BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — It doesn’t matter if Lee Rosser is cutting up lemons on a sidewalk outside of the Banneker Community Center or handing out appetizers during the grand reopening of the Lilly Library on the Indiana University campus — he’s putting on a production.
That’s something the 42-year-old has been doing for most of his life, first in the “projects” in Hammond and East Chicago and now in Bloomington.
“I chased a different dream than I was living,” Rosser said. “I’ve had hurdles to go through, go under, go over.
“Wrestling was a way to get out,” he explained recently while sitting outside on a picnic table on the east side of Bloomington. “Wrestling saved my life.”
Rosser was independent professional wrestler from 1997 to 2014. In the ring, Rosser was known as PT Hustla.
While Rosser traveled to 30 states and several other countries, he’s always considered the Midwest his home. He was in Victory Field in Indianapolis signing autographs years ago when he met JJ Boston, an Indianapolis chef who was preparing barbecue for the crowd.
That was the beginning of a new direction for Rosser, who began working for Chef JJ’s as an operations manager and ended up five years later being bestowed with the title of chef.
“We were a unique brand,” Rosser said of the Chef JJ’s business. “We did not have a restaurant. Our clients were Lilly and Roche. We did private events.”
Once again Rosser was directing a production, using his showmanship. He learned not only how to cook various dishes but, more importantly for him, how to be a chef that shines instead of hiding behind his food.
That’s something Rosser is now doing on his own in Bloomington — for people in their homes, at Mary Kay parties and other private events including his first one, A November to Remember on Nov. 11 in Nashville. The event was limited to 30 people and sold out a couple weeks beforehand. About a quarter of the people attending were previous customers who Rosser said have watched him grow.
“It’s not about the food,” Rosser said. “It’s how we engage over food. Food brings us all together.”
Determining how to do that is what has Rosser reaching out to various agencies, trying to feed people not only food but also positive energy and motivation to choose the correct path forward. It’s something he’s been doing his entire life, Rosser said.
His hope is to find a location where he can start food programs for the Monroe County community, which he now calls home. He envisions programs from date nights to family night events to special activities just for kids.
He also hopes to open a wrestling school with family-friendly shows and events for children — with the hope of helping kids who may be in situations similar to Rosser’s when he was growing up, searching for a direction.
“I want to help young men be better,” he said quietly, hands folded.
The chef also is promoting the special touch he brings to the meals he creates for various private groups, in homes and businesses. While most potential customers have been happy with what Rosser offers, he admits a few haven’t chosen him because he brings along his personality in addition to creating individualized cuisines for each group’s preferences.
Sarah Lechleiter had the chef cater a 40th birthday party in Brown County for a family member. Lechleiter, who lives in Indianapolis and has a home in Brown County, was introduced to Rosser by another caterer who was unable to take the birthday party job.
“I got a good vibe,” Lechleiter said of her initial talk with Rosser. “I have worked with a lot of caterers.”
She was pleased, calling the menu he presented “awesome,” which was selected to offer meatless hors d’oeuvres and a meal, and said she enjoyed the flair Rosser brought to the party.
“He was just a great guy. I loved his story and also loved how he talked about food,” she said. “Everybody had a great time.
“He’s going to be successful because he is very positive,” Lechleiter said, adding for her, Rosser’s personality and engagement were “part of the fun.”
To connect with Rosser, visit his website at cheflee.us or call 317-737-6801.
Source: The Herald-Times