Celebrity chef shares passion for health and food with Dover airmen

By Roland Balik
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE — Celebrity chef Robert Irvine touched down at Dover Air Force Base recently to school airmen on cooking, among other activities.
Mr. Irvine visited with Shane Cash, his corporate chef, and facilitated a “Dorm to Gourm” class for 10 Dover airmen at the Fitness Center on Aug. 27.

After his arrival and short introductions, Mr. Irvine divided up the class into five teams of two, which he and Mr. Cash guided through the recipe and prep for Cuban-Style Stewed Chicken Ropa Vieja Street Tacos and Rad Na Thai Chicken Salad.

“It was nice to meet him, work with him and (learn from) what he taught us,” said Airman 1st Class Marlen Solis, 436th Force Support Squadron food services apprentice and first-time Dorm to Gourm participant.

For dessert, the airmen huddled around Chef Irvine to listen to his personal message. “If you don’t like your job, change it,” said Mr. Irvine. “The skills you acquire while in the military — no matter what your job is — makes you more marketable than anyone in the civilian world. Stick with it. When you retire, you will be at the top of the hiring pool.”

Mr. Irvine’s connection to the military started with 12 years as a cook in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy and then three years as a reservist. He spends about 345 days a year on the road, including about 150 days visiting stateside and overseas military personnel and installations. He is actively involved with organizations that help support the men and women of our military and their families.

Chef Irvine instructs airmen.

“I want the men and women who wear the cloth of our nation to know that people care … that we support them, their families and the mission,” said Mr. Irvine.
In addition to teaching the students how to slice, dice and cook, the chef also served up facts about the ingredients they used and educated them on making healthier food choices.

Mr. Irvine said, “For me, food, nutrition, exercise and readiness is the most important thing we have.”

Mr. Irvine also stopped by Patterson Dining Facility, Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations, Fisher House, the Heavy Lifter Kiosk and the 436th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal flight, encouraging airmen and instilling pride in their everyday lives.

“He (Irvine) is doing great things with the USO for the military, and it was definitely an enjoyable experience hosting him at our shop,” said Staff Sgt. Johny Hargrove, 436th CES EOD team leader.
Chef Irvine’s Dorm to Gourm visit was made possible when Dawne Nickerson-Banez, 436th Airlift Wing chief of community engagement, seized the opportunity to host Irvine.

“I started Dorm to Gourm for the airmen over five years ago. Since then, we have had several guest chefs come in and teach airmen cooking skills, life lessons and share words of wisdom,” said Ms. Nickerson-Banez. “For all of those years, it has been my goal to get Chef Irvine here to teach and interact with the Dorm to Gourm students — It finally happened!”

Reaffirming his commitment to those who serve, Chef Irvine dished out a direct means to contact him for all airmen in attendance.

“He literally gave the Dorm to Gourm students his personal email address so that if they ever needed someone to talk to, share with or just a boost of motivation, they can reach directly out to him,” said Nickerson-Banez.

As Chef Irvine concluded his visit, he marveled, “From a standpoint of every operational duty that goes on here, (Dover AFB) is just amazing.”

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