Robert Irvine Tells Us About His New Fresh Kitchen At Joint Base Andrews - Exclusive

Service is central to everything Chef Robert Irvine does. Beyond his restaurant and liquor brands, he uses the Robert Irvine Foundation to support active-duty military and veterans with an emphasis on physical and mental health. Nothing demonstrates his passion quite like Fresh Kitchen, a series of restaurants that meet the need for efficient and affordable dining while providing service members with healthful food. 

The first location, a sit-down restaurant inside the Pentagon, was opened as part of Irvine's efforts to help the military modernize its food offerings in conjunction with the H2F, or Holistic Health and Fitness, system. He also opened Victory Fresh, a grab-and-go restaurant at Fort Jackson in South Carolina that offers a healthy alternative to fast food. But Chef Irvine isn't stopping there. "I am helping the military across the joint force modernize their food offerings," says Irvine. 

Up next? The next generation of Fresh Kitchen at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, with plans to expand across the country and around the world. In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Chef Irvine gave us the scoop on what to expect. As he explains, "The first one that's going into Joint Base Andrews is very unique because it's all sous-vide products." Irvine believes this system will change the way restaurants operate in the future, "And Joint Base Andrews is the beginning of the change, along with Fort Jackson, the Pentagon, and a lot of other things that you'll see coming up very soon. So yeah, really excited about that."

Sous-vide dining revolutionizes restaurants

What makes Fresh Kitchen at Joint Base Andrews unique is the sous-vide concept. "It will be the first of its kind, I can operate a restaurant and feed as many people as you want with a couple of people, meaning healthy food done fast with very little overhead," Robert Irvine explains.

Drawing on the efficiency of military commissary kitchens, food will be pre-washed, pre-cut, and pre-seasoned at a central kitchen, with chefs overseeing production to ensure exceptional quality and flavor. On-site, staff will take inspiration from world-class restaurants and use sous-vide techniques to ensure impeccable consistency. Portions will be packaged in vacuum-sealed bags, and immersion circulators will use precisely heated water to cook the food to the perfect temperature, every time. 

This will enable Irvine to, in the future, provide restaurant-quality meals at military facilities across the world — working with a small but mighty staff while maximizing flavor and quality. Staff at each location will assemble meals to order, but the restaurants won't need a kitchen brigade of line cooks manning the stove to make it happen. "It is the restaurant of the future," says Irvine. "There's nothing like it out in the world, that I will tell you."

Serving those who serve us

In Chef Robert Irvine's mind, food comes second only to service. Through his work with the military, Irvine saw that there was a need to provide better nutrition for those who make sacrifices every day, and he developed Fresh Kitchen as an opportunity to serve them in return with very little overhead.

Irvine believes that service members, medical professionals, teachers, and more deserve high-quality, healthy food. "So what I'm excited about is giving our men and women who wear the cloth of our nation, our first responders, healthier food because we're asking them to be athletes. We can buy all the tanks and planes and trains you want. It doesn't work without us humans, unfortunately."

Fresh Kitchen is and will be an opportunity to provide the best quality food to people on the front lines so they can do what they do best — serve other people. Says Irvine, "Food is an integral part of life. Food is hope. ... You put a plate of food in front of somebody, it opens them up. And that's what I love about my job. I don't have a job. I have a passion for changing lives through food."

Fresh Kitchen at Joint Base Andrews is expected to open in the spring of 2024.