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From Cancer to Cured- Chef Steve McHugh’s Inspiring Story

Imagine being diagnosed with cancer at the height of your career. How do you manage to run a restaurant while undergoing an aggressive schedule of chemotherapy treatments? More people than you may realize have lived this experience (including me), but few have opened up about it as frankly as individuals like Chef Steve McHugh. We’re glad McHugh is now in remission from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and thriving as the owner of the San San Antonio restaurant, Cured at Pearl, located in the city’s custling culinary center, also home to the Culinary Institute of America’s southwest campus.

Chef Steve McHugh (Photo: Jonathan Alonzo)

Opened in 2012, three years after McHugh’s cancer diagnosis, Cured’s name not only reflects his new lease on life but also his daily selection of cured meats. The gastro-pub style menu focuses on using ingredients sourced from local farms and fisherman.

McHugh was raised in a large farming family in Wisconsin. He flipped burgers at a local restaurant to earn money and took up playing the saxophone. He was talented enough, in fact, to earn a jazz saxophone scholarship to college. But food became his calling, and he ended up changing plans and enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America.

An externship landed him in New Orleans where he easily settled in the restaurant scene after graduation, working for with Creole Chef Chris Brown of Metro Bistro and for restaurateur, Dickie Brennan. In 2009, McHugh was planning a move San Antonio to open a restaurant for a New Orleans hospitality group when he was diagnosed with cancer.

McHugh says, “the cancer treatment really kicked my ass,” and he kept working straight through it all.  But, it also can kick your ass in gear and make you commit to make healthy changes. Today, McHugh is in good health, with a successful restaurant and a culinary foundation dedicated “gastronomic giving” to support several charities. www.curedatpearl.com

Cured is localed at the fomer site of Pearl Brewery in San Antonio (Photo: Scott Martin)

Here are some healthy foods McHugh recommends adding to your diet:

  • Fermented foods, such as pickles, are shown to increase our body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Raw fermented foods are rich in healthy enzymes and flavor. These enzymes help the body properly balance healthy bacteria for improved digestion.
  • Black Pepper and certain legumes and nuts [such as pecans] contain anti-inflammatory properties. For example, Pumpkin and Pepper Salad with Smoked Pecans, Preserved Celery, and Goat Cheeseis a great combination.
  • Mussels are a lean source of protein with roughly 18 grams of protein per serving. Garlic, onions, and shallots [commonly used in mussel dishes] each contain anti-inflammatory properties.
Texas Trout with picked corn at Cured at Pearl

At Cured, McHugh has forged tight bonds with both his purveyors and his community, ” Good, solid relationships are important to me, and provide great value in my life. Not only with my staff, but also the farmers with whom we work. We use vegetables grown within the city limits and pigs from a farm nearby. It provides great balance and perspective to get to know the people growing the food you serve and eat. Having a strong sense of community in San Antonio is a great  part of my life.”

Daily selection of charcuterie at Cured. (Photo: David Rangel)

Listen to our show with Chef Steve McHugh from January 30, 2019
The Connected Table LIVE! on iHeart.com and free iHeart App

By Melanie Young

The Connected Table is a media production company, radio show, podcast and blog specializing in wine, food and travel. Listen to The Connected Table LIVE and The Connected Table SIPS on iHeart and other major podcast platforms. Melanie Young and David Ransom are wine and food specialists, speakers and writers. We are experts in helping brands promote their products, destinations and services through custom content.