ST PETE BEACH, Fla. — Robert Hesse credits food for saving his life. It’s an interesting perspective, considering he once weighed 655 pounds.
Hesse was one of the chefs on Hell’s Kitchen back in seasons five and six. Losing the weight and dealing with Gordon Ramsay were just a few of his many hurdles.
“I was addicted to hard drugs, was in and out of the system, cooking was an outlet, direction and leadership skills,” said Hesse.
Following his TV stardom, Hesse said the next step was pretty easy, return to the place he grew up, St. Pete Beach, and as he puts it, “cook the dopest grilled cheese around.”
The restaurant, located on Gulf Boulevard, is called Fo' Cheezy Twisted Meltz.
“You pay it forward, you are going to give it back, and that’s really the mantra of Fo' Cheezy,” said Hesse.
However, Hesse didn’t want to pursue this dream alone, so he brought in Craig Monroe, who gave him his first start in the restaurant businesses as a dishwasher back in New York City.
“You know we push each other, so it’s been really cool back and forth getting to know each other again,” said Munroe.
Every wall, outside and in, is painted in a graffiti style, by local artists.
“It's kind of like a throwback to the whole hip-hop scene,” said Munroe. “We kind of gave them a canvass and some ideas and they went crazy with it.”
Then, just when Hesse felt he had it all figured out, the pandemic hit. Instead of turning the grill off, they turned it up, delivering meals to families in low-income neighborhoods on a weekly basis.
“And you help and make a difference between two slices of bread, that’s what’s really cool about this,” said Hesse.
They even created a charity, No Kid 86'd, providing hundreds of toys to children in need during Christmas.
“It's been a long journey and I’m glad to be home and really helping people,” said Hesse.
For more information, go to www.focheezy.com.