ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) – A celebrity chef who is currently operating from St. Pete Beach and his business partner are using deliciously cheesy grilled cheese sandwiches to give back within the community.
Chef Robert Hesse participated on two seasons of Hell’s Kitchen alongside Chef Gordon Ramsay and has appeared multiple times on the Food Network.
Now, Hesse is back home in St. Pete Beach, serving up gooey, cheesy delicacies to the public, with the co-founder of the restaurant, Craig Monroe.
“Fo’ Cheezey Twisted Meltz” officially launched back in August with a brick-and-mortar location at 6305 Gulf Boulevard, with a food truck that serves the Tampa Bay area.
“It is our take on gourmet grilled cheese, or fancy, twisted melts. We offer anything from sandwiches to crazy milkshakes to soups and salads, everything in between,” Monroe explained.
Hesse is originally from the Child’s Park area in the south side of St. Petersburg. He told 8 On Your Side he “got in a lot of trouble” in the area and has been through the system, and that’s why giving back is important to him.
“Pretty much, I’ve been through everything from criminal activity to drug abuse. And it was important for me, as I left St. Pete and worked for Gordon Ramsay and [did] all these great things, was to come up with an idea to come up with a medium…to use that 15 minutes of fame on a soap box and make [everyone] aware, that if it wasn’t for men like Gordon Ramsay or Anthony Bourdain or these influential chefs I’ve worked for over the years and this career, I wouldn’t be here today,” Hesse said.
Though his cooking, the chef is now looking to give back to the community he grew up in and to support local youth.
Hesse and Monroe have formed a charity through their business and food truck, called “No Kid 86’ed.” The name is a play on the culinary industry term 86’ed, meaning that a certain item or ingredient is no longer available for that day.
“No kid left behind, no kid out of need, whether is be scholarships, parks, backpacks, school supplies, giving toys away,” Hesse explained. “And originally it was – let’s create a place where 2% of sales goes back to the community we serve and uplift. And also reignite entrepreneurship, train the untrainable and give the jobs to people that nobody wants to give jobs to, because you have to pass the torch to somebody.”
Two percent of all sales go back to the fund, and the restaurant accepts donations in many forms, as well.
Hesse said the initiative began with the food truck and the restaurant was paying out of its own pocket, giving away grilled cheese sandwiches every Friday to “first industry workers.” The giveaways were then opened to up anyone who is in need.
“And I think that whole model of the pay-it-forward mentality has really launched Fo’ Cheezey as a brand, where they know we’re a give back restaurant, we’re the root from the fruit, we’re the people’s restaurant, and that’s why we’re successful and that’s why we keep opening… Risk it for the biscuit, that’s what we’re doing,” he said.
There are many ways to pay-it-forward and help give back to the St. Pete Beach community and the Tampa Bay area as a whole through Fo’ Cheezey and No Kid 86’ed. It can be as simple as calling the restaurant and giving a debit or credit card number over the phone.
“They can email us, they can send us money however they want,” said Monroe. “We had a lot of people [saying] ‘I want to feed kids.’ So they would send us money, and we would take that money, and go out in the community and just park the truck, open up the window, and just give out food to all the kids in the neighborhood.”
He said that’s their way of giving back during a time where many businesses are hurting.
“Businesses are really in dire straights, we’ve managed to kind of rise up, and it wouldn’t be right for us to not give back, at least a little bit, to help out in our community where people are suffering,” he said.