Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Robert St. John: Best Job Ever

There are many emotions associated with parenthood. Joy and amusement come to mind immediately. The early responsibilities of parenting can bring worry and guilt. There can be irritation and disappointment as well. The unique thing about being a parent is that sometimes one can feel several of those emotions— contradicting as they may be— at once.

There are two schools of thought on love. Some consider it an emotion and others a feeling. All I know is that my love for my children is bottomless and broad, and unlike any other sentiment I have known.

Today I will focus on the parental emotion I am most in touch with at this moment— pride.

God blessed me with two children. My daughter was born first. I dreamed of being a father for years. It wasn’t until my 36th birthday that the dream came true. I thought I knew how I would feel when I became a dad, but I had no clue as to the depth of the love I would experience. When they put that baby girl in my arms the first time it was like a large box— that had been dormant somewhere deep inside my heart— opened wide and I realized that I had more capacity to love another being that I ever could have imagined.

My daughter was close to perfect from day one. Many will consider that a statement filled with fatherly bias, but it’s true. At two years old she was like a small adult. She rarely got in trouble and grew into the daughter every father dreams of, filled with sensitivity, love, and compassion, with a significant moral center and ethical compass. Those traits only amplified in adulthood, and I am as proud of her as I could be of any living, breathing thing.

She is a career woman and a very talented interior designer with excellent taste, great communication skills, and the innate ability to connect with clients’ wishes. She continually makes me proud in so many ways.

My son came into this world almost four years to the day after his sister arrived. They looked alike (some mistook them for twins during certain stages of their childhood) though they were complete opposites when it came to personality profiles. He was an overly spirited ball of energy and lighthearted mischievousness, and often in trouble but the problems were never too deep or serious. He was frequently the humorous foil to her earnestness.

 At 14 years old he came to me and stated that he wanted to go into the restaurant business. I wrote it off as a childhood whim— the restaurant industry is too brutal and unforgiving for someone who is not 100% passionate and committed— but as the years progressed, he never wavered.

At 16, I sat him down and said, “If this is the career you truly want to pursue, and if you want to come work in our company, this is what you will need to do: Go to college and get a four-year degree in business with a minor in accounting. Then go to culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. After two years of culinary school, you will go work for other people in the industry for two years. At the end of that eight-year period, you can come back and work in our company, but you are going to start at the bottom. It won’t matter what your education was or what your experience is, you will start at the bottom and the degree to which you rise through the ranks will be 100% dependent on you, and not me.”

He is all-in.

The plan is one that I wish I would have been able to undertake. I did it all backwards. Had I gained a better foundation and made mistakes on other people’s dimes I could have saved myself a lot of grief and been a more effective leader and restaurateur from the start.

He’s currently five and a half years into the plan. He has two remaining semesters of culinary school before he graduates in December. Then he’ll go to Chicago to work for a friend’s restaurant group before coming home.

Back to pride.

My son is currently doing his externship at Emeril’s in New Orleans. He’s loving every minute of it and learning a lot. It’s an environment and culture where the entire team has one common goal of excellence in all endeavors. In my opinion, the newly re-envisioned Emeril’s is the finest restaurant in the southeast, and it would be hard for anyone who has dined there since the reopening in November to disagree.

Not only is my son fortunate enough to be staging in a world-class kitchen, he’s also being mentored by two, young, top-notch chefs, one of whom has taken over the reins from his father and is killing it, daily. Familiar territory, that.

The friend group my wife and I spend most of our leisure time with consists of four couples. This past weekend the eight of us reserved a Saturday evening table at Emeril’s. All of them were there when both kids were born and have been there all the way through their childhoods. It was a unique experience for all of us to be dining in such an outstanding restaurant while my son was cooking in the kitchen, especially a kitchen of that caliber. I was so proud.

The love that one has for their children is an innate feeling with a depth unlike any other. A father’s pride works the same. It’s a deeper feeling than the everyday pride I experience in my work or daily life. If fatherly pride was a fuel, it would be a clean-burning super-charged rocket fuel that burns blue-hot and is strong enough that one pride-filled event involving one’s child can power a lifetime of positive memories.

The official bio our marketing team created for my website lists several job titles under my photo, restaurateur, author, producer, travel host, columnist, philanthropist, and serial entrepreneur, both the most important, most fun— and most pride-filled— job title I’ll ever have is “Dad.”


Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya

2 pounds andouille sausage, or any mild smoked pork sausage, sliced about 1/4 inch thick

3 pounds chicken thigh meat, boneless and skinless, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

1 TBL Creole seasoning

2 cups yellow onion, medium dice

1 1/2 cups celery, medium dice

1 1/2 cup green bell pepper, medium dice

2 TBL fresh garlic, minced

1 tsp dry thyme

3 bay leaves

1 pound long grain rice

1 – 14 ounce can diced tomatoes

1 TBL Worcestershire sauce

1 TBL hot sauce

1 quart + 1 cup chicken broth, heated

1 Tbl kosher salt

Heat a large heavy duty cast iron skillet or dutch oven ( 2-gallon capacity) on high heat.

Place the sausage in the hot skillet and brown it evenly. Stir often to prevent burning. When the sausage is browned, carefully remove the excess fat. Season the chicken with the Creole seasoning and add it to the skillet. Brown the chicken evenly and cook it for 20 minutes. Add in the onion, celery and bell pepper and lower the heat to medium. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often. Add in the garlic, thyme and bay leaves and cook for 5 more minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until the rice grains and hot. Add in the canned tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and chicken broth. Stir the mixture well to prevent the rice from clumping together. Lower the heat until the Jambalaya is just barely simmering and cover. Cook for 30 minutes.


Yield:  12-14 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