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Chef Robert Irvine dishes on family fun, Paula Deen at SBWFF

Robert Irvine is a good fit for a family-friendly event at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival.

The buff chef, who stars in the Food Network's "Restaurant: Impossible," is set to host "Fit and Fun as a Family" on Saturday and Sunday at Jungle Island in Miami. At 1 p.m. both days, he will be encouraging messy fun in the interactive Kidz Kitchen and Food Lab.

"It's sad, but in this country, kids think milk comes from a supermarket and not from cows," he said. "I show parents how to stock the pantry and refrigerator, so they can plan meals and cut down on junk food and fast food."

Celeb chefs Giada De Laurentiis, Andrew Zimmern and Rocco DiSpirito will help Irvine, 48, cook up good times while teaching families about a healthy lifestyle. There also will be a food garden and beach sports activities.

"I encourage kids and parents to run around and play ball and learn to cook together as a family. It's a lot of fun," said Irvine, who has two daughters, ages 16 and 12.

The British-born chef works out seven days a week, for an hour a day.

"Knowledge about food keeps us well, and exercise keeps us strong and fit," he said. "It's important to make that connection for kids early."

We caught up with the hunky host, who just wrapped the ninth season and 100th episode of "Restaurant: Impossible," to see what's cookin' when he arrives in South Florida.

Q: What do you like about South Florida and the South Beach Wine and Food Festival?

A: I have a home in Tampa, so it's just four hours down the road for me. It's a beautiful place, a crazy place. The festival brings great food and good wine together on various levels for normal people to enjoy. It brings people together that have never met before. It's a good time.

Q: Where do you party?

A: I don't. South Beach never sleeps, but I'm not a party guy. That's not what I do. I never even did that when I was in the military. I'm normally in bed by 9 or 10 p.m. I'm so tired because I'm on the road 345 days a year, so I see some friends to eat and just go to bed so I can work out the next morning.

Q: Then what do you do for fun?

A: Have a great dinner with a good bottle of wine. Then, home and off to bed. I'm not a whippersnapper that can go out and get drunk and get up the next morning. It's a sad existence that I live, but it's a great one.

Q: Where do you dine?

A: I go to Joe's Stone Crab for lunch every time I'm in South Beach. I've been doing that for six or seven years. I also love BLT Steak. My favorite pig-out food is french fries and strip steak. Love, love steak and fries.

Q: Tell us something we don't know about you.

A: Let's seeā€¦ I listen to ABBA when I work out. I've never told anyone that! I also play Celine Dion and Pink. "The Winner Takes It All" is my favorite song. I also love Queen Latifah ... She's so genuine and gives so much. All celebrities should be like her.

Q: Do people compare you to Gordon Ramsay of "Kitchen Nightmares" and other shows?

A. They do, but I'm not Gordon Ramsay ... I'm not as "in your face." He's an amazing chef, but he has a different style from me ... I believe in tough love, but I also believe in nurturing confidence and teaching. I don't leave until I achieve the goal. What you see on the screen is real.

Q: The "Queen of Southern Cuisine," Paula Deen, is appearing at the SBWFF this year. Can you talk about what happened to the former Food Network chef after she admitted to using a racial slur?

A. Paula Deen is a national treasure, whether we like it or not. She said something wrong, but she's paid the consequences. Obviously, we all need to be careful about what we say. She was wrong. She made a mistake. She should be forgiven and let's move on. I did not condone what she said, but she's a good friend of mine and I will always support her. She's a great human being.

If you go

What: Fun and Fit as a Family

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: Jungle Island, 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail, Miami

Tickets: $20 each day at

The South Beach Wine and Food Festival runs Thursday through Feb. 23. For more information, call 877-762-3933, or go to


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