Chef Features

The Chef Feature Section: Interviews and more.

  • Chef Interview: Steve McHugh of Cured, San Antonio

    Chef Steve McHugh is not new to the industry, but his new restaurant, Cured, has brought something entirely fresh and unique to the San Antonio restaurant scene. Housed in a stunning, historic building from 1904 in the city's lively Pearl Brewery, the chef and proprietor, along with his wife, revamped the interior with elegant, contemporary touches that complemented the building's unique character. McHugh takes advantage of seasonal, regional ingredients and has crafted a menu centered around cured foods, from charcuteries to vegetables. And speaking of charcuterie, the menu ranges in offerings from port pate to smoked duck ham and jalapeno sausage, to name a few, and it's all made in house and displayed in their attractive, humidity-controlled locker. All of these meats are cured from 60 days to 10 months! Aside from the charcuterie, the venue has delicious salads, homemade soups, cabrito sliders, roasted lamb legs and wagyu beef tartare, and that's just skimming the surface. Their seafood calls to mind great southern traditions and flavors, from crawfish "love letters" to masa flash fried oysters and seared redfish. Read on to learn more about the man behind Cured who's making a big splash in San Antonio:

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    When did you first realize you wanted to be a professional chef?

    I started working in kitchens when I was 14.   When I graduated High School I went to college to play music. I loved the saxophone when I was younger but it just wasn’t for me. I liked playing music but I didn’t want to study it. So I left after a year. I went back into restaurant work and it was my father that suggested I go to culinary school. Growing up in a small town in Wisconsin I had never even met a real chef. That was big city stuff. I left that summer to attend the CIA in Hyde Park New York and the rest is history.

    Did cooking play a large role in your upbringing and childhood?
    As a child I didn’t realize the role it played but as I came into my own as a chef I started to see the lessons. My Mom canned during the summers for winter and when we raised hogs the entire pig went to good use. It was important for my parents because they were raising 7 boys. Nothing could be wasted when you have that many mouths to feed.

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    Share with us a special food memory that sticks with you today.
    One particular food moment for me was when I was about 15 my father took my younger brother and I to New York City for a quick trip. I remember going into a Times Square Deli and having a Rueben. The sandwich was good but I couldn’t get out of my head how good the pickle and cole slaw was. I seemed odd to me that these two items I’ve eaten all my life could actually have some value to the meal.

    What advice do you have for aspiring chefs, students and hopeful restaurateurs?
    What you see on TV is not real. I know I’ve been on TV. Restaurants are hard work, plain and simple. It requires more time than you think and if you aren’t willing to put in the time you will never make it.

    Tell us about your career path- where did you start off, what were you doing before?
    I’ve always been in kitchens. I grew up on a farm and wanted to move to the big city. When I graduated culinary school in 1997 I moved to New Orleans and just immersed myself in the history of the city. New Orleans taught me to cook with respect to my ingredients as well as those that came before me.

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    Tell us a little bit about Cured.
    My wife Sylvia and I wanted a place where we could go and eat. It sounds funny but we longed for some of that New Orleans comfort. We also wanted to be a friend to the farmer and knew the only way to do that was to buy whole animals. The curing became a result of that. A good friend of mine came up with the name Cured because I had a bout with Lymphoma a couple of years ago and it fit not only my cooking but my history as well.

    What experiences do you think have shaped you most as a chef?
    The most important thing I can do as a chef is travel. You need to get out and see what others are doing. Get out of your own comfort zone. I tell my young chefs that a day trip to Austin or Houston will open your eyes.

    Where do you see the San Antonio food scene heading and how do you think it stands out in relation to Austin, Corpus, Dallas and Houston?
    It is amazing to me how far San Antonio has come since I moved here in 2010. So much has changed in just a few short years and I feel great to be apart of it. There is so much energy now and the customers are only getting smarter thanks to TV and the Internet. You can ‘t fool people like you could years ago. I honestly think that San Antonio has a leg up on the other Texas cities because like New Orleans we have a truly indigenous cuisine rooted solely in its history.

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    What are some of your most prized tools in the back of the house? Any Mission Restaurant Supply favorites?
    I am a big fan of the simplest pieces becoming workhorses in the kitchen. My favorite Mission piece is a 6-foot cheese-melter that we use and it is extremely versatile. It holds sauté pans hot for when you need them, keeps food warm on the bottom shelf and browns on the top. Mission set themselves apart because of service. I had the honor to work with Jim Conner. Jim had been designing kitchen so long that I felt he had probably forgotten more about them than I have ever learned. After his untimely passing Don Brawner stepped in to make sure we didn’t skip a beat.

    You all have landed in a honey hole with your location at the Pearl. Tell us a little bit about the building and about what your location adds to the experience.
    The building was something that we talked about for a long time. Once I cooked for the higher-ups at Pearl and they had a chance to see my vision we realized it matched their vision for the Admin building. It is the original administration office for the brewery. It was built in 1904 and we are grateful to be able to come to work there everyday.

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    Which tastemakers, mixologists & foodservice professionals inspire you?
    My career is heavily influenced by John Besh, whom I worked with for 10 years. He is one of the most giving people I know and that is reflected in everything that happens in any of his restaurants. I catch myself on a daily basis saying to myself “would you serve that to John”?

