Adrenaline Junkie Joseph Hemp V Finds a Home in the Kitchen

Categories: Chef's Choice
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Flashback: Joseph Hemp V at Dressel's in 2009 | Jennifer Silverberg
Hemp's early career included stints at Portabella in Clayton (now closed) and under Lou Rook at Annie Gunn's as well as at Norwood Hills Country Club.

("We had some fun old-school stuff you only see in country clubs any more, so I got to experience some of that," Hemp says of his country-club experience. "The buying power was nice. The benefits of it are good. When I can't handle the line in an independent kitchen anymore, I will probably retire to a country club or a hotel.")

Meanwhile, Hemp had remained close with the Dressel's family, and when Ben Dressel bought the restaurant from his parents, intending to bring its cuisine up to date, he sought Hemp's advice. So in 2006 the chef returned to Dressel's to lead a thorough overhaul of the menu -- and also a much-needed renovation of the kitchen, where, he says, "You put two burgers on the grill, the whole restaurant fills with smoke."

After about a year of gradually introducing new menu items and then a six-week closure for renovations, the "new" Dressel's opened.

"It was a big bump," Hemp says. "Everybody had been coming there for years for this hot dog -- just a regular crappy quarter-pound hot dog. I took that off to put on a housemade sausage with onions and everything else, doing everything by hand, and people kind lost their wigs at first.

"I don't want to take away from this institution. They've been there since 1980, and I don't want to rock the boat that much, but I don't want to be serving just fish & chips and burgers. We want to move forward. It took a while.

"I'd keep Garden burgers in the freezers. I'd keep hot dogs in the freezer. If people want it the old-fashioned way, I'll do it. It's their restaurant, they've supported us this whole time."

Hemp praises the work that current chef Michael Miller has done in continuing Dressel's evolution. By 2010, however, after four years at the pub, Hemp was ready for a change.

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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