Friends With Benefits: Jesse Hammond
With more than 20 years in the restaurant industry, Jesse Hammond, general manager for Virgil’s Real Barbecue at The Linq Promenade, has made it to the top. “Sometimes I do pinch myself and think I’m at the helm of a multimillion-dollar business on the Vegas Strip,” said the Detroit native. “As far as success goes in business—this is the big leagues. But, at the same time, I’m super humble about it. Most often I don’t take it all in and realize I’m in the position that I’m in.”
Hammond’s background began in his hometown, working his way up the ladder from busser to management at various high-end restaurants; he even owned a company that provided white-glove service for private events. In 2010, at just 25 years old, Hammond decided to roll the dice and move to Las Vegas. Because of his impeccable resume, it was less than a year before he was in a management role in an upscale restaurant. In 2016, he helped launch Virgil’s. “I spent months in New York, at the original Virgil’s, learning about the soul of the brand,” he said. “We’re a mecca of all spirits of barbecue—Texas-style brisket, Carolina-style pork to competition-style ribs,” Hammond said.
When asked about his journey to success, Hammond said, “In my opinion, a restaurant management job, it’s a blue-collar job. Maybe that’s my Midwestern upbringing, but I feel like a white-collar job means just that, you’re not getting dirty; a blue-collar job means you’re getting involved, you’re in the day-to-day, you’re in the trenches with your team, you roll up your sleeves. I’ve always looked at it that way. It’s about service and hospitality.”
Templeton Rye Old Fashioned
Before launching the restaurant, Hammond worked with the mixology team to come up with a “barrel-aged cocktail in the form of an old fashioned, but served in a personal flask,” he said. The result was the Templeton Rye Old Fashioned. “We’re really proud of it,” Hammond said. “A lot of love goes into it and it sells like hotcakes.” Templeton rye is steeped with ingredients including Madagascar vanilla, cinnamon sticks, dried cherries, raw sugar, the peels of whole oranges and then sealed and put in a dark room for a few days. Then it is strained and bottled into individual flasks. Each flask holds about two cocktails’ worth, so guests can enjoy one while dining and then take the rest with them in the souvenir flask.