    Can you share with us your favorite culinary destinations?
    In San Antonio, Fruteria, for me. It’s all about learning and I know that Johnny has traveled extensively and I learn something new every time I eat there. In Texas I love day tripping to Lockhart for Blacks BBQ or off to Houston for Chris Sheppard’s Underbelly. In the U.S. one of my favorite cities in Chicago. Pretty much anything Paul Kahan touches is gold and I am a big fan of Girl and The Goat by Stephanie Izard. Around the world, Chartier in Paris. Its one of the oldest Brasseries in the city and you can eat a full lunch for about 15 euros.

    What towns/villages/cities are you’re dying to go and explore for yourself? Any particular dining destinations on your list?
    I’ve become friends with Johnny Hernandez over the years and he is always going on and on about Oaxaca and I’ve traveled a lot throughout Europe but have never been south of the U.S. so it will be on the itinerary for 2015 for sure.

    The whole aesthetic at Cured from the furnishings to the integrity of the building, to the bar program and the presentation of the food is really something. What were you trying to achieve with the “look and feel” of Cured?
    My wife and I tend to agonize over details. It’s probably why what was supposed to be a 6-month project turned into 14. It had to not only be perfect but it also had to make sense. We tried to do the impossible which is to make a place for everyone. We feel like we got as close as we could and are extremely happy with the support of the community.

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    Do you have a personal creed or ethos that you live by?
    Not really. My Mom passed away 5 months before we opened and for my brother (also my partner) and I it was tough for us because she never go to see it finished. I do imagine that she is watching and it makes me want to work harder because I know she would be proud.

    “Charcuterie, Dining & Subtleties” is the motto at Cured. How do those things infuse the Cured experience?
    We want people to know that we are trying. You will never see me go through the motions. It’s that little something extra, cologne in the men’s room, the garnish on your drink, turning beets into cracklings instead of croutons on your salad. It was about setting ourselves apart.

    Lay out a perfect meal and wine/cocktail pairing for a first timer to Cured.
    I get asked all the time what is your favorite. It changes everyday. We do get a lot of comments on our poutine and so I will tell first-timers to make sure they try that. Also get the Cured Cocktail because it’s a moonshine infusion. And of course try some of the charcuterie. Make sure you come with someone you enjoy sharing with because it’s all about being communal.

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    What’s your favorite dish?
    There’s no way I have a favorite dish. If I get to to attached to something I’m afraid I will be scared to take it off the menu. We have to be able to keep things fresh and new.

    What has been the biggest surprise in your life?
    Cancer. It doesn’t run in my family and when I heard that word it was a complete surprise. I’m a relatively healthy person and you want to know what you did wrong.

    What’s up next for Chef Steve and Cured? Any fun quirks you can share about yourself?
    We get asked all the time if we are going to do something else. We have worked so hard this first year to put together the best team of people in the city of San Antonio and the team gets stronger and better with every new person we hire. It’s hard to think of doing that all over again. Our People make Cured.   I’m a total goof in the kitchen and I love to crack jokes. It’s important to remind the team that we’re all human and its okay to enjoy your job and the people around you.


    Check out Cured the next time you're looking for a fun lunch or night out in San Antonio! You won't be disappointed. Thank you Chef Steve for visiting with us!
    All Pictures Courtesy of atpearl.com and tastingtable.com

  • Chef Interview | Jesse Perez | Arcade Midtown Kitchen

    Tucked into the bustling Pearl Brewery in San Antonio is a place called Arcade Midtown Kitchen where "Food Fortune Awaits." The aesthetics of the place are as satisfying outside as they are inside, and best yet, the food (and drinks) don't disappoint. The man behind it is Jesse Perez, a local chef who has earned his stripes working in his native San Antonio in addition to both the East and West coasts, and also in Mexico. The fusion of those culinary styles, flavors and traditions come together to make "something old, something mood, something borrowed and damn good food." Somewhere between the crispy chili and lime calamari to the soft lobster taco with sweet potato and the delectable brussel sprouts, we became caught in a paradise of flavors and relaxed fare. Wash down your meal with one of Arcade's signature craft cocktails and make sure to stop by the bathroom for a fortune telling visit to Zoltar. Without further ado, check out our latest Chef Interview with Jesse Perez from Arcade Midtown Kitchen.
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    MRS: When did you first realize you wanted to be a professional chef?
    CHEF JP: I grew up being comfortable in the kitchen. At home my grandmother and my mother did all the cooking. The kitchen was where all the action was and so was the food. It wasn’t until my first cooking job while at the University of Michigan that I realized that the kitchen wasn’t scary to me and felt right at home.

    MRS: Did cooking play a large role in your upbringing and childhood? If so, how did it shape you?
    CHEF JP: All the meals growing up where made at home. Something was always cooking at home, breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Whether it was my grandmother or mother or my father. Going out to eat was a very rare occasion. It was always about the home cooked meal. Nothing better than that.

    MRS: What is your earliest and/or most treasured food memory?
    CHEF JP: I believe the most treasured memories that I have with food are the monthly barbecue cook-outs that my Dad and my uncle would have as fundraisers for birthdays or for friends/family in need. All the family would get together and pitch in their ‘best of’ for the offering. It was truly inspiring.

    MRS: What advice do you have for aspiring chefs, students and hopeful restaurateurs?
    CHEF JP: My advice is to be a student of the craft. Earn your stripes and battle scars by staging at a few restaurants and search for chefs and kitchens that will hone your skills. Then make the decision if this is truly a career path you want to pursue, or realize that you just like to cook. A real restaurant is not what you see on TV.

