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Robert Irvine is 'back in business' with new version of Restaurant Impossible to help those affected by COVID-19

Irvine is back with Restaurant Impossible: Back in Business on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. on the Food Network.
Credit: AP

CLEVELAND — Chef Robert Irvine is unmistakable.

From his booming voice with the accent that reflects his upbringing in the United Kingdom to his huge biceps that show off his commitment to health and fitness, to his tireless work ethic and dedication to humanitarian causes.

Irvine is back with an all new season of "Restaurant Impossible" starting Thursday night at 9 p.m. on Food Network. But this won't be like any season you've ever seen before.

Because of COVID-19, restaurants all across the country are struggling to stay afloat. Irvine wanted to go back to assist restaurants that were previously featured on the show that are being affected by the current pandemic. 

"I told the Food Network 'I can't sit at home anymore, I have to get back to work,'" he says. 

So the answer was "Restaurant Impossible: Back in Business."

Forced to adapt to a new way of doing business because of the coronavirus, Irvine is seeking to rescue desperate owners from complete collapse. He'll be looking at everything from the restaurant's financial numbers and technology, to safety protocols and menus.

"We're really making a big difference," Irvine told me. "Restaurant Impossible is always emotional, but this is different. The pandemic is affecting everyone, including 11 million workers in food and hospitality. I'm normally an intense guy, but we're going back to family members we've visited before and it's a whole different feeling of a show."

Two of the rescues of "Restaurant Impossible: Back in Business" take place at Northeast Ohio establishments: Edgar's in Akron and Garrett's Mill Brewing Company in Garrettsville. It's easy to tell that Irvine has an affinity for this area and the people he's rescued. 

"I just think the people of Northeast Ohio are unbelievable," he gushed. "They're hard working, they're caring. They're real salt of the earth people."

Irvine considers Garrett's Mill Brewing Company probably the best makeover he's ever done in his career. In fact, it's the place he most wishes he could own.

"It's the most beautiful restaurant I've ever seen situated on a river," he added. "I just fell in love with the people there and didn't want to leave."

However, the chef also has a soft spot in his heart for Edgar's owner Glenn Gillespie and the rest of the staff at the Akron restaurant.

"We had a few intense moments, but I'm telling you when I left him (Gillespie) the first time, I found a friend, a brother, and became really close," Irvine remembered. "When I went back, it was like seeing family."

"Restaurant Impossible: Back in Business" comes at a critical time for the restaurant and hospitality industry. Irvine says 35% of the total restaurants in the United States have been lost due to COVID-19. He hopes that the protocols and information that he provides on the show can be a blueprint for other businesses, both in and out of the service industry.

Watch "Restaurant Impossible: Back in Business" Thursday nights at 9 p.m. ET on Food Network. You can follow Robert Irvine on Twitter here.

You can see our full conversation in the player below or click here