James Beard Foundation Award Finalist for Best Chef: Texas, Chef Steve McHugh, opened his acclaimed restaurant Cured [San Antonio, Texas,] with the mission to positively impact and enact change within the community. A leader of culinary sustainability, McHugh is passionate about offering resources to empower meaningful changes. As a result of his efforts, McHugh is one of only three chefs in all Texas recognized as a Leader in the James Beard Foundation’s Smart Catch Program and a proud member of the Food Policy Council of San Antonio.
As McHugh says, “A chef not only has the responsibility of his restaurant and staff, but also to create a food system which is respectful to the enhancement of all persons in the industry as well as the environment in order to create a sustainable food space, continuing into the future.”
One of McHugh’s most meaningful initiatives has been his work on the Food Policy Council of San Antonio and its Padre Park Food Forest Project. The Food Forest, situated along the Mission Reach section of the San Antonio River Walk, is a 4-acre space designed and maintained by the San Antonio community. The Food Forest provides a source of fresh local food, builds resilience, environmental sustainability, wellness, and connections to the flourishing community. By transforming this Southside park into an urban food forest and edible gardens, McHugh and the team hope to provide a teachable example of how growing our own food in public spaces is the path towards a more sustainable future. As the only chef on the park’s development sub-committee, McHugh was thrilled to be instrumental in the progress of this project, with the goal of growing an increasingly self-sustainable society. The food forest will share an abundance of food, available to passersby, with Peaches, Pecans, Plums, Papaws, and Persimmons.
For McHugh who has a passion for the use of native Texas ingredients – this project is particularly meaningful. McHugh carries this same philosophy in his newest venture, Landrace at the Thompson Hotel, which is also committed to the use of the land’s resources that is in keeping with San Antonio’s long agricultural history. The Padre Park was once used by Native Americans and Spanish colonists to harvest food. The Food Policy Council consulted archaeologists and the Texas Historical Commission prior to using the land for the food forest.