ROBERT ST. JOHN: Most frequently asked questions that includes answers

By Robert St. John

I field questions on a daily basis, some through public appearances and book signings, others through email, but most often during face-to-face encounters in the restaurants. This column will attempt to answer the questions I am most often asked.

Q: Do you really eat all of that food that you write about?
A: Yes.

Q: How do you eat so much and not get fat?
A: You obviously have never met me. I am fat; it’s just hard to tell from the headshot in the newspaper (which is six years old, by the way).

Q: What is your favorite ingredient?
A: Jumbo lump crabmeat.

Q: What is your favorite recipe?
A: There are too many, so I’ll go with the most recent recipe. Last week I created a Summer Vegetable Minestrone for the new Italian restaurant. It’s really good. Once we were finished, and after we had tasted the final version, I was high-fiving and fist-bumping Yuri the prep cook who worked with me. That’s fun.

Q: Where did you get the name The Purple Parrot Café?
A: Short answer – lack of a better name. In 1987, we were down to the wire and needed a name for the soon-to-be-opened restaurant. The temporary name was Purple Parrot, which had been a joke after a Jimmy Buffett concert. Time came to fill out legal documents and paperwork, and we just went with the temporary name.
I wish there was a better story behind it. There’s really nothing tropical or bird-like in the place. It’s just a name, and we’ve been around too long to change it now.

Q: What is the key to successful cooking and/or writing?
A: Passion. I believe that success follows passion in everything. I am passionate about food and I am passionate about writing.

Q: When did you begin your writing career?
A: Fairly late in life, I was almost 40-years-old when I started writing this column. It all happened so fast. I developed a passion for writing sitting at my desk in Hattiesburg and three years later I was sitting at a table on the Upper West Side of Manhattan signing a three-book deal with Hyperion. Eight books later, I’m still doing it.
I told my wife that I spent my first 40 years living, and I’m going to spend the next 40 writing about it. I’ve been blessed with the curse of having a great memory.

Q: What inspires you to write?
A: Besides my Monday morning deadline? Seriously, my maternal grandfather was one of the main male influences in my life. He was a master storyteller. He wasn’t a writer, he worked for the phone company, but he was a Southern gentleman and a great role model. I admired him so much. I’ll never even come close to becoming the storyteller that he was.

Q: What is your favorite subject matter?
A: My children. There’s a ton of material there. It’s never-ending. I’ve got a lot of job titles: chef, author, restaurateur, columnist, but the best job I’ve ever had is being a dad.

Q: Do you ever run out of things to write about?
A: It’s only happened once. But I ended up writing a column answering all of the questions people have asked me over the years and everything worked out perfectly.

Robert St. John is a restaurateur, chef and author of numerous books.