    MRS: Your career path has taken you from coast to coast. What did you like most and notice most about east/west styles?
    CHEF JP: Working as an Executive Chef in Atlanta was an amazing experience. The southern approach to food was a great lesson for me. Serious but simple was the approach and making great food was the only way to make a mark on the table. In Los Angeles and Long Beach, it was a little slower pace but also serious about sustainability and great products. The farmers markets are like no other and the customer was careful about the origin of their experience.

    MRS: We know that Latin flavors influence your cooking approach and have made their way onto the “Americana” menu at Arcade. Can you tell us a little bit about what that means? Also, what was the biggest take-away from your time in cooking school in Oaxaca?
    CHEF JP: Oaxaca is a very special place. Susana Trilling and her ‘Season’s of my Heart’ cooking school is like no other around. You are taken to this oasis of culture and flavor that can only inspire to immerse yourself into the tradition and passion for true interior Mexican cuisine. Throughout my career, I have taken those techniques and traditions and implemented those flavors on dishes. Taking the traditional methods with a modern twist is what makes ‘Americana’ a thing for us here at Arcade. It’s a fun thing to do.

    MRS: After all this travel, you’ve settled back down into your hometown of San Antonio. What is it about the Alamo city that draws you back?
    CHEF JP: First and foremost is that my family is here in SA. Secondly, it was always a goal of mine whether in this field or another to come back and give back to the community that gave me so much. I was brought up with a ‘scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ mentality. I’ve enjoyed paying it forward.

    MRS: Where do you see the San Antonio food scene heading and how do you think it stands out in relation to Austin, Corpus, Dallas and Houston?
    CHEF JP: This is the most exciting time for SA. Never has the dining and beverage scene been so aggressive and innovative. National publications are constantly on the prowl for what SA is doing. That says a lot about where we are and where we are going.

    MRS: What are some of your most prized tools in the back of the house? Any Mission Restaurant Supply favorites?
    CHEF JP: Strainers. Vita Prep. Food Processor. Blue Tape. Black Sharpie.

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    MRS: You’ve landed in a honey hole with your location at the Pearl Brewery, an area you’ve cleverly dubbed “Midtown.” What is the Midtown vibe in your own words and how does that fit the Arcade vision?
    CHEF JP: Location wise it made sense to me to coin Arcade, as a Midtown Kitchen. Midtown in ATL was a hot and urban spot where things were constantly moving forward. I have and continue to see that with SA and Pearl. With the ‘Kitchen’ it was perfect for the approachability on what diners are looking for right now.

    MRS: Which tastemakers, mixologists & foodservice professionals inspire you?
    CHEF JP: Chef Mark Miller will always been a true inspiration to me. Every Chef has a Chef. He’s my Chef. Others that inspire me with their drive and passion, would be Jason Dady, Alice Waters, Nancy Silverton, David Chang, Pano Karatassos, and Dr. Richard Becker. To name a few.

    MRS: Can you share with us your favorite culinary destinations and name some specific memorable meals/libations you’ve had at each of them?
    CHEF JP: Chicago is my favorite R&D spot. I’ve had some of my best meals there. Not necessarily only at the finest dining spots. They really take food seriously and I love traveling up there for inspiration. And their cocktails are top notch!

    MRS: What places are you’re dying to go to still? Any particular dining destinations on your list?
    CHEF JP: Barcelona is on my bucket list. And I would love to add Bangkok, Hong Kong, and South Korea on that list.

    The bar seating at Arcade Midtown Kitchen The bar seating at Arcade Midtown Kitchen

    MRS: The bar program at Arcade is one of the most unique and stimulating facets of your restaurant. What inspired you to incorporate this feature and tell us a little bit about Christopher Ware?
    CHEF JP: The bar program was designed to be a sexy amenity to Arcade. It was built small but it was meant to run big. Implementing an aggressive approach of ‘vintage’ and ‘modern’ cocktails with fine product was the goal. Taking the steps to implement a barrel aged program and hand crafted cocktails to the table diners was still a new thing when we first opened. It’s been exciting to see the growth with our restaurants following the same approach. Everyone wins.

    MRS: Do you have a personal creed or ethos that you live by?
    CHEF JP: (1.) Cooking is the easy part (2.) Adapt or die

    MRS: What was the most difficult part about starting your own restaurant business? What surprised you?
    CHEF JP: Constantly second guessing yourself and wondering if it all will work like you envisioned in your head. You are constantly at the mercy of time tables and product availability. There truly are not enough hours in the day for it and you are never truly ready for it. Buckle up and take the ride.

    MRS: What inspired you to name your first restaurant Arcade Midtown Kitchen?
    CHEF JP: The architecture of the façade of the restaurant was a standout fixture to me. Also the covered dining with rounded brick columns the restaurant houses. In my research, Arcade would constantly come up for ‘columns’ and I immediately was attracted to that name. The name Arcade also stood true for a place where people gather to meet and have a good time. Back in the boardwalk days (aka Boardwalk Empire), Arcades were places to wine and dine with your friends and family. We ran with it and took the more vintage and ‘tongue and cheek’ approach as opposed to the playful ‘video’ game approach.

