Winston County to get taste of Italy

From staff and press reports


“An Italian Palate” is a cookbook, travelogue and artistic portfolio in one.

The creative collaboration between Hattiesburg chef Robert St. John and Clinton artist Wyatt Waters gives readers a taste of Italy in recipes, photographs and in artwork. The Winston County Library will host both chef and artist on Sunday, December 8 from 2 to 4 p.m. The book signing will also be the Library’s open house for the year.

The book is St. John’s ninth cookbook and third collaboration with Waters. St. John said he believes “An Italian Palate” is their finest work yet.

St. John has served as executive chef, president, and CEO of the Purple Parrot Café, the Crescent City Grill, and the Mahogany Bar in Hattiesburg and Meridian for the past 20 years.

Waters owns his own art gallery in Clinton and has had exhibitions at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson and the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art in Laurel. He is known for his vibrant, splashy paintings of architecture in the South.

“An Italian Palate” began when Waters accompanied St. John and his family on a 10-week trek through Italy.

“We started in Tuscany and hit Florence and Vienna. From there we went to Rome and into the Amalfi Coast, to Sicily and to Bologna, Venice, Milan and Lake Como,” St. John said. “We basically covered from the southernmost tip of Sicily to the Alps.”

“Before I went to Italy I knew her through the paintings of great painters,” Waters writes in the book. “I was afraid that Italy would be only an ordinary place painted by extraordinary artists. My fears were relieved by the magic of what is Venice.”

The sights, sounds and smells sparked their creativity and collaboration.

“I fell in love with Italy, and I fell hard,” writes St. John in the book. “I was there to learn about the cuisine and how to cook it, but the end result of that quest always ended at a dining table.”

For Waters, painting abroad was an artist’s dream.

“I paint en plein air. I did 128 watercolors in 10 weeks,” Waters said. “I had the chance to paint places where my favorite artist, John Singer Sargent, did his best work.”

The trip brought together St. John’s and Water’s favorite things. As St. John said, “That’s what Italy is all about — food and art.”

While Waters painted, St. John explored the culinary delights of each place he visited and recorded the recipes in his book.

“Fifty-percent of those recipes are authentic Italian that I learned there. Twenty-five percent are American-Italian recipes, and 25 percent are recipes that I developed for my Italian restaurant in Hattiesburg,” he said.

Among his favorites are the eggplant Parmesan, chicken cacciatore and the tiramisu.

“We try to bring the reader along with us on the journey and the and the feedback we’ve had so far is that people feel that way,” St. John said.

The Friends of the Winston County Library are sponsoring this book signing and they are sponsoring a library open house at the same time.  Refreshments will be served and everyone can enjoy the Christmas decorations throughout the library.