Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Robert St. John: It’s Good Work If You Can Get a Hobby

My 45-year working career has been varied and full. The first official paying job I held (after three years of mowing lawns) was in the summer of my 15th year when I worked as a janitor at my school stripping and waxing floors. That fall I started working full time as a disc jockey at a radio station. I also spun records at frat parties, high school dances, and in a local discotheque. After flunking out of college I started working in restaurants and fell in love with the industry. I loved it so much that I took a job managing one restaurant during the day and waiting tables at another at night. I couldn’t get enough.


My dictionary defines the verb “work,” this way— “…be engaged in physical or mental activity to achieve a goal.” But it’s never felt like work. 


I eventually returned to college to finish my degree in Hospitality Management, though I still worked full-time waiting tables. Every spare moment I was in the library reading restaurant trade magazines or staying up until early in the morning designing floorplans, kitchens, and menus. I was “eat up” with the restaurant biz (pun intended).


In 1987, I borrowed $25,000.00 and opened the first restaurant. In the early days I worked as a chef behind the line, after four years I moved to the front of the house, and eventually into the restaurant office. Since then, my work career has branched out from restaurant and bar ownership to newspaper columnist, book author, tour leader, television host, television producer, documentary film producer, and the founder of a couple of non-profits.


Though, as of today, I can now add theatre owner and bowling alley owner to my jack-of-a-few-trades-and-master-of-none list. I have been a fan of movies all my life and— conservatively— have spent more than 10,000 hours sitting in a movie theatre watching films over the course of my 60 years. During that time, there are probably periods in my youth when I dreamed of owning a movie theatre, but I never really thought that would happen. 


Many would scoff at that many hours over the course of six decades spent in a dark theatre. My friends would probably never vocalize it, but I am sure many feel that such a practice is a total waste of time. But I don’t really hunt. I rarely fish, and I never play golf. I have friends who have spent way more time on golf courses than I have in movie theatres. 


Unlike the time I have spent in movie theatres, I have rarely bowled. I certainly never expected to be the owner of a bowling alley, yet here I am. Also, in addition to the five restaurants and two bars we currently own, we’re about to add another restaurant and bar to the list.


There is no doubt that I have been helped in a major way along the course of this hodgepodge of a career. Sometimes it was a friend or mentor with a loan, other times it was good timing, many times it was providence. I am grateful for all of it.


Work is my pastime. Work is my fun. Someone once said, “When passion meets work, work becomes a hobby.” My knee-jerk reaction to that quote was to state that there was probably a time in my life when work seemed like work. Though I think I would have to go all the way back to mowing yards and waxing floors. Actually, there were two summers in which I worked on a landscape crew laying sod and on a construction crew installing insulation in attics. That was work. Hard work. So technically I haven’t really “worked” since the summer of 1982.


The new restaurant, bar, bowling alley, and theatre are all set to open in Jackson this week. Opening a restaurant is stressful. The first two weeks are filled with thousands of moving parts, any of which can go wrong at any minute. The key to success in this business is management, management, management, whether it’s during a honeymoon period, or 34 years into a restaurant’s run. As stressful as openings are, they are also an opportunity to see a dream come true. When a restaurant, or bar, or theatre, or bowling alley for that matter, opens, it’s a vision actualized and brought to life. 


And it’s the vison of dozens of people. And it’s the hard work of hundreds of people. I’m typically the guy out front doing the dog-and-pony show, but there are scores of others making the wheels turn.


It’s funny how life takes us in directions we never thought we would head once we let go and let life happen. I have made thousands of mistakes in my life, maybe tens of thousands. Though one of the things I feel that I have gotten right is that I have been open to opportunity when it came knocking. 


When I speak to students, I always try to reserve most of the time to field questions. I am almost always asked some form of the question, “What is the key to success?” After 40 years in this business and given some time and space with which to reflect, it seems the key to success in business— at least in my case— is simple: Support your co-workers. Do everything you can to delight your guests/customers/clients. Find every opportunity to say, “Yes.” Serve your community. Don’t screw anyone over. Take less of a deal if you must, but make the deal. Foster other’s success. Surround yourself with people who are smarter and more talented, set the course, steer the ship, get out of their way, and give credit where credit is due. Finally, find something you’re passionate about and make it your career. 


Oh, and one last thing, keep moving forward, learn from past mistakes, but don’t dwell on them. I like to sum that concept up in one word…



Hoisin Glazed Chicken Wings



1 gallon water

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup sugar

2 Tbl kosher salt

1 1/2 Tbl crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 cup white vinegar

2 Tbl fresh ginger, minced

3# fresh chicken wings



2-7 ounce jars hoisin sauce

1/4  cups sugar

1/4 cup water

1 Tbl fresh jalapenos, small dice 

2 tsp minced garlic

1 Tbl fresh lime juice

1 Tbl Hot sauce



You can grill the wings and save this step. In a large stock pot, combine the water, soy sauce, sugar, salt, red pepper flakes, vinegar and ginger. Bring this mixture to a simmer, and allow it to cook for 10 minutes. Place the chicken wings into the simmering mixture. Once the water returns to simmer, cook the wings for 20 minutes.


