By Jill Sojourner, news correspondent

Celebrity chef and restaurateur Robert Irvine entertained students while demonstrating how to cook a risotto at the Xhibition Kitchen on Tuesday, Oct. 10.

Attendees waited eagerly to watch a cooking demonstration by Irvine, the host of many shows, including “Restaurant: Impossible,” “Dinner: Impossible” and “The Robert Irvine Show,” and author of “Fit Fuel: A Chef’s Guide to Eating Well, Getting Fit and Living Your Best Life.” Students attending were excited to see what he had to offer.

“I’d like to see some new recipes that I can use in my own home that are healthy and will benefit me in the gym,” said Brett Chase, a junior finance and entrepreneurship combined major.

The Xhibition Kitchen, located inside Stetson West, frequently features professional and celebrity chefs several times a month.

“Watching people cook has always been a part of my life, so it’s fun to see other people’s cooking methods,” said Kate Silvia, a physical therapy major in the fourth year of a six-year program.

The kitchen is just one example of the vast array of diverse experiential learning opportunities offered by Northeastern.

“We believe [Xhibition Kitchen] is true to the university’s experiential learning [model],” said Deb Fantasia, marketing director of Northeastern Dining. “We know that there is no culinary program here. We think it helps for students in [addressing] real-life situations to come and learn from all of these unbelievable chefs.”

Attendees observed intently as Irvine prepared pumpkin risotto with barley, often pausing to answer questions or interact with students. The audience laughed several times at Irving’s antics: challenging a young audience member to do 20 pushups, recruiting two attendees to taste straight olive oil and demonstrating the cleaning properties of salt by throwing it on the kitchen floor.

Irvine’s demonstration was less about the food itself than his approach to cooking in general.

“Food is supposed to be fun, and it’s an integral part of life. We don’t eat food to live, we live to eat,” Irvine said.

Irvine was well aware that many young people have trouble cooking and eating healthfully, or even regularly, with the time constraints and limited resources of a college student. He came prepared to address this issue while also debunking the misconception held by many that eating less is the key to weight loss and improved health.

“We always have a budget,” he said. “You can budget that money wisely, whether you cook for yourself or you have a meal plan […] You have to incorporate smaller meals that are more nutritious on a frequent basis […] because that allows the body’s metabolism to speed up, the brain functions better and you can think more clearly.”

Irvine went on to emphasize the sheer importance of food to academic success.

“If you’re tired, you can’t sit and do an exam […] or you can’t learn, because you’re tired and you’re hungry,” he said.The two biggest failing things in a university are food and sleep. [Without eating], when you get up in the morning and go to your lessons […] you’re going to be almost braindead – for want of a better word – until you eat. […] You have to satisfy your body first. […] If you eat correctly, your grades will go through the roof.”

A major topic of discussion was Irvine’s work as a philanthropist with the Robert Irvine Foundation, a nonprofit focusing on supporting and honoring military personnel, first responders and their families. This year, Irvine, along with actor and philanthropist Gary Sinise, worked to build 48 “smart homes” to accommodate the specific needs of severely handicapped veterans, among many other outreach initiatives.

“Being nice doesn’t cost anything,” he said. “Whatever it is, make sure you do something every day for somebody that you don’t know. […] If everyone in this room did one good deed a day, our world would be an amazing place.”

Photo by Lauren Scornavacca