    MRS: Lay out a perfect meal and wine/cocktail pairing for a first timer to Arcade.
    CHEF JP: Order an Arcade and barrel aged cocktail to share. Calamari and Lobster taco for the table to taste. Any red wine from our wine list that are carefully selected to pair with our cuisine, to enjoy with the Salmon ‘on the rocks’ and ‘Arcade Chile Rubbed Hand Cut Ribeye’ steak with Red Chile Potatoes. A side of Brussel Sprouts. Finishing with Chocolate Pudding Cake and Roasted Banana Stack with Salted Caramel.

    MRS: We recently read that you earned the Introduction Certificate of Sommeliers from the Guild of Master Sommeliers. What an honor. Tell us a little bit about that experience.
    CHEF JP:  I took that test back in 2000, as a hot apps cook when I worked at the former Westin La Cantera Resort. It was an honor to study under Master Sommelier Virginia Phillip. It really sparked my confidence to pair wine with food, especially with Southwestern and Americana flavors. I still have aspirations to take the advanced test in the future.

    MRS: Lastly, what’s up next for Chef Jesse?
    CHEF JP: Great question. Right now, just put my head down and continue to make Arcade a consistently great place for people to enjoy. Then, perhaps a spot or two.


    Thank you Jesse for the great interview! Learn more about Arcade here.

  • Chef Interview | Luca Della Casa | Silo & Nosh

    Italians have long been known for their passionate enthusiasm on life, culture, family and food, and Torino-born Chef, Luca Della Casa, is no exception. The Italian Chef has become a much talked about fixture on the San Antonio dining circuit thanks to his impressive work as Executive Chef at Silo Elevated Cuisine and Nosh in addition to being a contestant on the much talked about Food Network Star.

    Chef Luca Della Casa Chef Luca Della Casa

    The Mission Team loves going to Silo and to Nosh, where crispy fried oysters abound and fresh, homemade tagliatelle hangs in the kitchen, awaiting its sauce du jour. And clearly, others do too. Della Casa has a humble, happy, hard-working spirit that is contagious for diners coming to both of his restaurants. Since his early days in Italy learning from the best (his grandmother Nonna) to his time working across Europe at different establishments, Della Casa has appreciated the joy that comes from bringing people together around a table. And luckily for us, Chef Luca has turned that joy into a career that everyone can taste and enjoy.

    The Mission Team recently chatted with the popular Chef to pick his brain about his inspiration, favorite kitchen supplies, words of wisdom and more. Read the Interview here & enjoy!


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    MissionRS: You're from Torino, Italy which we're sure is bursting left and right with culinary inspiration. Tell us a little bit about your Italian heritage and how the "homestyle" cooking influences your vision and work. 

    Chef LDC: I was born in a family that loved to cook and entertain. My best food memories were in my grandma Nonna's kitchen, which is my culinary inspiration.


    MissionRS: When did you know that you wanted to make cooking a career? 

    Chef LDC: After working my way up the ranks in the kitchens of Italy and Spain, I knew that cooking was my passion because I love food and making people happy.

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    MissionRS: 
    What is one of your favorite pieces of kitchen equipment/supplies?

    Chef LDC: I love the cast iron pans from Mission because they get really hot and give an amazing sear.


    MissionRS: You know what it takes to work your way up in the industry. Tell us a little bit about your past and any advice you may have for aspiring young chefs.

    Chef LDC: I have worked my way up from dishwasher to Executive Chef. My advice is as follows:
    1. Be ready to work hard. 2. Be humble; and 3. Always taste your food. 


     MissionRS: What are some of your favorite and most treasured food memories?

    Chef LDC: My favorite food memory is always having Sunday dinner at my Grandma Nonna's house and eating gnocchi with rabbit sauce.


     MissionRS: Name a handful  of tastemakers/chefs/foodies who inspire you today. 

     Chef LDC: I am inspired by Chefs like Bruce Auden, Johnny Hernandez, Mark Bliss, Jason Dady, Gabriel Ibarra, Steven McHugh, Tim Rattray, and Stefan Bowers who work hard to put San Antonio on the culinary map.


    MissionRS: San Antonio is really picking up as a coveted culinary destination. What other cities do you look to for serious eats?

    Chef LDC: My wife and I love New York, Chicago and Seattle. We are planning to visit Portland next.

    BATE_2_s4x3.jpg.rend.snigalleryslide Judges of Food Network Star

    MissionRS: For a first timer to Silo and Nosh what would your ideal dinner/wine pairings be?

    Chef LDC: 
    For Silo: Start with the Signature Chicken Fried Oysters and a glass of Sancerre; Oak Grilled Lamb and Palmaz Cabernet, and a Coconut Pie with Tokai.

    For Nosh: Truffle Parmesan French Fries; Shrimp and Tomato Salad with a glass of Prosecco. Buon Appetito!


    MissionRS: Your homemade tagliatelle is one of our favorite things ever. (Listen up readers- it's a must order at Nosh!) What is the trick to making really good, light pasta? Any other tricks in the kitchen you'd mind sharing?

    Chef LDC: The trick to good homemade pasta is to use a high quality "OO" Flour. Follow me on the Food Network Star to learn some of my other culinary tricks.


    MissionRS: Finally, where do you see the industry headed? Anything on your radar for the next year?

    Chef LDC: I believe San Antonio is becoming a culinary destination and it's also a wonderful place to live. As for the future, I want to take my wife on a vacation.


