He's cooked for Jon Bon Jovi, Hank Aaron and Derek Jeter, and at the Playboy Mansion.

He says he's cooked in 38 states and four countries.

Twice, he's been on Gordon Ramsay's "Hell's Kitchen" restaurant reality television series.

Now, he's at home in Casper.

Chef Robert Hesse, his wife, Laura, and children, Evy, 7, and Ayden, 8 months, are settling in, awaiting the opening of J's Pub and Grill on Wyoming Boulevard, where Hesse is the executive chef.

"I've worked all over the country. I've made a lot of money. I'm only 34 years old. It's time to settle down. All the traveling and celebrity stuff is nice, but Laura deserves to settle down, the kids deserve a father who's around -- like I didn't have," Hesse said.

Hesse's life thus far has been made-for-TV dramatic, and that's what Chef Gordon Ramsay read in his New York Times while he was casting for his show, "Hell's Kitchen."

In the briefest form possible, here is the life of the man who uses "Never trust a skinny chef" at his tag line.

"I grew up without a dad. My mom worked trying to support us, but we were alone. I was in and out of institutions, state homes, programs, because of criminal activity. I was addicted to heroin."

Here's the fascinating part, the part that made Ramsay, and later, Casper entrepreneur John Johnson, president of Johnson Restaurant Group, take notice:

"Food saved my life. It gave me something to strive for and a goal. It was a consistent thank you I'd never had. I found pride in my life for the first time."

While institutionalized as a teen, Hesse said he'd watch "The Andy Griffith Show," and "Green Acres," and understood what family with a father could be like.

"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for my wife, Laura. She deserves to have me around -- my kids deserve that. I looked for a company with a brand and John has that. It's a company that's in its infancy and still large in its own right. [John Johnson] has all cylinders firing at once. I saw the opportunity to grow as a corporate executive chef."

At the Q Bistro in New York City, the New York Times gave the restaurant four stars, and Hesse was the youngest chef in 15 years to receive that recognition.

Ramsay read about that.

"In his mind, he felt like I was the underdog," Hesse said. "I turned him down twice. I was hand-picked by Gordon."

Pericarditis forced his early exit the first time around, and Hesse says 2.9 million fans wrote the show to bring him back for the sixth season of the show.

At the new J's Pub and Grill, the extensively remodeled Johnny J's West, patrons will find a casual atmosphere with great food, according to Hesse.

"It's new American with a Southern influence," Hesse said. "It's home cooking, all scratch, with a fine dining flair. I'm giving you a $100 meal for $20. I feel that's where dining is going these days because of the economy."

The restaurant will be open every day and will serve brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, featuring "bottomless Mimosa's."

"There will be eggs and bacon if you want eggs and bacon, there will be things uniquely familiar and things that are familiar with my twists and takes."

Hesse is certain that those who come back will want to try something other than what they tried the first time.

"When you come in, you're not going to be pigeon-holed into your favorite dish. 'Today I had this, tomorrow I'm coming back to try that.'"

Chris O'Bryan, general manager with Johnson Restaurant Group, says as with the group's FireRock Steakhouse property, there will be no reservations needed.

"It's come as you are, a casual environment with call-ahead seating," O'Bryan said.

Hesse added, "My goal is to be the best restaurant in Casper. The food is above and beyond what Casper has. It doesn't have to be the shiniest penny, but it's going to have the wow factor that this company strives for with every restaurant they've got."

Here are some recipes direct from Chef Robert Hesse for you to enjoy:

 

The Best Mac N Cheese Ever!

Serves 12

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole

6 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to l/2-inch pieces

5-1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for water

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4-1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese

2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyère or 1-1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1 pound elbow macaroni

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place the bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour the melted butter into the bowl with the bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.

Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 12 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyère (or 1 cup Pecorino Romano); set the cheese sauce aside.

Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the macaroni until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir the macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1-1/2 cups cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Gruyère (or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano), and the breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes (though we needed a bit more time to get it brown, but your oven may vary). Transfer the dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.

 

Jon Bon Jovi's Fried Chicken

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup

1 egg

Seasoning salt to taste

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

Oil for frying

In a shallow dish or bowl combine the soup, egg and seasoning salt (be careful, as soup is already salted); mix together. Dip chicken in mixture and turn to coat completely. Set aside.

In a resealable plastic bag, mix together the flour, cornstarch, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper. One at a time, place chicken pieces in bag, seal and shake to coat. Add more flour and/or cornstarch as necessary, but add them in equal parts (there should be an equal amount of each in the mixture).

