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How Robert St. John turned Hattiesburg, Miss., into a dining destination

The veteran restaurateur has had a strong impact on the city and entire state through his restaurants, philanthropy, community outreach and more.

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Robert St. John is a restaurateur, chef, writer, philanthropist, international travel guide and TV personality—in short, a modern-day renaissance man.

He opened his first restaurant, Purple Parrot Cafe, more than 30 years ago in Hattiesburg, Miss., turning the small Southern city into a dining destination. While that one closed during Covid, seven other restaurants remain in town and two more in the state capital of Jackson. The Midtowner is the newest, an all-day breakfast place serving St. John’s favorite meal of the day.

Robert St. John
Robert St. John

The restaurateur has had a strong impact on his community and state through his businesses, books, PBS shows, volunteerism and nonprofit organization, Extra Table, which ships over 200,000 pounds of healthy food to 60 soup kitchens and food pantries across Mississippi every month. He was also an active member of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, helping to secure much-needed funds for indies during the pandemic.

Listen as St. John shares his colorful journey as a chef and restaurateur, his prolific work as a writer, how he’s fueled by a mission to give back to his community and where life is taking him next.

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