikely ritual: He irons all of his clothes. “That’s when the whole thing becomes real for me,” he says. The ironing stems from his time in the military (he was a cook in the British Royal Navy for 10 years). So does his sleep schedule. At most, Robert sleeps about three hours before a mission: "Tomorrow morning I'll be up and sort of itching to get on with it."
Another Day in Paradise?
Robert lands in Key West, Fla., but just because he's arrived in paradise doesn't mean he's on vacation. Marc Summers, Dinner: Impossible's executive producer, asks Robert if anyone told him to pack shorts. Robert says no. "You won't want to wear long pants for this," Marc says. "It's gonna be brutal."
6:02am: A producer briefs Robert on the first shot — without revealing what he'll be doing.
All hands on deck
7am: Executive producer Marc Summers surveys the opening setup. There's no one moment when everything is revealed to Robert — he gets his information in pieces. By 7am, he knows his mission involves pirates, but he doesn't know for how many people he'll be cooking, where he'll be serving, or where he'll get the food.
Orders from an Old Seadog
7:45am: Robert gets his mission from a "professional pirate," Captain Stitch (with Honeybell the parrot).
Orders from the Cap'n
He learns he’ll have eight hours to shop and cook a feast for 150 pirates, and that he has to include seafaring dishes like turtle, bone soup and something made with scurvy-preventing citrus.
8:47am: With only eight hours to complete the mission, Robert races to come up with a pirate-themed menu based on the guidelines.
Shiver Me Timbers, There's a Pirate in the Produce Aisle!
9:31am: The chef and his crew invade a local supermarket (during business hours!). Other shoppers — who clearly weren't expecting their Monday-morning grocery run to be ambushed by Dinner: Impossible — whip out camera phones. "This is my favorite show," one customer says, framing a shot on his iPhone.
The Grand Total
Robert went a little over budget with this challenge (producers had budgeted about $3,000 for this mission.) "I pick up a lot of things along the way," he says. "I might drop something or ruin something. If that happens, we need another menu item on the fly." After the 45-minute supermarket sweep, the food — including two crates of lobsters, several pounds of fresh turtle meat and a whole pig — is piled into two vans.
1:22pm: The pirates will enjoy their meal at a state park chosen by producers for the postcard-perfect view. The park isn't set up for cooking, though; the chef and his team need to build a bonfire in order to get everything prepared on time.
The Final Hour
3:16pm: Robert's focus is even more intense during the mission's final hour. He doesn't work alone, though. He is assisted by George and David, his regular sous chefs, and a few local pirates: Leatherback, Scarlett and Deadeye.
4:10pm: Finished! The crew celebrates another successful mission with a rum toast. Check out Robert and his mates in action when this episode airs on March 31 at 10pm.