Heat oil in a deep-fryer or large saucepan to 375 degrees. Be sure to use enough oil to cover chicken pieces.

Place coated chicken on a platter and allow to sit until it becomes doughy (this is critical, to ensure crispiness when fried). Once chicken is doughy, test oil by dropping a piece of the "dough" into it; the oil is ready when it starts to fry immediately.

Fry chicken pieces in oil for about 7 to 10 minutes each, or until cooked through and juices run clear. Drain on paper towels and serve.

 

Hank Aaron's Gumbo

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 onions, chopped fine

4 celery ribs, chopped fine

2 tablespoons raw fresh ground garlic

4 cans chicken broth

2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, chopped

2 packages frozen chopped okra, thawed

1 pound crab claws

4 bay leaves

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

2 pounds peeled, de-veined shrimp

2 pints fresh oysters

1 pound crab meat

4 pounds chicken breasts, cut into small cubes

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons basil

2 teaspoons oregano

2 teaspoons sage

2 teaspoons thyme

Hot cooked buttered white rice

Combine oil and flour in a skillet and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until your roux is the color of a dirty copper penny. Stir in onion, celery, and garlic and cook 10 minutes stirring constantly. Transfer mixture to a dutch oven. Add chicken broth and the rest of your ingredients and cook over medium heat for the next two hours. Add chicken broth not water if it seems to get to thick.

 

Yogi Berra's Italian Wedding Soup

Meatballs:

3/4 pound ground chicken

1/2 sweet Italian sausage, casing removed

2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs

2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving

3 tablespoons milk

1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork. With a teaspoon, drop 1 to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 40 meatballs. They don't have to be perfectly round.) Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

Soup:

2 tablespoons good olive oil

1 cup minced yellow onion

1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots), cut into 1/4-inch pieces

3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks), cut into 1/4-inch pieces

10 cups homemade chicken stock

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup small pasta such as tubetini or stars

1/4 cup minced fresh dill

12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed

Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan.

 

Hugh Hefner's Lobster Ravioli with Crab Tomato Cream

Pasta Dough:

8 ounces durum flour

8 ounces semolina

1 egg

Water, as needed

Pinch salt

Add all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl until all ingredients are blended. Place mixture on countertop and knead until the texture is smooth and well mixed. Separate the pasta dough into 2 equal pieces and put one piece aside. Flour the first piece, just enough to prevent sticking and roll out with a rolling pin to about 1/8th-inch thick. Repeat procedure with second piece making it as close to the shape as the first.

Lobster Ravioli:

2 ounces unsalted butter

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped shallots

16 ounces cooked lobster meat

4 ounces cooked snow crabmeat

2 ounces Cognac

2 ounces ricotta

Salt

Pepper

1 tablespoon chopped chives

Pasta Dough, recipe follows

Egg white, slightly beaten

In a large saute pan, add the butter and melt. Add the garlic and shallots and saute until golden brown. Add lobster, crab, and chives and saute 2 to 3 minutes. Add Cognac and reduce for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 30 minutes, until room temperature. Chop lobster mixture into small chunks. In a large bowl, combine lobster mixture and ricotta and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Lay out the first piece of pasta dough on the table and place 1/4-ounce mounds of stuffing 2 inches apart. Using a pastry brush, brush egg white around each bit of stuffing, making the dough damp not wet. Take the second piece and cover the bottom piece with the stuffing. Press around each ravioli being careful not to squeeze the stuffing out. Using a round ravioli cutter, cut each ravioli round and put on a sheet pan sprinkled with semolina. Gently place ravioli in boiling water and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente.

Crabmeat Cream Sauce:

2 ounces unsalted butter

1 tablespoon chopped shallots

4 ounces whole chunk Maryland crabmeat

2 ounces Cognac

5 ounces tomato sauce

10 ounces heavy cream

Salt

Using a 12-inch saute pan at medium heat, add butter, shallots, and saute until shallots are translucent. Add the crabmeat and saute for about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the saute pan from the burner and add Cognac then place pan back on the heat to cook off the alcohol. (Please beware: the Cognac will create a large flame.) Once the flame stops, add the tomato sauce and cream with salt and cook until it reduces half way and becomes creamy. Add the cooked ravioli to the sauce and let cook together for about 1 minute before serving. Garnish with chives.

Community News editor Sally Ann Shurmur can be reached at 307-266-0520; sallyann.shurmur@trib.com; read her blog at trib.com/dishin; or follow her on Twitter @WYOSAS

(1) comment

cbushpilot

does this look like a healthy guy?...meat dairy and eggs...i wont be eating at this place

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