    Make sure to swing by Nosh and Silo- Alamo Heights in San Antonio next time you're in the area. To follow Luca through social media and on his quest through the Food Network Star, use the following links:

     
     
    Hashtags and @Mentions:
    #FoodNetworkStar #StarSalvation #TeamLuca @FoodNetwork @FoodNetworkFans


    And last but not least, we'd like to say a big thank you to Chef Luca and to his wife, Marcella for being a part of our Mission Chef Series!

    *All pictures courtesy of Food Network*

  • Chef Interview | Mark Bliss | Bliss, San Antonio

    2 Chef Mark Bliss in action, courtesy of Southern Living.

    If you haven't already heard, it's about time to add San Antonio to your list of dining destinations, and pronto. With the plethora of restaurants in our fair city, there is no shortage of great places to eat, so let your culinary compass be your guide. But guide you as it may, we are taking it upon ourselves to introduce you to some of the highlights. Enter: our new series of Chef Interviews. 

    Over the coming months, we will be sharing some of the chefs and tastemakers that are doing exciting, innovative things in the restaurant industry and we hope you will read along. Do crispy fried gulf oysters with candied bacon, buttermilk chive biscuits and brown butter hollandaise sound appealing to you? How about seared sea scallops with pepperjack-white cheddar grits, sauteed spinach, avocado mousse and cilantro lime jalapeno beurre blanc? Hungry? We thought so.

    Behind these delightful, blissfully concocted dishes is Mark Bliss, a San Antonio Chef who oozes culinary talent in relaxed and refreshing ways at his eponymous restaurant, Bliss. Though he's originally from Northern California, Chef Bliss started his culinary career following his move to Texas in the early eighties, working in a handful of hotel and restaurant kitchens before opening Silo in San Antonio, a restaurant which has received tremendous national and regional acclaim over the years. Following a brief sabbatical, Chef Bliss opened his new restaurant concept, Bliss, in the bustling Southtown neighborhood of San Antonio.

    The restaurant location was decided on after Mark and his wife/business partner Lisa found a hopeful home in a decrepit yet charming filling station from the early nineteen hundreds. After a good deal of renovation, the building's original exposed brick was complemented by contemporary steel panels, beautiful landscaping, and large glass windows and sky lights to bring natural light into the space. The building, with its relaxed yet refined ambiance and contemporary spin is much like the chef who conducts business within. They are a perfect match and as a result, a dinner here is a harmonious melody of things: it's unpretentious yet service-driven, relaxed yet elegant, comfortable yet subtly swanky, and most of all, the food is bliss.

    Keep reading to learn more about Chef Mark Bliss:

    1 A sampling of sights at Bliss: the contemporary exterior, a peek inside the kitchen's Chef's Table (available by reservation), the Chef's famous oyster sliders, and the restaurant's covetable back patio.

    MissionRS: How long have you been in the industry and when was it that you first realized you wanted to be a chef? Was it a gradual revelation or an early conviction?

    Chef Mark Bliss: I have been in the business since I was 16 years old, I started as a sandwich prep at TOGO's in Northern California. I started becoming serious about it in 1983. I worked at a small trattoria in north San Antonio for a year then went to work at the Hilton Palacio del Rio in 1984. I worked with 4 different chefs while at the Hilton. The Hilton experience really lit a fire under me professionally. I left the Hilton in 1986 to work at The Fairmount Hotel. 


    MissionRS: Was there one key person (or group of people) who you credit for teaching you the ropes?

    Chef Mark Bliss: The first sous chefs I worked with at the Hilton, George Keeney & Louis Spost, were both extremely talented ambitious chefs who had just graduated from the CIA in Hyde Park NY. They taught me a lot about production, sauce making. They are both well respected Chefs to this day. Luckily for me they saw I had the passion for the job and put me on an intensive in house training program. Bruce Auden, the godfather of New American Cuisine in San Antonio became a huge mentor during my tenure at The Fairmount Hotel. Bruce eventually hired me as chef de cuisine at Biga in 1991.


    MissionRS: For the newcomers to Bliss, what would be your ideal "first timer" food & wine pairing?

    Chef Mark Bliss: Chicken fried oyster sliders & Contaldi Castaldi sparkling rose

    3 {LEFT} The main interior dining room of Bliss with the filling station's original brick walls. {RIGHT} The restaurant's red Berkel slicer makes plate after plate of paper thin charcuterie.

    MissionRS: Name a handful of tastemakers/ chefs/ foodies who're inspiring you today.

    Chef Mark Bliss: I recently returned from Spain and had numerous fantastic experiences in Barcelona & Donostia-San Sebastian. The food scene in Spain is world class. Pakta restaurant in Barcelona was enlightening and delicious as we navigated through 34 tiny bites or courses. Albert Adria from El Bulli & Tickets is a partner with Japanese chef Kyoko Ii & Peruvian chef Jorge Munoz. Pakta is basically a Japanese, Spanish, Peruvian fusion restaurant. The food they are creating is light, healthy & delicious. Here in the states there are numerous great young chef's really getting into the whole farm to table concept. Jared Wentworth at Longman & Eagle in Chicago has really gotten my attention, his food is brilliant. 


    MissionRS: In the back of the house, what's your most cherished kitchen tool?

    Chef Mark Bliss: My chef's knife.


