Celebrity chef Robert Irvine is encouraging parents to cook more with their children and schools to allow students to go outside more often.
Irvine, a Food Network host, was asked about a recent study that revealed students are throwing out the fruit and vegetables that are required as part of school lunches under the federal government’s nutrition standards.
“We blame government for everything, right, but let’s take it from where it is first of all, we have to look at how kids are at home, how their nutrition standard is. And we tend to follow our parents, so if our parents ate burgers and this and that, nine times out of 10 the kids follow,” Irvine told PJ Media at the grand opening of the newest Giant Food location in Alexandria, Va.
“They have to understand how to cook it. So we want kids in the kitchen with their parents enjoying that, then we look at the standards of food K through 12 with low sodium, low sugar, low fats – the same in the military. There’s an obesity crisis going on now. It’s up to us to make sure we can still give people pizza,” added.
Holding up one of his pizzas that are sold at Giant, Irvine explained that his food products incorporate healthier ingredients while retaining flavor.
“This is a wheat crust pizza with wheat, but we’ve taken the brown out because kids don’t like brown, but it’s still the nutritionals of wheat, whole pepperoni – 800 calories from a 12-inch pizza – better for you but without losing flavor, the money goes to the charity,” he said, also mentioning that his food line includes crab cakes and cheesecake as well.
“My whole goal in life is to give food that is good for you, nutritious for you, healthier for you but without losing the flavor. Food is not bad for you and salt is not bad for you; it’s how we use it. So it’s up to us as chefs and retailers and entrepreneurs to educate kids, their families, the military, the schools, the government and show them what can be done that they don’t think about,” he added.
Irvine recently appeared at the Fort Belvoir military base with actor Gary Sinise to feed the troops.
“There’s a whole education process with food and exercise. Look at kids today. When I was in school – I’m 50 years old – when kids go to school today they are on computers all day. They don’t get out and run around. I’m saying get them out, run around, let them understand food, let them have fun with it and we’ll have a better society, you know, that’s what we should be doing,” he said. “You can still have hot dogs and hamburgers and ice cream, just not every day a pound at a time.”
Irvine said parents and kids are starting to eat healthier.
“They’re starting to cook more at home, that’s why chefs – everybody wants to be a celebrity chef. I’m a cook. I cook at home. I cook for you guys. It’s about the process of education. Just like parents teach little kids to become great adults, we’re doing the same thing,” he said.
Irvine also explained why he chose to partner with the Giant supermarket chain.
“We’re taking it back to basics and Giant Food is a great example of that. If you walk in any of these isles and look at the produce there’s nothing like it anywhere else. They care about it – that’s why I partnered with them because they care and they also care about how men and women in uniform because they give the proceeds of what they do to the USO just like I do with my food; that’s important,” he said.
Irvine said his new restaurant opening at the Pentagon is “ready to go” and an official announcement will be made in the coming weeks.
“It’s about fresh food, healthy food, different choices. I don’t know if it’s filling a void. It will definitely be a different-style restaurant. I know it’s 5,600 square feet, I believe. There’s going to be a lot of food for a lot of great people,” he said.
Irvine was asked why he has decided to open restaurants in the U.S. as opposed to Great Britain, his home country.
“I live here. It’s a long commute to run a restaurant. Whenever you run restaurants you have to be in them otherwise they don’t work. No, I would never open a restaurant that’s across the water because my life is here,” he said.