Using a large colander, strain and discard the liquid. Allow the chicken wings to cool in the refrigerator for one hour. This step may be done 1-2 days in advance.


Preheat oven to 250


Line a large baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the hoisin sauce, sugar, water, jalapeños, garlic, lime juice and hot sauce. Remove half of this mixture for later use.


Toss the pre-cooked wings in the mixing bowl, coating them well with the sauce. Arrange them on the foil lined baking sheet, and cover them completely with another sheet of aluminum foil. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove the foil and place the remaining sauce in to a large mixing bowl. Gently place the wings in the bowl, and toss them with the sauce. Return the wings to the baking sheet. Turn the oven up to 275 and return the wings to the oven, uncovered. Bake for 45 minutes.


Remove from the oven and serve.


Yield: Eight to ten servings


Anonymous said...

Now you have 20 people tied to a $17,000,000 note with 4 new restaurants in Jackson and you have Zero skin in the game.

If they float you are a hero….if they sink you are gone and unknown.

Not a bad gig if you can convince a few to risk a lot because “you know what you are doing.”

Write this in your journal

Anonymous said...

Your going to need a job when the Fondren tiki bar gets overrun and fails.

Anonymous said...

Wow 10:32. Just wow. Apparently you won't be happy until everybody is as miserable as you.

Anonymous said...

This is the guy on the TV this morning pushing the bowling alley slash bar ? Like every other bowling alley and "public" within 50 miles will be over run with bad tipping locals and their evil spawn. No. thanks. IDK, maybe it's priced so high that they can control that . Sad I can never come here with anything positive about Jackson.

Anonymous said...

@11:48 is a perfect example of how racist whites destroy economies.
The new business hasn’t even opened yet and just look at that vitriol.
The only thing you left out was a reference to EBT and a welfare queen driving a nicer car than you.
Your thinly veiled racist dog whistle is not hard to decipher.

You will seethe when I charge my Tesla (cost more than your mobile home) in the parking lot while I spend some of weath I earned in tech cannabis stocks, and cryptocurrency.

Anonymous said...

12:40 : 11:48 ? The thinly veiled tripe is soooo 2018 when all the ban hammer leftist mods ruined the fun. Bottom line is our area is overrun by all kinds of idiots that don't know how to act in public. Color is not the issue here. IT'S A BOWLING ALLEY. And round here bowling ally means glorified daycare for many. Same as skating rinks ....trampoline joints golf.....etc.. ALL FAIL for the same reason.

Anonymous said...

Ain't no black brother wrote that post at 12:40. Only an ignorant-ass white man wastes his time posting shit like that. He loves his subjects, verbs, clauses and thinking he's accomplished life by sitting in a classroom at Milsaps.

Anonymous said...

Hey 12:40 - who is 11:48.

I see a post from 11:38, and another from 10:48, but nothing from "11:48".

Neither 11:38 nor 10:48 mentions being white either.

Please keep your delusional thinking away from this otherwise pleasant blog.

Anonymous said...

Yes indeed.
Any failure will surely be the fault of racists whites.

It will have nothing to do with the high crime, taxation theft, and black racists in Jackson.

Anonymous said...

The bloviator detector just went through the roof.

Anonymous said...

Places where patrons don't tip lose employees = close. And they don't.

Anonymous said...

It’s funny to watch you guys get triggered over a privately-funded bowling alley. Please continue, as your tears are delicious.

Anonymous said...

Those MetroCenter tears are pretty tasty too, right 6:50am?

Anonymous said...

"Finally, find something you’re passionate about and make it your career."

I disagree with this advice and think we are doing our young people a disservice by spouting this constantly. Guess what? Not everyone is passionate about their job, and that's OK. Some jobs just pay the bills, give you health insurance, 401k and other benefits, and allow you to pursue your passions on your own time.

Students today think they have to find that perfect job that's going to fulfill them, and it's miring them in uncertainty. We need to be telling them, your job MIGHT be your passion, but it certainly doesn't have to be.

Anonymous said...

Odds on the first bowling gambling brawl and stabbing out front of the building . I'll cross my fingers this is fruitful for the area and the owners and staff make some scratch. Before the fall.

eagleapk said...


Anonymous said...

Can we just pay employees a decent wage, and we won't have to worry about tipping? Put livable wages of the employees in the price of the food instead of forcing people to tip. If people want to tip above and beyond then go ahead. But this is one thing Europe and most of the rest of the world has gotten right. 2.14/hr plus tips equals owner welfare.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure St. John is a good person who has good intentions, but his weekly self-congratulation/self-promotion column has gotten old.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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