     MissionRS: You're nicely nestled into the heart of Southtown San Antonio. Tell us a little bit about why you enjoy this part of town and how it is incorporated into your vision and the dining experience at Bliss.

    Chef Mark Bliss: Southtown is a wonderfully diverse food & arts community. Some of the most innovative food in SA is located here. I wanted to do a concept that was comfortable, not pretentious, fun & relaxed with a professional staff & service. I am very blessed to have one of the best staffs in the business. I also have a fantastic partner in my wife Lisa who is responsible for all financial aspects of the business. We have a beautiful space, great landlords...It's a very, very positive environment.


     MissionRS: With all the innovative cooking techniques on the market today have you experimented with any that are now mainstays in your kitchen or that you're anxious to try? 

     Chef Mark Bliss: Sous Vide is definitely on my radar.


    MissionRS: For you, what are the secrets or fundamental staples to running a successful restaurant business?

    Chef Mark Bliss: Being a fair & honest employer/restaurateur. Not being afraid to make daily changes or try new dishes on a whim. Basically keeping myself & my staff enthused so we do not get stale or dated.

    4 Picture courtesy of eater.com

    MissionRS: What is the most memorable meal you've had?

    Chef Mark Bliss: Recently at Patka in Barcelona & in 1993 at Bouley in NYC.


    MissionRS: Where do you see the food industry heading and what do you see for the future of Bliss?

    Chef Mark Bliss: Hopefully, the public will continue to embrace small independent restaurants. I see Bliss continuing to get better and evolve with the times. And perhaps the occasional Brunch.


    MissionRS: Do you have any tips for aspiring chefs and restaurateurs?

    Chef Mark Bliss: Never stop learning, don't be too greedy. Always feed the dishwashers first and foremost as they are truly the heart & soul of a great restaurant. If you want to get a point across, do so respectfully, your staff will truly pay attention.


     Bliss is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday and you can make a reservation by calling them at 210.225.2547. Bliss is also directly across the street from our showroom, which is open to the public at 1126 S. St. Marys Street San Antonio, Texas 78210. Come by and see us! Thank you to Chef Bliss and to Lisa Bliss for helping us kick off this new series!

  • Restaurant Spotlight: NOSH, San Antonio, Texas

    If you're a dining enthusiast and you live in the San Antonio/Central Texas region, chances are you've been to (or heard of) Silo Elevated Cuisine, the fabulous and highly praised restaurant with locations in both the Alamo Heights area and off of 1604. It's modern approach to fine dining brings together the perfect combination of sophistication and eclecticism in an elegant yet relaxed environment that everyone can enjoy. It is literally elevated dining at its best.

     

    But the newest addition to the Silo family comes with Nosh, a small sister restaurant tucked just onto the front of the Alamo Heights Silo location that delivers an experience uniquely its own. The restaurant beckons diners for its small, cozy, neighborhood charm that satisfies without feeling pretentious. Think: An ice- cold beer with a perfect steak tartare and truffle fries or a hot, thin crust pizza washed down with a glass of wine. The relaxed decor adds to the restaurants charm with a small but well-stocked bar welcoming patrons as they enter and a large chalkboard wall featuring the impressive beer selection available to you. The dining style is best summed up by the restaurant's mantra, "Small Plates. Big Taste" with the menu featuring  smaller dishes meant for sharing so that diners can "nosh" while getting a nice sampling of food. Nosh is excited to have just brought on one of San Antonio's finest chefs, "Lucca della Casa" who brings with him experience from Il Sogno in the Pearl Brewery and beyond. After dining at Nosh just this week, we can see the change he's bringing to the table, and it is both sweet, savory and not to be missed:

     

    Stop by Nosh for a great, relaxed dining experience that won't disappoint! 

    Nosh is located at 1133 Austin Highway San Antonio, Texas 78209
    Hours of Operation: Tuesday - Saturday 11AM to 11PM

  • An Interview with Jeret Peña

    We had the pleasure of recently sitting down with The Esquire's  cocktail guru, Jeret Peña, to talk about bartending, ingredients, The Esquire, and his exciting rise to success. Going into the Esquire Tavern is a bit like traveling back in time. The "longest wood bar in Texas" (over 100 feet long!) and "the oldest bar on the San Antonio Riverwalk" runs almost the entire length of the building and is filled with thirsty patrons who sit opposite wood cubbies filled with spirits, glimmering glassware, and mirrored panels. The Esquire was first opened in 1933 to celebrate the end of prohibition, and it has been serving up swanky cocktails and good eats for many years since. If you're not sitting at the bar, customers can duck into back to back, dark wooden booths that line the side of the restaurant, in a smaller, back dining area, or on a patio that leads right down to the river. The environment is, in a word, comfortable.

    Upon walking in, the tavern-ambiance is undeniable; antlers hang stoically on the wall and the dim lighting lures customers in for a comforting meal and a warming drink. Despite all the decor though, there's no denying that the main focus of the Esquire is the bar. Enter: Jeret Peña- the tavern keeper, the head bartender, the revered mixologist who is garnering rave reviews left and right. From a Rising Star Award to his recent James Beard nomination, we were delighted to sit down with Jeret and take a look back on his rise to stardom.

