Food / DiningStories

REAL VEGAS PEOPLE – Andy St. John of Todd English’s OLIVES Part 2

Part two of our profile of a former farmhand who operates one of Sin City’s finest restaurants.

In recent months, our REAL VEGAS PEOPLE series has introduced you to fascinating locals like trainer to the stars Teresa Van, Jeff Lockett the “Magic Mechanic”, “construction musician” Matt Dorman, and John O’Donnell, a Rambo-like mixologist. Now we complete our two-part profile on Andy St. John, another inspirational success story.

Andrew Richard St. John is a humble, small-town gentleman who spearheads one of the most revered restaurants in Las Vegas. Todd English’s OLIVES at VIRGIN HOTELS Las Vegas is where you can meet this charismatic charmer while he thrives in his element. Until you have the opportunity to stop by for a warm greeting and fabulous meal, check out part one of his Vegas 411 profile right here

Despite his enormous success in a number of noteworthy dining establishments, Mr. St. John is modest and soft-spoken. It took a bit of prodding to have him share details about his life, seemingly uncertain that his story would be worthy of publication. I assured him that it indeed was, and he agreed to an interview and the opportunity to share his story.

After working on the farm, you began washing dishes at a local restaurant then segued into learning to cook. Can you tell us more about that?

The majority of my upbringing was in a small eastern Pennsylvania town called Perkiomenville. My first job in the restaurant business was as a dishwasher when I was in the 9th grade. I spent my high school years balancing school, sports, and working in a restaurant, The Bay Pony Inn. After some time, I became a prep/line cook and enjoyed the fast-paced environment and camaraderie of the restaurant as a whole. In this role, I learned organization, time management, knife skills, baking, classic sauces, and how to manage stress and pressure. “

What made you decide to attend the Culinary Institute of America, and what special memories do you have from that experience?

“The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY was the only college I applied to. My time at The Bay Pony Inn was mentored by an alum and I was greatly inspired as a result. I have many fond and happy memories of my time at The C.I.A. I was actively involved on campus as a Resident Assistant, group leader, and program chair for Eta Sigma Delta Honor Society.”

“My focus on school enabled me to earn top marks and I was my class graduation speaker. I earned both my Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree there, which led me to take my education to Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN for Graduate school. “

You earned a Master’s Degree in Restaurant and Hospitality Management from Purdue. How did you manage to take on such enormous responsibilities at a young age? Were you working simultaneously with your studies?

“I took one thing at a time. The door opened and I walked through it. While earning my Master’s Degree, I was a teaching assistant (which paid for tuition and provided a monthly stipend) and also worked as a Chef at a local steakhouse.”

When you decided to relocate to Las Vegas, was it because of a specific job, the lure of Sin City excitement, or our reputation for having some of the finest restaurants and hotels in the nation?

“I relocated to Las Vegas because of the management opportunity to work for Thomas Keller at Bouchon. ’nuff said!”

You and your family briefly lived in the Miami area so you could run Sushi Samba. How does life in South Florida compare to the Nevada desert, and what prompted your return?

“I learned that I just did not feel at home in Miami. Las Vegas truly feels like home…amazing people and opportunities alongside the best hospitality.”

How does a single dad manage to balance his career and fatherhood in an unpredictable world?

“I belong to a really supportive team! Boz (Virgin Hotels CEO/President Richard Bosworth) and Todd have always said to put family first and are true to that value.”

You’ve clearly chosen some of the best in the industry for Todd English’s OLIVES. Do you have a personal philosophy to maintain your team’s level of excellence?

“Have integrity in all you do. Do the right thing for the right reason, regardless of whether you are being watched. Hold yourself accountable.”

Andy with Virgin Hotels CEO Richard Bosworth

You’ve said that you have the ability to step into any position at OLIVES if needed. As I recall, your words were “I’m not a great mixologist, but can pour a pretty good drink”. So imagine that you’re on “UNDERCOVER BOSS“. What restaurant position would you be most convincing at?

“This is really hard because I respect all positions and responsibilities. If I had to only pick one, I would work undercover as a line cook. I love the pressure of execution in such a finite time constraint. You have to be prepared and composed, which takes discipline. Plus you get to learn so much from the other chefs in the kitchen while mentoring those around you.”

Let’s pretend that you remained in Pennsylvania. Would you be running your own farm now, or greeting guests at “Andy’s Five-Star Roadside Diner”?

“I think about that all of the time actually. To be honest, I have no idea. My career has been me making the best of each opportunity as it came. Other doors have opened up as a result. I’m certain I would be following my passion for hospitality.”

Observing you during a busy Friday dinner crowd, I was impressed with your ability to make a very demanding job appear effortless. At one point you were in charge of three separate Venetian entities. What are your tools for remaining cool under pressure?

“When you surround yourself with talent and amazing people, you have them at your side to accomplish everything. I trust my team and know that I can’t do it all by myself.”

You’ve helmed high-profile establishments like BOUCHON, Aria’s CARBONE, and Morel’s Steak House. From the Strip to Tivoli Village and now off-Strip Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, your career seems to have spanned the city. Have you checked off most of the boxes on your professional to-do list, or is there more left for Andy St. John to discover?

“I am loving where I am and this amazing career opportunity with OLIVES. Only time will tell what is next…”

With our world in utter chaos, we need role models more than ever. People like Andy St. John remind us that no matter where we’ve come from or how lofty a goal might be, the American dream is still within reach.

TODD ENGLISH’S OLIVES operates Tuesday through Sunday from 5 pm. Click here to make reservations. VIRGIN HOTELS Las Vegas is located at 4455 Paradise Road.

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