Two days before Christmas, chef Steve McHugh unveiled a gift for the hungry residents of San Antonio: His first restaurant venture, Cured, which opened in a 109-year-old building that once was home to the headquarters of the president of Pearl Brewing Company. The restaurant’s moniker was inspired both by McHugh’s triumph over two tumors caused by non-Hodgkins lymphoma and the house-made cured meats he’s elevated to an art form.
Raised on a Wisconsin farm with six brothers, McHugh’s culinary arts ambitions were ignited when he followed his older brother into foodservice to work as a dishwasher in a local tavern as a teen. His college career started with a music scholarship to play saxophone, but his passion for cooking soon led him to the Culinary Institute of America. As a lover of jazz and good food, the Big Easy was a natural choice for his CIA externship. So good was the fit that he groomed his skills over a decade with mentors like John Besh, Creole chef Chris Brown, and legendary restaurateurs Brennan brothers Dickie and Ralph. It was in bringing Besh’s German-style brasserie Lüke to San Antonio that he traded New Orleans living for the Lone Star State.
McHugh’s calling card is from-scratch menus that are “purposeful, powerful, seasonally-dynamic” with “conscious use of ingredients proven to empower the human body.” Avoiding food waste and utilizing animals “from snout to tail,” McHugh prepares his dishes with the utmost reverence both for each ingredient and the farmers who cultivated them. Locally-sourced libations and handcrafted cocktails using house-made bitters and syrups complement the cuisine. The chef says he seeks to share with others the same sense of support and warmth he recalls from his time spent on his family farm. “I want every person’s experience to be more than just a meal.”
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