ST. PETE BEACH - One St. Pete Beach restaurant is giving back to the community - with the help of grilled cheese sandwiches.
What You Need To Know
- Robert Hesse opened his restaurant in 2019
- He cites tough upbringing, hard work, wants to help at-risk youth
- "There are no free lunches in life," he says
- More Pinellas County headlines
“Food saved my life. Being in the kitchen gave some something to be a part of,” said Chef Robert Hesse.
A Pinellas County native, Hesse opened up Fo’Cheezy Twisted Meltz in 2019.
On every wall, the restaurant is saturated with old school hip hop references, colorful graffiti, and 90’s themed foods.
It's not a reflection of an era, but also Hesse’s world.
“I grew up in a rough area in Childs Park, rough times, no guidance, no parents, drug use,” he says.
At 18 years old, a halfway house eventually led him to New York City, to work as a dishwasher for free.
Over time, he made his way through various kitchens, became a chef, and earned a spot on Gordon Ramsay’s “Hell’s Kitchen” TV series.
“There are no free lunches in life,” Hesse says. “You have to work, and earn everything you put in.”
Hesse says he wanted to find a way to give back to the Bay Area neighborhoods he was raised in, so after opening up Fo’Cheezy, he quickly started mentoring at-risk youth.
“I was once that kid, and I want to show them that they have value,” he says. “I live in my childhood home in Child’s Park, so I can be in the community I want to change.”
Through his mentorship, he has given young adults jobs at the restaurant, and has now started the “No Kid 86’d” charity.
“In the restaurant business, when we run out of an item, the term we use is ’86 it for the night,’” explains Hesse. “But here, no kid is left off the menu, no kid is ever left out…everyone deserves a chance.”
Since March, 2% of all food sales go to the charity, which helps with mentorship, job opportunities, financial assistance and donations to the Bay Area community.