The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2011 Joplin tornado

August 29, 2012

Celebrity chef says he experienced Joplin ‘spirit’

JOPLIN, Mo. — Celebrity chef Robert Irvine said that after seeing the tornado devastation in Joplin last year and working with local residents and volunteers, “it was like coming back home” this week to return for a segment of his “Restaurant: Impossible” cable network show.

“You have no idea,” he said of how seeing the devastation that took 161 lives affected him. “Joplin has made an indelible mark on my life.”

A holiday season version of Irvine’s show is being taped in Joplin as he and his crew renovate the kitchen at the Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Missouri. He said the labor is his way of thanking the volunteers who helped the club, and of showing his support for the people of Joplin.

“There’s a feel about Joplin, and it’s hard to describe in words,” said the chef of Food Network shows that include “Dinner: Impossible.”

Access to the club is being strictly controlled during the taping.

Irvine said he was in Joplin shortly after the May 22, 2011, tornado working with the American Red Cross. He said he committed then to return to do a project for Joplin’s rebuilding because of the resilience he saw in people. He said he persuaded the producers of “Restaurant: Impossible” to tape the show’s holiday special at a project for the Boys & Girls Club.

In the aftermath of the tornado, volunteers stayed at the club, and supplies were stored and distributed from there. Irvine said he saw the care that was given children enrolled at the club and that many of them were traumatized by the tornado.

Irvine said he couldn’t help but be moved by the suffering and loss he saw last year. “I always want to make sure we remember those who lost their lives,” he said. He said there are thousands of stories about the losses and about the heroic acts that took place to protect or save people. He specifically cited the loss of Chris Lucas, the 27-year-old manager of Pizza Hut who died trying to hold the cooler door shut to protect employees and customers.

“This says it all,” Irvine said, pulling off the blue bracelet distributed since the tornado that is imprinted with the phrase used by City Manager Mark Rohr to describe the selfless acts and determination of Joplin residents to recover: “The Miracle of the Human Spirit.”

“And you see that here in the people of Joplin and in the volunteers who came here,” Irvine said.

Rohr said he met with Irvine on Wednesday to discuss Joplin’s destruction and recovery.

“I was impressed with the sensitivity he demonstrated toward what Joplin had been through. I am thankful to him and the show for what they have done for Joplin and expressed that to them when we parted,” Rohr said in an email response to a Globe question about the meeting.

Irvine said he has renovated 54 failing eateries on the “Restaurant: Impossible” show. Projects have included a soup kitchen, a school, rebuilding a community center and planting a garden on a mission from Michelle Obama. “This, to me, is the most important,” he said of the Joplin show.

All of the restaurants helped by his show are thriving, he said. “‘Restaurant: Impossible’ for me is God’s work,” he said. “Is it tough love? Yes.”

But, the Boys & Girls Club is a different cause for him because the people thrive but the building is suffering from disrepair.

“The staff is great. The children are treated great,” he said. “The food is not so great, so we’re going to fix that.”

About Joplin

JOPLIN, SAID CHEF ROBERT IRVINE, is a place where he found the people to be resilient and appreciative despite the adversity of the 2011 tornado. “You can lose everything, but you can’t change people,” he said.

Text Only
May 2011 Joplin tornado
  • r041414wildwood.jpg Opening of nursing home another recovery milestone

    Gladys Dutton has done a lot of things in her life, but Monday’s dedication of the Communities at Wildwood Ranch nursing home marked a first. “I’ve never cut a ribbon before,” she said. “I hope I do a good job.” Dutton was one of four residents to participate in the opening of the $8.5 million nursing center that eventually will be home to 120 people.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • 052212 unity walk1_72.jpg SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary

    May 22, 2012 1 Photo

  • Joplin Redevelopment Corp. preparing for first property sale

    The first sale of property from the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. to Wallace Bajjali Development Partners is scheduled for May 16. The city staff will be working to prepare for that sale, it was discussed on Tuesday at a meeting of the JRC.

    April 9, 2014

  • Issues prompt pair to seek help from city; allocations approved for repairs in tornado zone

    Two people spoke to the Joplin City Council on Monday night about issues they would like the city government to address. Elizabeth Clement, a Neosho resident who works in Joplin, asked the city to operate more surveillance in parking lots because of the number of cars stolen. She said her car was stolen from the parking lot at Northpark Mall and used in robberies.

    April 7, 2014

  • National institute releases final report on Joplin tornado

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology on Friday released a final report into the technical investigation of the May 22, 2011, tornado that struck Joplin — the deadliest tornado in the United States in the 64 years that official records have been kept.

    March 28, 2014

  • r031814tornadofunds2.jpg Local tornado fund board cites appreciation, accomplishments

    The 991 donations ranged from $1 to $119,000. They came from all over the world. On Tuesday, the managers of the Joplin Tornado First Response Fund gave an accounting of how those donations, which totaled about $995,950 with interest, were given in 41 grants, recipients of which included 27 local agencies.

    March 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Dan Riddell 0604013.jpg Farmers Insurance extends tornado recovery commitment

    After investments that included stationing a company executive in Joplin for eight months last year, officials with Farmers Insurance said the company will continue its post-tornado commitment to Joplin in 2014. “We’re going to stay until the end,” said Doris Dunn, director of community relations for the company, on Wednesday. “That includes sending in another 100-plus volunteers and making some additional financial investments.”

    February 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • r021714rescuedog.jpg Author prepares for release of children’s book featuring heroic Joplin rescue dog

    Carolyn Mueller is both a dog lover and a storyteller. So when she got the opportunity to write a story about a Joplin dog named Lily who helped search for survivors after the May 2011 tornado, she jumped on it. “Dogs like Lily can be heroes, too,” she said.

    February 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • VIDEO: Lost photos claim day to be held at museum

    National Disaster Photo Rescue and the Joplin Museum Complex have scheduled a public viewing and photo claim day for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at the museum complex in Schifferdecker Park. The project, originally known as Lost Photos of Joplin, was organized in the weeks after the May 22, 2011, Joplin tornado to reunite storm victims with photos displaced by the storm.

    February 4, 2014

  • Building-permit total since tornado nears $1 billion

    The building of new homes in Joplin continues at an average pace of 16 to 18 per month, according to a building permit report released for December by the city of Joplin. Eighteen building permits for new homes were issued in both November and December. In fiscal year 2013, permits for new homes averaged more than 16 per month.

    January 31, 2014

Purchase Globe Photos

Featured Ads
Tornado: Multimedia coverage
Tornado: Obituaries
Tornado: Columns
Tornado: Mike Pound
Tornado: Lists of missing, fatalities & relief
Tornado: Donate & volunteer
Tornado: Resources & relief