You are on page 1of 3

HOLIDAYS | dispatches from my south

10 QUESTIONS
WITH ROBERT ST. JOHN
TEXT BY ROBYN JACKSON

I Hattiesburg restaurateur and


chef Robert St. John has pub-
lished his eighth book, a compi-
lation of his syndicated news-
paper columns, just in time for
Christmas. “Dispatches From
My South” also features his Top
40 recipes and 20 new ones. He
will have signings on Dec. 3 at
Sisters By Design in
Brookhaven, and on Dec. 7 at
Main Street Books in downtown
admire his work. My favorite
chef is probably Thomas Keller
of the French Laundry, he’s in a
class all by himself.

2. D O YOU WATCH ANY OF THE COOK -


ING COMPETITION SHOWS , LIKE
C HEF ” OR “I RON C HEF ”?
“TOP

W OULD YOU EVER COMPETE ON ONE


OF THEM ?
I like “Top Chef.” Watching
“Iron Chef” makes me too nerv-
would flesh it out in my mind,
and then I would tell myself to
remember the idea. I never
remembered it. Two years later,
something would trigger a
Hattiesburg and Dec. 23 at ous. I would love to judge one memory and I would think of it
Books a Million in Hattiesburg. of those shows. I’d be a terrible again. It made me mad that I
St. John, who owns the contestant on that type of for- had forgotten it. That’s when I
Purple Parrot Cafe and mat. My cooking style and culi- started taking notes. They’re
Crescent City Diner, is also nary interests are very limited. everywhere. If I think of some-
launching a nonprofit organiza- thing that is worthy of fleshing
tion, Extra Table, that enables 3. W HAT ’ S THE ONE INGREDIENT YOU
out, I write it down. I have
restaurants to contribute to CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT AS A CHEF ?
Mead Five Star 9-inch note-
food charities. If that wasn’t Creole seasoning. books everywhere - in my car,
enough, he has his own gour- by my bed, on my desk.
met food product line and is 4. W HAT ’ S THE ONE GADGET YOU CAN -
shopping a pilot for a TV show, NOT LIVE WITHOUT ?
6. I S WRITER ’ S BLOCK EVER A PROB -
“Eating the South,” to the net- At home, I love my cast iron LEM , OR DO YOU EVER HAVE TROUBLE
works. skillet. Though, I probably use COMING UP WITH AN IDEA FOR A COL -
a six-inch omelet pan more UMN ?
1. W HO ’ S YOUR FAVORITE CELEBRITY often. I’m probably going to jinx
CHEF ?
myself here, but no. So far, that
If it’s a chef on television, I 5. Y OU JOT DOWN COLUMN IDEAS ON
hasn’t been a problem, probably
like Anthony Bourdain. He’s EVERYTHING FROM NAPKINS TO
because I have so many notes
the real deal. I like Andrew RECEIPTS , AND EVEN USE THE NOTES
lying around. So far, so good,
Zimmern, too. I’ve done an FUNCTION ON YOUR I P HONE . A RE YOU
700 words a week, 52 weeks a
episode of “Bizarre Foods” with ORGANIZED ?
year, for 10 years. I’ve never
him, and he is a very nice, My notes are scattered every- missed a week.
charming, and humble man. where. Early on in my writing
John Besh is a good friend. I career, I would have an idea, I 7. D O YOU COOK FOR YOUR FAMILY OR

a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i 39
DO YOU LEAVE THAT TO YOUR WIFE , management will close a good and I thank God multiples times
J ILL ? W HAT ’ S YOUR FAVORITE RECIPE TO location. All of our restaurant’s every day.
COOK AT HOME ? daily successes are a result of
Jill cooks for the family, I management (not me, the man- Muz’s Fudge Cake
cook for friends. Cioppino or agers) following through on our (Brownies)
Baked Shrimp and Squash (Both policies and goals. Conversely,
of which are in the new book). when we drop the ball, it’s usu- 4 squares Baker’s chocolate
ally due to management not fol- 2 sticks butter
8. You travel a lot and dine in lowing through on our mission. 4 eggs
some of America’s best restaurants. I’m proud to say that our 2 cups sugar
W HAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM THESE management team is the best in 1 cup flour
DINING EXPERIENCES THAT YOU HAVE the state. We are hitting on all 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
BROUGHT BACK TO YOUR OWN RESTAU - cylinders right now. Our suc- extract
RANTS ? cess is 100 percent due to their 1 cup nuts, chopped
Tons, too many to mention. I hard work. Pinch of salt
believe that it is vital to get out
there and see what’s happening 10. A RE YOU EVER SURPRISED AT HOW Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
in the culinary world across the SUCCESSFUL YOU ARE ? W HEN YOU Melt chocolate and butter
country. I have always been a STARTED OUT, DID YOU EVER IMAGINE together in a double boiler. Once
firm believer in that concept. I DOING ALL THE THINGS YOU ’ RE DOING incorporated, let cool slightly.
bring a lot of ideas back here NOW ? Cooled chocolate should still be
and we implement them in our I don’t really think of myself liquid in form.
restaurants. It’s the only way to as all that successful. I’m just a Mix together the four eggs and
stay fresh and on the cutting lucky guy who’s been in the gradually add the two cups of
edge. right place a few times. sugar until completely incorpo-
I also send our chefs and Seriously, that’s not false mod- rated. Slowly pour the slightly
managers out to restaurants all esty. There are hundreds of warm chocolate mixture into the
of the time, to dine and discov- people who are more talented egg/sugar mixture, making sure
er in cities all across the coun- and dedicated, I just worked not to scramble the eggs.
try, you just don’t hear from really hard early on, got a lot of Carefully incorporate the flour
them because they don’t write help from friends and associates into the chocolate/egg mixture.
about it. Though you do eat the through the years, and got a Add vanilla, nuts, salt and mix.
results of their research and few lucky breaks. Line a pan with waxed paper
development when you visit the No, I never imagined any of or parchment. Pour in the choco-
restaurants. this. I just wanted to own my late mix. Bake at 350 degrees
own restaurant, partly because I approximately 30 minutes or
9. W HAT ’ S THE KEY TO A SUCCESSFUL could wear whatever I wanted until an inserted toothpick
RESTAURANT ? to work. I didn’t want to wear a comes out clean.
Most of the textbooks will tell tie everyday and I wanted to be Remove from oven. Let cool
you: Location, location, loca- my own boss. Other than a deep for five minutes. Carefully flip
tion. That’s bunk. It’s: passion for restaurants and the fudge cake and finish cool-
Management, management, food, that’s about as far into it ing. Once cooled completely,
management. No question. as my thought process took me. remove waxed paper and cut into
Good management can over- I am a very lucky and blessed squares. Makes 12-14 brownies.
come a poor location, but poor guy, I try to never forget that,

40 a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i