Adrenaline Junkie Joseph Hemp V Finds a Home in the Kitchen

Categories: Chef's Choice
After high school Hemp worked briefly as a server at Dick Clark's American Bandstand Grill in Northwest, but a buddy soon helped him score his first cooking gig at the Central West End institution Dressel's. Helming the kitchen at the time was a young Patrick Connolly, who would go on to win a James Beard Foundation "Best Chef: Northeast" award for his work at Radius in Boston. (He has since returned to St. Louis to lead the kitchen at Basso.) Connolly, Hemp says, "taught me speed and agility and things like that, and how to read all the tickets instead of just one."

The rush of the kitchen hooked Hemp, a self-proclaimed "adrenaline junkie": "We're listening to good music, we're cooking, we're humping it out. This was my first time really seeing this push, so it pulled me in. It was what I loved doing, and from then [on], it's been nothing but busy kitchens. That's what I strive for."

Dressel's also introduced Hemp to a broader adult world. He'd hang around for its weekly "Monday NIght Socials," listening to conversations about sociology, religion -- "Things that were way above all my knowledge because all my friends were skateboarders," he says.

The eighteen-year-old Hemp still had some growing up to do, however. His first attempt at attending culinary school at Forest Park Community College ended with his being kicked out for, in his words, "partying too much and working too much and not really caring."

He returned the next year, humbled but determined: "I took a lot of the core classes again to, one, raise my GPA and, two, to prove to these teachers I was serious this time."

"Second time around was much more fun because then my teachers actually realized what I was doing," he says. "They wanted to be part of my career; they wanted to be part of my life. A lot of them [remained] mentors after I left."

Hemp was maturing as a professional as well. He'd taken a job cooking at the Westin Hotel downtown and its restaurant, Clark Street Grill.

"This isn't just a job," the chef there told him. "This isn't just a paycheck. You're wearing a chef jacket now, you're wearing a hat now, you're part of a culinary team now."

"It was my eye-opening moment," he says now. "This isn't just flipping burgers. This isn't just making a sandwich or two. Food means something to me."

Location Info

Robust

227 W. Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves, MO

Category: Restaurant

Robust

635 Washington Ave., St. Louis, MO

Category: Restaurant


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1 comments
jhemp4
jhemp4

I am so very proud of you Joe, you're going to be one of the greats. That's a father's pride but recognition from your peer's confirms it.

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