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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Commence the Commencement

May 26, 2014

It’s graduation season.

Sitting at my desk I think back to my graduation. In my mind’s eye I see myself in the Beeson Academy gymnasium sitting in a gray metal folding chair alongside my classmates, waiting for my name to be called and relieved that I had passed my algebra final and would actually graduate. I am amazed at just how little I knew then. The truly amazing part is how much I thought I knew. I had no clue.

I don’t remember anything that was said at my commencement ceremony, but if I were able to time travel, 52-year old Robert would go back to that gym and tell 17-year old Robert a few things about priorities.

Robert, you are a few years away from beginning your professional life, but you are only weeks away from planning for it. The decision you make about your professional life should be the easiest decision you ever make—your career should be about one thing: Passion.

It’s not about money, or prestige, or power, or fame. It’s about passion. Once you find your passion everything will come together. Someone once said, “Do what you love to do for a career and you’ll never work a day in your life,” that’s passion. Find your hobby and see if you can get paid for it. To be successful in your professional life find your passion, because success always follows passion.

When it comes to your personal life, it’s all about priorities. It’s not just about fun. It’s as simple as that. Arrange your priorities in the correct manner and fun will present itself with little, or no, effort. But it’s got to be the right kind of fun, and it’s got to come in the right places.

That’s where it gets tricky, Robert. It’s probably going to take you a long time to figure out how to be a success in your personal life and how to find the true source of fun—it’s not at a frat party or at someone’s apartment at three in the morning. Those fleeting moments may be temporarily enjoyable, but you’re never going to achieve a fuller life at a frat party.

The things that truly matter are: Faith, family, friends, food and fun. Once you’ve mastered the first four— in order— the fun has already happened. You don’t have to go looking for it.

Go out and make a difference. Befriend the underdog. Laugh a lot. Make others laugh a lot. Visit a nursing home. Make them laugh a lot. Hug your parents long and hard. Hug them so long that they’re the ones who let go first. Hug your favorite teacher. Thank him or her. If you don’t appreciate them today I promise you that you will in the near future. Hug the teacher you liked least, too. They probably worked just as hard; you just don’t appreciate that yet.

Take care of your teeth. Walk a lot. Drink milk. Don’t hate. Stay in touch with your friends. Make new friends. Share a meal with your friends. Travel. Eat French fries. Be nice. Be bold. Behave. Spend time with your grandparents. Love your neighbor. Love your neighbor’s neighbor. Love your neighbor’s grandparents.

Make mistakes. Then don’t sweat the mistakes you’ve made. Learn from your mistakes. Go out and make more mistakes, you’ll get it right eventually. Forgive others for their mistakes. That whole “do unto others” thing is really great advice. Floss every day. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t be so hard on others. Just make it a general rule not to be hard.

Volunteer where you feel led. Don’t just “give back”— to “give back” you have to have received something first— just give, and then give some more. Give of your time, give of your resources and give your love. When you think you’ve given enough then give some more.

Don’t forget the laughing thing. Don’t forget the hugging thing either. Don’t forget any of it. Focus on faith, family, friends, food, and fun. Find your passion. Make that your career. Then go be passionate and have fun.

Congratulations and good luck


Caramel Custard


1 cup                         Sugar

1 /3 cup                   Water

6                                 Eggs

3 /4 cup                  Sugar

1 1 /2 Tbl                Vanilla extract

1 /8 tsp                    Salt

3 1 /2 cups             Milk


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Arrange eight oven-proof bouillon cups in a baking dish, the sides of the baking dish should be as tall as the bouillon cups. Place one cup sugar and the 1 /3 cup water in a skillet with a flat, heavy bottom. Place over medium heat and cook until sugar caramelizes. Do not burn. Pour liquid caramel into bouillon cups.

Meanwhile, heat milk and half of the sugar in a small saucepot just until it begins to boil. Combine eggs, remaining sugar and vanilla and whisk together. Slowly poor hot milk into the egg mixture while stirring constantly. Divide the mixture into the bouillon cups. Poor boiling hot water into the baking dish and cover the cups with a sheet of parchment paper. Bake 40 minutes.

Chill completely. Use a paring knife to go around the custards and unmold and invert onto serving dishes. Yield: eight

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