Thursday, November 12, 2009

Executive Chef Robert Hesse And Carving A Hell's Kitchen Spoon

Last week we were privileged to have a real celebrity, an accomplished executive chef, and a graduate of our program many years ago visit our camp to share his story when he was a 15 year old troubled young man.

Just who is Robert Hesse you ask? Just enter his name and Hell's Kitchen into any search engine and you will find plenty because he was a star contestant on Fox's reality TV show in 2009. Yes, today he owns several prominent New York restaurants, caters regularly to the likes of Mariah Carey and Sting, is a multi-millionaire, and continues to appear on various VH1 and HBO shows but this week he wanted to give back to a program where he spent 3 years as a boy during a very troubled time in his life. During the last week he has traveled around to several of our camps for at-risk kids telling his compelling story and signing autographs. It isn't often that I ever see our 60 boys tuned in with total silence but it was just that way when Robert revealed  one of the roughest childhood testimonies that I've ever heard and how he overcame those overwhelming odds to the success he is today.

At the end of his talk I presented Robert with his very own "Hell's Kitchen" spoon that I carved the week before from a tulip poplar tree limb that I found on the mountain. He was very honored and accepted it with great appreciation and said that he looked forward to displaying it in his Brooklyn, New York office.

As you can see from the IMDB (Internet Movie Database) biography below, Robert also contributes his initial interest in cooking to a day when his counselor put a potato piller in his hands and said, "Do you know what to do with that?"

"Celebrity Chef Robert Hesse first got his love for cooking by watching his grandmother and mother in the kitchen as a boy growing up in Long Island, NY. While shuffling back and forth between New York and Florida, That love for cooking laid dormant as an emotionally challenging upbringing caused him to make some poor life choices, often seeing him in the presence of a judge. During one of these judicial experiences, a 15 year old Robert was sent to Eckerd Academy in Brooksville, Florida to spend six months and hopefully, put his life back on track and to provide him with the positive male role models that his life was thus far lacking Eckerd Academy is an outdoor program for troubled youth. The kids live out in the woods, receive alternative schooling, therapy and learn life skills. Once a week, the kids are responsible for all the cooking for the day, which teaches them math and writing skills, responsibility and planning. For Hesse, those meals changed his life. A camp councilor handed Robert a potato and a peeler and asked, "Do you know what to do with that?" Hesse was blown away by the responsibility of cooking for the camp, but by the end of it, he realized this is what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. After his Eckerd Academy experience, Robert had some struggles with readjustment back into everyday life. Reflecting upon what he learned at Eckerd, combined with some "tough love" from his mother, Robert picked himself up by his bootstraps and took his new found passion for cooking into a career by getting kitchen jobs at area restaurants. One day, a twenty year old Robert heard a radio ad for a culinary school in Lakeland, Florida. He quickly signed up, obtained financial aid, hopped a bus and off he went to take his dream to the next level. After receiving his degree in Culinary Arts, Robert toured the country, working at various hotels and resorts under some well known chefs, sharpening his kitchen skills in the process. In 2005, Robert returned home to New York as the Executive Chef of Q Restaurant in Quogue. Robert then brought his "Strong Island" street-honed personality to the hit FOX reality show, "Hell's Kitchen" and into the hearts of America as Season Five's overwhelming fan favorite. A health issue forced an early exit for Robert from the show, as most, including host, Chef Gordon Ramsey, thought that Hesse would easily glide into the finals. After the completion of Season Five, FOX was flooded with mail in support of Robert, urging the network to bring him back. That remains to be seen as Season Six is set to premiere on July 21, 2009. Currently, Robert Hesse is the Executive Chef of Georgica Restaurant in The Hamptons, partnering up with Hell's Kitchen mate, Seth Levine and continues to do personal appearances, cooking demonstrations and autograph shows."
IMDb Mini Biography By: Pat Tortorello

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