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“Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive” –Sir Walter Scott

Apparently, a very well embellished resume can make you a Food Network star and put you on a well paved track to cook book publishing deals, licensing deals to have your own signature kitchen product line and opportunities to hobnob with the rich and famous. It’s a common career move with very attractive rewards, if you’re willing to take the risks.

So pity the fool that gets caught, especially on a very public and very national, possibly international scale. The fool of moment is Robert Irvine, chef and Food Network star of the show, Dinner: Impossible.

In Dinner:Impossible, Irvine is tasked to complete a new “cooking mission” in each episode. For example, he might be assigned to prepare a special going-away dinner for troops about to head to Iraq. The main hook for the show are its crazy 1-2 hour time constraints, coupled with an enormous number of diners (often 100-200 people) and a kitchen that’s usually filled with limited supplies and equipment. I think that people mainly tune in to see if he’ll complete the mission or crack under the pressure.

Last week on February 17th, the St. Petersburg Times published a scathing story that uncovers the truth behind Irvine’s ficticious resume and recent bad business practices. Here are the story’s key revelations:

  • Knighthood - Jenn Stebbing, press officer at Buckingham Palace: “He is not a KCVO (Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order), and he wasn’t given a castle by the queen of England.”
  • B.S. in Food and Nutrition, University of Leeds – Sarah Spiller, a press officer at the University of Leeds: “We cannot find any connection in our records between Robert and the university.”
  • Former White House Chef - Walter Scheib, the White House executive chef from 1994 to 2005: “Irvine’s ONLY connection with the White House is through the Navy Mess facility in the West Wing … never in the period from 4/4/94 until 2/4/05 did he have ANYTHING to do with the preparation, planning, or service of any State Dinner or any other White House Executive Residence food function, public or private.”

As of March 1, this story has been picked up or adapted by many other major U.S. publications and news wires including New York Magazine, Washington Post, United Press International (UPI). All the bad publicity to Irvine’s public image has resulted in the Food Network’s decision not to renew Irvine’s contact for more episodes of Dinner:Impossible. This decision was announced this past Friday in a released statement along with an admission from Irvine. Whether Food Network has decided to cast a new host and continue the show is undetermined at this point.

Interestingly, the PR team decided to e-mail this statement individually to reporters and bloggers rather than releasing it over the wire. I suppose this strategy keep the details from manifesting on the Web in random sites and pick ups while still getting the point-of-view out to those most interested in this story.

From a public relations stand point, Irvine only has himself to blame. It’s one thing to put your best foot forward in order to get in the door; but to make such fantastical lies as to introducing yourself as a knight or being a White House chef is incredible.

Given Food Network’s star making power and squeaky clean image, it amazes me that its human resource department never ran a full background check on Irvine before cultivating him into another “face” for the Food Network brand. I am also surprised that nobody, until now, has called him out on these claims. Correct me if I am wrong, but I do recall several instances on Dinner: Impossible where Irvine would recount his past experience and name drop the White House. But I guess this just show easy it can be to get away with a fake resume.

Moral of the Story: Lying is never a good idea, especially on a resume with which you are using to apply for a job that will throw you into the public eye (aka public scrutiny). As Edison Chen can tell you, crisis communications sucks.

Side Note: Good job to St. Petersburg Times reporter, Ben Montgomery for his excellent work in “investigative” reporting. With so many cuts in editorial staff (meaning that most reporters are reduced to writing more fluff pieces and relying on PR people for all their information), it’s nice to know from a consumer stand point that there are still journalists who are in search of truth and can make the time to do their own research.

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