In the restaurant industry, there are few things more important than originality and a creative spirit. Having a unique, clear vision can be difficult in such a saturated market, but when one is dreamt up and wisely executed upon, good things are sure to follow.
Chef Steve McHugh is one such visionary bringing creativity and originality to the Texas restaurant scene.
Since 2013, McHugh’s resourceful, inventive approach has been on full display at Cured, his San Antonio-based, charcuterie-focused restaurant located just steps away from the CIA campus in the Pearl Brewery. He and his team work hard every day to deliver a unique dining experience to their patrons.
Chef Steve, as we call him here in the Mission office, hails from Walworth, Wisconsin, where he was one of seven brothers on his family’s dairy farm. This early farming lifestyle proved formative for McHugh, who is making a name for himself today by bringing new energy to the farm-to-table concept. His support for farmers, use of locally-sourced ingredients, and his whole-animal menu approach are but a few examples.
McHugh later honed his chops in New Orleans under the leadership of culinary greats, like John Besh. In 2010, McHugh moved to San Antonio to help open a new restaurant for Besh on the San Antonio Riverwalk.
That same year, a blood cancer diagnosis and subsequent journey to remission would steer McHugh and his wife to their next life chapter: the opening of their restaurant, Cured.
“I have learned that as a chef you can’t do your job without the proper tools and the folks at Mission speak my language.”
Cured opened in December 2013 in the Pearl Brewery’s original administration building (circa 1904). While McHugh and his team revived the building, bringing it to new life, he was careful to preserve the character and history inherent in the space. A mixture of old and new is evident everywhere from the entry’s large glass and gold meat chamber to the beautiful exposed brick walls, and the raw wooden floors.
“When we opened Cured our goal was to become a part of the fabric of this society,” he said, adding, “We wanted to be a place that is around for a long time.” Indeed, Cured seems as if it’s been a part of the San Antonio scene for many decades, a testament to the ease and lack of pretense one feels when dining there.
One of Cured’s biggest differentiators is its charcuterie-focused menu. Though charcuterie may be an old-world process that’s been around for the ages, the concept is somewhat new to San Antonio. The offering is emphasized by hand-crafted, cured foods (from pickles to meat), artful presentations, organic methods, and fresh, regional ingredients.
Another key differentiator is McHugh’s resourcefulness. By focusing on ways to eliminate waste via his whole-animal approach to butchery and cooking, McHugh (a past butcher) pushes the boundaries of flavor and expectations in the Alamo City. This resourceful practice is perhaps one of the many reasons McHugh has been recognized twice as a finalist for the prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards.
It’s been an honor to work with Chef Steve over the years, beginning with his kitchen design and continuing with the equipment and supplies needed in his daily restaurant operations. “I have learned that as a chef you can’t do your job without the proper tools,” he said adding, “The folks at Mission speak my language.”
This communal language has strengthened our partnership in many ways, one of which includes a commitment to philanthropy work. While Chef Steve is a blood cancer survivor himself, many of our own Mission team members have been afflicted with blood cancers as well.
2017 marks Cured and Mission Restaurant Supply’s 3rd annual “Cured for a Cure” dinner at McHugh’s restaurant. Here, amidst candlelit dining tables, a five-course meal is prepared by four acclaimed chefs from near and far; all ticket proceeds go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Outside the restaurant every night, Cured’s sign glows proudly on the building overlooking a green courtyard strung with twinkle lights. The name “Cured” speaks to all passers-by of McHugh’s dedication to artisanal charcuterie, not to mention his own personal cure from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
However, in many ways, this name also speaks to McHugh’s broader understanding that great things in life take time (cured meats included). After all, his own life journey is testament to this truth. Today, with greatness all around, we know the future of Cured and of Chef Steve McHugh will be fruitful.
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