    Peña got his start at the Valencia Hotel in a Banquet Event setting, dabbling for the first time in the bartending scene. He later moved on to the Watermark, and while there, was asked by the General Manger to host a tequila seminar for the San Antonio Current. It was then that he had to learn as much as he possibly could about the spirit, calling it "So complex, sophisticated and beautiful." Peña then went on to be the Ambassador for Partida Tequila for 2 years, and it was there that the door to mixology was opened. What happened next was the defining moment- a stint at Anvil, a respected bar in Houston, would change the course of Peña's career. Like many of us, finding a mentor you can really learn from and look up to can have a huge impact on your direction. Peña met his mentor, Bobby Heugel, one of the owners of Anvil, and the rest is history. Recalling his time with Bobby at Anvil, he said, "I saw a craft I knew nothing about- the fluid movement, the alchemy- it was mesmerizing."  Since this turning point, Jeret has proved himself to be one of the leaders in the field. His innovative thinking and ability to push the envelope and explore new territory has brought about some well-deserved accolades as of late. StarChefs.com, a magazine for culinary insiders, recently honored "the best of the best" from the Austin and San Antonio dining scenes. A total of 19 awards were given out, with Peña taking home the Mixologist Honor.When receiving the "Rising Star" Accolade in a crowd of 400 people in Austin, Peña recalled thinking "I have momentum. It was wild-I felt honored to be on stage with so many amazing chefs." After sharing the news to his family and friends, he admitted that the James Beard Award was next up on the list. Little did he know, just a few weeks later, that he would be getting a nomination from the coveted organization's Bar and Cocktail Program. Clearly, it's a huge honor, and Jeret smiled as he said, "It's a little creepy."

     

    We asked Jeret to share with us (and you!) a cocktail recipe, a cocktail that embodied his heart and soul, his career, and ultimately, his flavor. The result was the Mas Chingoni, a self-proclaimed "Jeret Peña Cocktail. The Cocktalians Cocktail." Derived from the negroni, a classic cocktail featuring equal parts gin, campari, and sweet vermouth with a lemon peel, the Mas Chingoni hosts one of Peña's favorite ingredients, Mezcal (a big, bold, smokey, medicinal ingredient). The drink is what Pena describes as "a very bold, strong, and powerful cocktail. It has so much complexity so it's not for everybody." His "love affair with Mezcal" - and with his trade- is clearly a passionate one, and it shines through in every aspect.   Mas Chingoni 3/4 oz anejo tequila 3/4 oz aperol 3/4 oz carpano antica 1/4 oz mezcal serve on a large format ice with a grapefruit peel If you're planning on visiting downtown San Antonio, make sure to swing by The Esquire for lunch, dinner, or a late night beverage! Congratulations to Jeret for his continued success and thank you again for allowing us to visit! Check out the whole Cocktail Menu from the Esquire Tavern right here! Visit the Esquire at 155 East Commerce Street San Antonio, Texas 78205 Image Credits
  • Chefs Under Fire 2011

     

    All of us at Mission Restaurant Supply are gearing up for the long-awaited, 3rd annual Chefs Under Fire competition! Hosted by the Keeper Collection LLC, this unique competition brings together enormous culinary talent,  with celebrity chefs and plenty of fire to heat things up in the kitchen.

    Mission will be sponsoring Chefs Under Fire again this year, and we will be present first at the SA/Austin Regional Event, which takes place on Sunday September 11th. 

    Regional events will also be taking place in the greater Houston area and Dallas/Fort Worth. On October 16th, the winners from each regional will come together in Austin for the final event and cook off. Finalists will be asked to prepare a unique dish which will be judged by Celebrity Chefs Kent Rathbum, Tyson Cole, and David Bull. Depending on who shows the most skill, innovation, and overall excellence with their dish, the 3 gentlemen will award two contestants as winners of Chefs Under Fire :: The Winner overall and the Fan Favorite. Mission will be supplying the 2 stock pot trophies with engraved gold plaques stating their newly earned title.

    2010

     To learn more or buy tickets to attend one of the Chefs Under Fire events, click here. 

    Stay tuned!

  • NOVEMBER 2010 Chef Feature

    Mike Luna isn't your typical sushi chef. He didn't grow up eating it or making it, nor did he expect for it to become his passion in life. His original inspiration came from an old girlfriend and her incredible family that was willing to teach him all they knew. He spent a few years working in the kitchen at their restaurant before he ever got to make sushi. "Once I learned what it was all about, I realized how creative you could be with food. I ended up working there for twenty years before moving over to Goro's," he told us. Inspiring others to make delicious sushi is now what he finds most important about his job. He is constantly training his staff and making sure that they understand that ingredients, knowledge, and dedication are key at his venue. Goro's is best known for its high quality menu options, creative take on old ideas, and the ever famous Whatever Roll. "Guests can come into our venue and tell us to make 'whatever'. It gives the guest the opportunity to tell us what kind of ingredients they like and it allows our chefs to be innovative," said Luna. "We have several guests that come in several times a week and consistently order the same custom roll. Those dedicated guests have earned their own spot on the menu." What does that mean? You guessed it - order the same thing enough times at Goro's and your roll could be featured on the menu. The very first custom roll to make it to print was the Bobby Roll, soon followed by the Stephanie Roll. "Our menu is constantly evolving and we make sure that the items we're selling match the consumer's tastes. If something doesn't do well, then we get rid of it." It's easy to see that Goro's Sushi is a one-of-a-kind venue. Luna and crew are a hardworking bunch that have created a laidback atmosphere with amazing food. "I have taught my staff that you have to give the customer what they want. You have to listen to them, you have to give input, and you have to guide them," he said. Mike has had enough guests ask about the art of making sushi that he even has a class in the works. He wants to educate his customers and show them how much love he has put into his job. "I believe in sharing your secrets with your customers," he said, "It doesn't make any sense to have a 'secret recipe' and to believe that others will put you out of business. Dedicated customers that trust the chef always return." If you would like to visit Goro's Sushi or learn more about the venue, please contact them at: 210-349-8117 Thank you to Mike Luna and his team for their time and efforts. If you know of a chef that you would like to see featured, please contact us at: laurenb@missionrs.com (210) 354-0690 ext. 234
  • OCTOBER 2010 Chef Feature

