New ‘Dinner’ Is Impossible To Swallow

Food Network’s Dinner: Impossible used to be one of my very favorite shows on television. The reality series about chef Robert Irvine tackling increasingly difficult culinary challenges with absurd time limits made for great drama. The show was a bright spot in a network lineup filled with Americanized knock-offs of genuine hits and talentless hacks who think big boobs and native pronunciations pass for cooking ability. Then, early in 2008 it was revealed that the show’s host, Irvine, had padded some of the more impressive parts of his culinary resume. This, combined with some bad business decisions by Irvine surrounding two new St. Petersburg, FL restaurants, led Food Network to can Irvine in favor of Michael Symon of Iron Chef America fame.

Viewers got a taste of the new Dinner: Impossible on July 20th, with a special advanced viewing of Symon as host. The results were not encouraging. Symon stumbled through his first challenge like a freshman CIA student, all the while annoying us with his goofy giggle. You might be tempted to chalk this unpleasant outing up to beginner’s nerves. But Symons deals with high pressure cooking situations every time he does battle in Iron Chef America’s Kitchen Stadium. No, it seems clear that Symons isn’t compelling or likable enough to shoulder Impossible without Alton Brown riding shotgun.

Even though Robert Irvine didn’t actually work on Princess Diana or Prince Charle’s wedding cake, it turns out he was perfectly skilled to host Dinner: Impossible. Irvine was a tough, but fair chef who brought out the best (and worst) in those he worked with. Whether he was cooking in -30 degree temperatures for the ice hotel episode or giving a set of his prized knives away to soux-chefs who inspired him, Robert Irvine made Impossible what it was. I don’t particularly care if Food Network didn’t bother to check his credentials before they hired him, I throughly enjoyed watching him cook under pressure. The suits that canned Irvine have proven once again that what viewers want, and what network executives want are two very different things.

The official start to season 5 of Dinner: Impossible with host Michael Symon starts August 20th, 2008. However, the show’s producers had better get Symon’s buns in gear or they may find viewers souring on DI, permanently. Personally, I think they should have given the gig to Guy Fieri. He turned in a fun and memorable performance as a guest chef on Dinner: Impossible last season and would strike the perfect balance between challenge completion and humor the show so desperately needs. Even an aging Emeril Lagasse would have been a better choice than Symons to helm the show. If I had to choose between Emeril’s “Bam!” and Symon’s silly cackle every week, “Bam!” wins hands down. I can’t believe I just wrote that.


  1. When the story broke about Robert’s resume, I was hoping cooler heads would prevail at Food Network. After all, who hasn’t padded their resume from time to time to score a gig?

    In fact, I had emailed them to allow him to stay, since I felt the show and Chef Irvine were inseparable. When the suits said they were going to essentially “think about it”, I felt that he stood a chance at coming back.

    I saw the commercial for the new season and wondered, “Who *is* this douchebag?” Like expecting Thomas’ English Muffins for breakfast and getting toast. D:I without Robert is no D:I at all.

    Color me disappointed.


  2. I enjoyed the concept of watching a Chef cook under pressure. Irvine always seemed to push it to the limits with very interesting results. He also did some instruction to the home audience and I felt like I learned something about finer food along the way.

    I kept giving Chef Symon a chance but the nervous giggle makes me crazy. The show is now watching him rush a bout and giggle like a fool. I didn’t know how much I missed Chef Irvine. The producers are the one who played up his resume. Rachel Ray comes to the culinary world as a none formally trained chef but she can entertain and teach. Chef Irvine had the same ability.

    Food Network you screwed up yourselves.

    It’s going off my TiVo.

  3. I agree…the new guy just isn’t as interesting as Robert was.

    AND what happened to Robert’s soux chefs?

  4. Oh man, that is SO sweet like I can’t say! Thanks for posting that Mac, that totally makes my day. Maybe my month. This ROCKS.

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