Exclusive Interview with Chef and restaurateur, Robert Hesse of Hell’s Kitchen

HELL'S KITCHEN: Chef/host Gordon Ramsay in the “Young Guns: A Devilish Challenge” episode airing Monday, July 19 (8:00-9:01PM ET/PT) on FOX. CR: Scott Kirkland / FOX. © 2021 FOX MEDIA LLC.
HELL'S KITCHEN: Chef/host Gordon Ramsay in the “Young Guns: A Devilish Challenge” episode airing Monday, July 19 (8:00-9:01PM ET/PT) on FOX. CR: Scott Kirkland / FOX. © 2021 FOX MEDIA LLC. /
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Chef Robert Hesse
WAINSCOTT, NY – JULY 18: Chefs Robert Hesse and Seth Levine attend the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation’s 10th Anniversary Art For Life Benefit after party at Georgica on July 18, 2009 in Wainscott, New York. (Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images) /

DM for Guilty Eats: What advice would you give to a chef or cook working today in a post-Covid-19 world?

"Chef Robert Hesse: “The best advice that I can give any entrepreneur or chef during this Covid situation in a world of uncertainty, is to be certain of your ability and certain of your fortitude on what you’re willing to sacrifice. “During my role as craft service chef for Breaking Bad, the show in Albuquerque, New Mexico, FO’CHEEZY was born in a humble chef pop up with a chalkboard that said dope ass grilled cheese; that ultimately led me down the path to launch my first food truck in St. Petersburg, Florida, and well ‘risk it for the biscuit’ is my mantra. “I open the food truck with $200 in the till and March 18, two days later, COVID-19 hit Florida with a vengeance and everything shut down and at that moment where fear should’ve taken over, a sense of true grit came over me and my partner Craig, and there was no time to worry about the what if‘s; it was to find unique ways to thrive in a time where most businesses closed. “We thrived; we found unique ways to keep the truck open weather servicing apartment buildings, strip clubs, nightclubs, hospitals, schools; we found ourselves being essential, to give our dining options,  other than the typical delivery foods that are out there we also came up with unique ways to offer delivery within our food truck. “That one food truck in less than four months in the heart of Covid-19,  paid for itself. Made me whole financially and also gave us the ability to build our first brick and mortar location located at 6305 Gulf Blvd. Saint Pete Beach 33706; paid in full in cash and all profits from that one truck, all the while starting our nonprofit organization called No Kid 86’d, which gives 2% of our net sales to underprivileged kids and at risk families during Covid-19 and beyond to help inspire young entrepreneurship. “Six months after our first brick and mortar location, we set out to find our second location located at 111 3rd St., North downtown Saint Petersburg Florida, which is 155 seats and 4200 ft.² – built restaurant off of pure profits from a food truck and a brick location. We are a debt-free company, built from the bottom, that all started with less than $200 in the till. “We are truly the people’s choice and the people’s restaurant. I believe that customers continue to support us based on what we do for our community, as well as the food is fire and the ambience and experience they have here at FO’CHEEZY.”"

DM for Guilty Eats: Is there anything else that you want to make sure gets across to your fan base?

"Chef Robert Hesse: “One of the greatest lines of advice that Gordon Ramsay ever gave me, is the way I feel about my customers today: I can only see further because I stand on the shoulders of giants; my company, my craft is nothing without them and their patronage, and I would say to owners across the country to remember why you got into business, and that who really pays your bills is the customer; that matters. All the time, bottom line, butts in the seats pay the employees, the bills and your livelihood, and also grow your brand. If you forget about them, you are surely to fail if you look at our reviews a staggering 1000 reviews in less than one year at a 4.9 rating is for a reason. “The number one question that people ask: Is Gordon Ramsay a real dickhead in person, or is he easy to work with? The best way that I can explain is you’re here: one of 16 contestants to play basketball one on one with Michael Jordan…are you going to listen to Jordan as he tells you that your jump shot sucks, but your crossover is legit? You damn right!”"

DM for Guilty Eats: You mentioned a third location, how far along are you in that process?

"Chef Robert Hesse: “Our third location will be in Hyde Park, Tampa and will open in 2022; this is a feat of accomplishment that I have to agree with most that wouldn’t have been possible without my time on Hell’s Kitchen with Gordon Ramsay, and that one-on-one tutelage and mentorship that I’ve gotten…I was very fortunate and lucky to be part of such a great opportunity, and to this day you never know, you just may see me back. Third time’s a charm.”"

DM for Guilty Eats: I hope so! I think all your fans would love to see that! I know I certainly would.

"Chef Robert Hesse: “I think the fans deserve to see what happened to the 600 pound guy to have me grace Hell’s Kitchen one more time and see me at 155 pounds, and with this new driving direction, it may possibly be inspirational for others that are battling weight loss, as well as motivation for other people to get out and risk it for the biscuit.”"

DM for Guilty Eats: I think so too. I think it would inspire many! I want to thank you so very much for taking the time out of your schedule, knowing how busy you are, to talk to me today.

"Chef Robert Hesse: “My last bit of advice for business owners during this Covid situation, is to stay up on the social media game, the word of print, although still works in some markets; if you are novice to the social media game, start asking your kids what they’re doing on their phone; get up on the TickTock’s, Facebook, Instagram, and get that game on the right track. People want contact whether it’s just your hands doing motion or pictures of food; they need and yearn for contact; I believe that is a strong asset that my company holds.”"

Next. Exclusive interview with Fire Masters Judge and former Hell’s Kitchen Chef, Andy Husbands. dark

What’s your favorite Chef Robert memory from Hell’s Kitchen, Guilty Readers?