Chris Irving has cooked for Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family of Spain.
He’s made sushi and fried chicken for the four “just normal kids” of David and Victoria Beckham.
He’s cooked on luxury yachts and in fancy hotels, not to mention the private mansion of master chef Gordon Ramsay.
Now he’s coming home to roast a brace of wild boars in a field just west of Whitehorse.
Irving is one of two “celebrity” chefs on deck to conduct cooking demonstrations at next week’s Frog Food Festival (formerly known as the Frog Mountain Music Festival).
“I don’t consider myself a celebrity,” the 32-year-old Irving claims in a Skype interview from Bangkok, Thailand, where he is currently working for Marriott Hotels.
“If that’s a label I’ve been given by someone, I’ll work with it, but I would never claim to be a celebrity.”
Growing up in Riverdale, Irving had no idea he would one day be serving the rich and famous, or cooking more than a Thanksgiving turkey for his family, which he first did around the age of 13.
“When I was in school, I was more interested in outdoor education, so I was doing course like ACES (Achievement, Challenge, Environment and Service) and being outside as much as possible,” he says.
“It never really crossed my mind to be a chef or work in a kitchen. It wasn’t something I’d been immersed in before.”
That all changed when he was tending bar in a Calgary nightclub and volunteered to help solve a staffing problem in the club’s restaurant.
“It turned out that I got in there and basically took over,” he says. “So at 18 or 19 years old, I became a kitchen manager for three locations.”
Irving had clearly found his niche.
“I loved it, because I was actually really good at it — all the aspects around managing a kitchen, the ordering, the staff management, all adapted to the development and creation of the food.”
At the suggestion of a Whitehorse friend, he soon applied for — and got — a job at the prestigious Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, British Columbia.
“It was the first time I’d had my taste of fine-dining cooking, and it sort of opened my eyes.”
From there, Irving went on to study at the Dubrelle international culinary school in Vancouver. After working at the noted West restaurant, he headed to London, England, for “two grueling years” at Restaurant Petrus under chefs Marcus Wareing and the famously irascible Ramsay.
“Gordon’s intense, there’s no way around that,” Irving says.
“He’s never personally yelled and screamed at me. I don’t claim to be perfect, but I worked hard. And he has a lot of respect for people who try their hardest, even if something isn’t right.”
After a stint as proprietor of the Pourhouse in Vancouver’s Gastown and some time in the Mediterranean, Irving signed on to a senior role with Gordon Ramsay Holdings.
His duties included three days a week as personal chef to the family of soccer legend Beckham and his Spice Girl-turned-fashion-designer wife in their London and California homes.
“I’ve spent time with them to earn their respect, so they give me free rein to do whatever I want for them,” Irving says.
“I spent three weeks at their country estate over Christmas time, and they would treat me just as if I was part of the family, not just someone who was working for them,” he adds.
“That is a time I’ll look back and cherish for the rest of my life, for sure.”
That connection also gave him a fresh perspective on Ramsay, whose children are the same age as the Beckhams’. The two families — and Irving — spent a day at Ramsay’s $7 million estate in the swish Los Angeles neighbourhood of Bel Air.
“I got to spend some time cooking in Gordon’s kitchen, so I got to see a little bit of a different side to him than most people do — a bit more of a personal, softer side,” he says.
“He’s incredible with his kids. He’s so quick-witted and so funny, he’ll just catch you totally off-guard and have you in stitches in a matter of seconds.”
Irving cites the major “takeaway” from his time with Ramsay:
“You don’t compromise in anything, whether it’s food, or in your life.”
Irving’s future plans are still in flux, but being known as a “celebrity” chef isn’t key.
“I’ve still got so much to learn, and I’ve got many miles I need to travel before I feel like I’ve accomplished what I want to accomplish,” he says.
“So I’m just plugging away, still working hard, keeping my head down, keeping my feet in the trenches.”
On Friday August 1, Irving will be in the trenches of Circle D Ranch, serving spit-roasted pork to 150 patrons at the Frog Food Festival. For more information, go to www.frogfoodfestival.ca