With all of the attention Paula Deen and her family get here in the Savannah area, it's many times lost on the population that there is another high-octane celebrity chef doing business just over the river in the Lowcountry.
He's certainly not as high profile as the Deens, but Robert Irvine has quite a following of his own.
His television show "Restaurant: Impossible" is very popular and keeps Irvine on the road "about 340 days a year," he says.
Until recently, Irvine had two spots to dine in the Lowcountry.
Eat! was a fixture at the Wexford Shoppes on Hilton Head Island, and Nosh is tucked away in the back of Tanger Outlet 2 along highway 278 in Bluffton, 35 or so minutes from the Talmadge Bridge.
For some reason, though, he and his staff wonder why more Savannahians don't come over to Bluffton to enjoy something different. Well, the reality is, there are a number of reasons.
Irvine was in town over the weekend, taking time out of his very busy schedule, "Seven states in five days this week," he says, to visit with his fans at Nosh.
He charmed, he smiled, he took time to talk to the children in attendance, as any great host should.
But the main purpose for this party was to make a declaration.
According to Irvine, there is a new Nosh in town, taking the best of what Eat! had to offer before it closed and adding it to the menu at Nosh. Upscale meets a little more casual at the outlet mall. Frankly, the food we had at this "VIP event" was off-the-charts wonderful.
Buffalo Chicken Pork Sliders, Coconut Fried Shrimp, Pan Seared Pork Belly, Grilled Cheese Bites in a She Crab Soup shooter. Unbelieveable.
However, if all of that doesn't make your mouth water, my two showstoppers were the hummus (which I believe was made with red peppers) and one of the desserts. Are you ready?
Deep Fried Oreo Cookie with a Strawberry Milk Shooter. Oh. Em. Gee. One of the best things I've ever eaten in my life. No joke.
As I enjoyed every bite of this impressive display, I had to wonder why.
I can be as cynical as the next guy. So why, if the food is this good, did Eat! close its doors and does Nosh need a new menu? Truth be told, it hasn't been that good. Talk to enough people in Hilton Head and Bluffton about Eat! and Nosh, and you get a lot of "It's OK" responses. Not once did I ever hear, "It's wonderful; you should try it."
I was curious enough about Nosh a while back to ask friends to visit there for me. On three different occasions, I heard "meh."
I was told essentially it was far from bad but if you are going to the Lowcountry to eat, you could do a lot better. So I did.
With average reports as a backdrop, I've spent my time and money eating and liking at a number of places in Bluffton and Hilton Head Island. Never made it to Nosh until this weekend.
As I've said, what we had was very, very impressive.
However, I'm looking forward to trying it when the boss and his traveling "corporate chef" are thousands of miles away.
Serve that type of quality on an average Tuesday night or a shopping Saturday afternoon and Robert Irvine will absolutely have a winner on his hands with this "New Nosh."
I will be back. I'll give it my standard five to six weeks after the launch of a new concept before visiting. I think it's only fair that way.
In the meantime, Irvine is long gone, working on his show and sharing good food with America's troops, both here and abroad.
He's been working with Actor Gary (Lt. Dan) Sinese on several projects of goodwill for our troops and even says they have a new TV show in the works. Yes, together. That could be fun.
I'm left to wonder, though, how great this new concept at the outlet mall will be. I root for everyone to be good! The more great food, the more I enjoy my job.
Certainly Team Irvine has the resources to make this work if they really want to. He says he does.
"I'm not going anywhere" was a common statement this night.
Eat Meets Nosh?
We shall see.
See you on TV,