Celebrity chef Robert Irvine, he of “Restaurant Impossible,” “Dinner Impossible” and other reality television fame, has a deal to open Robert Irvine Fresh Kitchen in the Pentagon, a spokesman for the chef confirmed Wednesday.
He also lunched at Founding Farmers, according to his Twitter feed.
Robert Irvine Fresh Kitchen will be part fast-casual, grab-and-go cafe and part sit-down restaurant, said Adam Odegard, a spokesman for Irvine. The cafe will serve coffee, fresh squeezed juices, smoothies and breakfast items in the morning and prepared sandwiches and salads during the day.
The 75-seat sit-down restaurant will also be open for breakfast and lunch, providing a place for breakfast meetings and a menu of salads, sandwiches and other items, including pizzas made in an exhibition pizza kitchen.
“It’ll be built for speed, meaning that it’ll be rapid service but great service,” he said. “Same with rapid and great quality food and beverage.”
The restaurant will not be accessible to the public — only to federal employees and contractors who work inside the Pentagon. It will occupy a second-level space overlooking the food court that is currently occupied by Market Basket, a casual restaurant featuring sandwiches, a sushi bar and a hot bar. Market Basket will relocate within the food court at the end of the summer, and the Robert Irvine restaurant’s projected opening is February 2015, Odegard said.
Irvine was invited to submit a proposal due to his military connections, Odegard said. The chef began his career in the British Royal Navy and served as a guest chef at the Navy Mess facility in the White House. He frequently volunteers his time with military charities. (In March, he attended the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore annual gala.)
“We’re excited to be there, we think we’re going to fill a category that’s needed and basically, we are expecting ourselves to be best in class when we come and deliver an amazing food product at a reasonable price,” he said. Prices are not yet set, but they will be competitive with existing offerings in the Pentagon, he added.
If the concept works as expected, it could be the first of many Robert Irvine Fresh Kitchens that could open both in military facilities and elsewhere, Odegard said.
“It will be our model for many concepts to come of the same vein,” he said.
When a Pentagon reporter asked Department of Defense spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby about the restaurant during the Pentagon press briefing Tuesday, Kirby wasn’t aware of the move, but he did say that the food options in the building could use some improvement.
“Listen, as a guy who spends 12 to 14 hours a day here, I welcome a new place to eat,” Kirby said, according to a transcript of the briefing. Upon hearing that Irvine has a show about struggling restaurants, Kirby quipped: “Then I’m sure we could use his assistance here.”