Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Robert St. John: Breakfast, Routines, & Bacon

Many of the business books I am familiar with go into great detail about how successful people commit to a rigid routine in their workday. A specific time is set aside for checking emails, another period is devoted to text responses. Some of these experts allot time— down to the minute— for phone calls, meetings, lunch and even the small tasks associated with a day’s work. I am not one of those devotees. Good or bad, I am not one that adheres to a tight schedule. I am always on-time and fairly organized but have no desire to lead such a structured existence, whether in my business, or personal, life. 

One quick look at my phone shows 3,652 unanswered emails. I also have a backlog of voicemail messages that haven’t been answered. To be fair though, my outgoing voice message states, “I never check my voicemail messages, so please send a text.” I currently have zero text messages that need to be responded to because I communicate best that way, or through regular phone conversations.

I have never thought of myself as one who abides by routines and schedules, but one look at my daily patterns and I am most certainly a creature of habit when it comes to breakfast.


If I am in town, I am at The Midtowner, sitting in the same seat, at the same table, at 7:00 a.m. every morning. Whether I spent the night a few blocks away at my house, or 25 miles away at the lake, I am sitting at table 19 at 7:00 a.m. It’s almost a compulsion. I could probably count on one hand the times I have been in town and not eaten breakfast at The Midtowner since we opened, and those were probably four or five times when I was sick.


The routine is a carbon copy of the day before, and the day before that. I park in the same spot, enter the same kitchen door, say “good morning,” to the team members in the prep station and pot sink area, then say “good morning” as I pass the crew on the hot line getting ready for service, before walking out into the dining room to say, “good morning,” to the front-of-the-house crew. I take my usual seat at table 19 and start out with a glass of unsweetened iced tea and a glass of water.


From there it depends on what I have scheduled. I schedule most of the meeting requests I receive for 7:15 a.m. at table 19. I love knocking out business meetings over breakfast. The day is young, my brain is rested, and there is bacon. Occasionally friends will show up during the week. I love it when that happens because I enjoy visiting while sharing a meal. And, again, there’s bacon.

My friend Steve is a radiologist and occasionally must work the overnight shift at the hospital three blocks away. He gets off at 7:00 a.m. on those shifts and we get a nice visit in— usually talking about music or family… and eating bacon— before he heads home to get some rest. He also checks the quality level of our grits that day as we use his recipe, and his name is on the menu as the creator of those grits.


On alternating Saturdays and Sundays my childhood friends Carolyn and Mike join me. That is often the highlight of my week at table 19. My two children join me, occasionally. It doesn’t get any better than that. Sometimes I’ll have a surprise visit by a friend from out of town who happens to be visiting home for a couple of days. Those are always a treat as they are usually a surprise.

I also have a standing Friday morning breakfast meeting with the men’s accountability group I’ve been a member of for over 20 years. 


I love mornings in a restaurant, whether the restaurant is opened or closed. Many times, I’ll spend time in the dining room of one of our restaurants that doesn’t open until lunch. I do some of my best, and most creative, thinking— alone— in that environment. There is a certain energy in the stillness of an unopened restaurant. It’s filled with the anticipation of a new day. Every day is different in the restaurant business. The guest make up is different, the menu offerings are different, and the shift unfolds in a different manner every time. 


I think the ever-changing environment and guest interaction is what initially lured me into this industry during my first restaurant job on the opening crew of a small delicatessen over 40 years ago. I have never been cut out for a coat-and-tie nine-to-five gig. The ups and downs and highs and lows of the typical restaurant workday fit my style and taste.


There were dreams of opening a breakfast restaurant and a place that serves meat-and-three southern home cooking at least 10 years before I opened The Midtowner. One of my greatest concerns was finding a workforce that would be consistent and timely in getting to work to open a restaurant in the early morning hours. It’s been such a pleasant surprise that we rarely have any issues with people being late to work or calling in. I would venture to say that we have less of that in the breakfast place than we do with our concepts that are open for lunch and dinner.


There is so much that goes on behind the scenes in restaurants before they open and while they’re open. It takes a team, and we’ve been blessed with talented team members for over 35 years.


The routineness of my morning schedule continues even when I am out of town. Wherever I am I ask the front desk at the hotel where the best local breakfast joint is located? “I want to go where the old men are talking sports and politics over coffee and wheat toast.” One can learn a lot sitting in a breakfast café listening to the regulars as they solve the world’s problems. And there’s also bacon.



Andouille Cheese Grits

1 tablespoon bacon fat or clarified butter

1/2 pound andouille sausage, medium dice

2 teaspoons garlic

4 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons Hot Sauce

2 tablespoons Creole Seasoning

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup white grits, quick cooking (stone ground or regular grits can be used- adjust cooking time)

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated


In a large skillet, heat clarified butter until hot. Add andouille and garlic and sauté for 4–5 minutes. Remove from heat and drain off excess fat using a fine mesh strainer. Set the andouille and garlic aside.

In a large saucepan, bring the milk, seasonings, and butter to a boil. Slowly pour in grits while stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low. Continue to stir for 15 minutes. Add the sautéed andouille and garlic mix, and cheese. Serve immediately.


Yield: 8-10 servings

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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.

Note: Security provided by INS.

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.

Note: Security provided by INS