ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Celebrity Chef Robert Hesse has opened a new location for his grilled cheese sandwich concoctions in downtown St. Petersburg.
“Fo’ Cheezy Twisted Meltz” serves up the classic sandwich in many forms, as well as tater tots, mac n’ cheese, greens, sweets and of course, tomato soup.
Chef Robert Hesse, who is a St. Petersburg native, participated in two seasons of Hell’s Kitchen alongside Chef Gordon Ramsay and has appeared multiple times on the Food Network.
Hesse told 8 On Your Side he is a “product of the system,” who lived in boy’s homes and served time in jail. He said cooking and food is really what saved him.
“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 soapbox 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 told 8 On Your Side in February.
He opened the original Fo’ Cheezy location in Aug. 2020 in St. Pete Beach with business partner and fellow chef, Craig Munroe.
The plan to expand the restaurant has been in the works for awhile. Munroe said they started their “adventure” to downtown St. Petersburg last November.
Hesse calls his sandwiches “edible graffiti.”
“The grilled cheese in its medium is an art form where, we do graffiti and it’s the ability to graffiti a common item and make it your own, as well as all the creations that we have,” he said. “Everybody loves grilled cheese. So it’s one of those things like Ratatouille the movie where it all comes back to you and it’s like WOOP!”
In addition to being an art form in his eyes, Hesse is all in on grilled cheese as comfort food for many people in the Tampa Bay area.
“Whether you’re 5, 55, black, white, gay, straight, any creed or creation, you know what grilled cheese and tomato soup is. And there’s something that pays homage to the feeling of mom and grandma and that ambience or feeling of being a child again with [it] kicked up notch,” he said.
Two percent of Fo’ Cheezy’s sales benefit a charity created by Hesse called “No Kid 86’ed,” a term used in the restaurant industry for when something is out of stock.
“No kid left behind, no kid out of need, whether is be scholarships, parks, backpacks, school supplies, giving toys away,” Hesse explained in February. “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.”
Hesse and Munroe are not finished expanding across both sides of the bay. In addition to their food truck which started it all, Hesse said they are working on either another restaurant concept or another Fo’ Cheezy restaurant in the Hyde Park area of Tampa.
The new Fo’ Cheezy location can be found at 111 3rd Street North in St. Petersburg and the first restaurant is located at 6305 Gulf Blvd in St. Pete Beach.