    It's very rare that you find a team of culinarians that work together to uphold the original integrity of a foodservice venue. Dining at a restaurant that is still run by the same manager or chef for nearly twenty years is virtually unheard of. That's why we chose to do this month's Chef Feature at the Guenther House in the first place. Donna Vaughn and crew are dedicated to preserving all of the original aspects of the restaurant and the mill. "They are very focused on consistency and it really pays off," commented one restaurant guest. It's obvious that each individual takes great pride in what they do at the Guenther House and that's why we wanted to recognize all of them this month. The Guenther House restaurant has been open for more than 90 years and still features dishes that are based on the original mill. Pioneer products are still used in all of the buttery biscuits, delicious pastries, and to-die-for waffles. "Just give me the waffles!" exclaimed one guest. They obviously still cause a lot of excitement to this day. Donna even informed us that our sales guys don't ever leave their venue without having the waffles. "They insist on them," she said, "They don't even take a breath while eating them. I always have to remind them to breathe." What's even more amazing about the venue is the fact that all of the employees remember their guests by name, know where they want to sit, and have drinks ready instantly. There are tons of regulars at the Guenther House, which has helped to keep it busy even during tough economic times. The second that one of their regular guests walks in the door Donna is there to greet them with a hug and a smile. She really has a lot of love for the guests, the venue, and the food. She is a brilliant lady and is spilling over with energy despite the million different tasks she has to attend to. "I've been here a really long time," she told us, "but I love this place. There is so much history here." She couldn't be more right. The Guenther House has been in the same family from the beginning, has used the same quality ingredients for decades, and continues to sell their Pioneer products to dozens of companies and the public.
    If you would like to visit the Guenther House or learn more about the venue, please visit their site at: http://www.guentherhouse.com/ or call 210.227.1061 ...and yes, you can buy their famous waffle mix by the bag. Thank you to Donna Vaughn and her team for their time and efforts. If you know of a chef that you would like to see featured, please contact us at: laurenb@missionrs.com (210) 354-0690 ext. 234
  • SEPTEMBER 2010 Chef Feature

    At Mission Restaurant Supply we have a lot of love for our customers. Every individual in our company is dedicated to our community and to each other. That's why we decided that we wanted to feature chefs around the country that we have had the honor of getting to know on a personal level and that we believe have truly influenced the foodservice industry in a very positive way. These individuals are pioneers in the kitchen and beyond. They are not only determined to deliver an incredible experience, but also dedicated to the well being of their guests and staff. IMG_0169smallIt's no newsflash that cupcake fever has swept the nation. Bakeries that specialize in the art of the cupcakes are popping up all over the country and reality TV shows are even highlighting the growing business. One cupcake business in particular has really captivated us because of their saweet concept. Saweet Cupcakes in San Antonio, Texas is the first and only mobile cupcake business that is delivering delicious treats to businesses and individuals all over the city. Sister-in-laws Kehmay and Tien started the business earlier this year and they knew instantly that a bakery just wasn't going to cut it. "We had mentioned to our family members that we wanted to start a [mobile] cupcake business and right away my mom just told us to 'go for it'. She told us that if it was something we really wanted that we should just do it," Kehmay told us, "We knew that we didn't want an actual bakery because they are full-time, non-stop work. We just wanted to get our feet wet." The sister-in-laws originally started out scoping out locations and moving from spot to spot to find hungry customers. Once they found steady business in a few select locations they made a schedule of their stops for customers to check out. Although their schedule is now IMG_0163smallpretty much set, the ladies call it a day once they sell out of cupcakes. And lately, that happens at an extremely rapid pace. "The thing I like best about being on the road is meeting all of the people. Everyone gets so excited about cupcakes," said Kehmay. Getting excited about Saweet Cupcakes isn't hard though -- they're amazing! The girls insist on using high quality ingredients and they don't cut corners. "I really like our sprinkles because they aren't just sugar. The chocolate sprinkles are real dark chocolate and white chocolate. There are no secret ingredients - only quality ingredients." After dominating the cupcake world in San Antonio, the girls have plans to expand. Although a store front may not be the right move for the ladies of Saweet Cupcakes there are other ideas in the works. For now they sell their delicious goodies from the now famous pink cupcake truck and also at SoGo Market Café in Stone Oak. As Kehmay told us, "I love cupcakes. The possibilities are endless." IMG_0174smallIf you would like to visit the Saweet Cupcakes truck or learn more about the venue, please visit their site at: http://www.saweetcupcakes.com/ or call 210.215.0121 Thank you to Kehmay and Tien for their time and efforts. If you know of a chef that you would like to see featured, please contact us at: laurenb@missionrs.com (210) 354-0690 ext. 234

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