We talk with the San Antonio chef-restaurateur about what he has in store for the annual Chefs For Farmers event.
Now in its fourth year, Chefs for Farmers, established by Iris and Matt McCallister in Dallas, has endeavored to turn the culinary spotlight on the farmers who provide restaurants with their in-season produce. They work tirelessly to bring chefs and diners the best of their harvest, and, along with the chefs who use their products, deserve the recognition that Chefs For Farmers provides.
What began as a stunning long-table dinner in a farm field is this year a weekend-long affair with a sold-out nine-course chef’s dinner at FT33, the Butcher Block Party, a “Chefs for Ranchers” of sorts featuring whole-animal cooking, and the main event, the Culinary Village at Lee Park, where guests will sample bites and cocktails from local, regional and national chefs. “We are beyond excited about the growth of Chefs for Farmers, and are thrilled to add new events to the schedule, along with bringing in some of the country’s hottest chefs, and several new amazing sponsors,” Iris McCallister says. “Our goal is to bring attention on a national level to chefs who focus on quality and use their local artisans and farmers to deliver a superior and thoughtful dining experience to their patrons.”
This year’s roster is a whopper, including Stephan Pyles (Stephan Pyles, Stampede 66) and Jason Dady (Shuck Shack, Two Bros BBQ Market) as well as Misti Norris (Small Brewpub), Justin Bronson (Old Major) and Ryan Pera (Revival Market), among so many others. Steven McHugh, chef-owner of Cured in San Antonio, featured in Cowboys & Indians’ October 2014 issue, is also participating. This is after spending a summer on the food festival circuit, including appearing at Feast Portland. You’ll be able to catch him at the Butcher Block Party.
C&I caught up with McHugh over the phone—we stole him away from a drink tasting—to talk Chefs for Farmers and how it jells with Cured’s philosophy.
Cowboys & Indians: You’ve been busy participating in festivals across the country. How and why did you get involved in Chefs for Farmers?
Steve McHugh: I have been busy, and I feel like I’ve been traveling way too much. I guess it’s just a sign of a really good crew here at the restaurant, which is great. I feel like I can get away and do these things and promote the restaurant and my people more. I found out about Chefs for Farmers when Matt McCallister reached out and asked me about it. He’s such a talent and such a force in the restaurant world in Texas. And I just said, “Whatever you want me to do, yes.”
Anything we do at the restaurant, we try do to so much for our farmers and work to take care of them and help them. And they help us in return. It’s such a symbiotic relationship. I don’t survive without them, and sometimes I think they don’t survive without me. I mean, it’s not me being some sort of hero and thinking, Oh, I only use local farmers. It’s nice when a farmer says, “I only deal with local chefs,” but it goes two ways. When Matt said, “We’re doing this thing up in Dallas for farmers,” I immediately said, “I’d love to come up there and work with you guys and do some fun stuff.”
C&I: What’s your level of involvement?
McHugh: I am doing the Butcher Block Party, which I’m excited about because it’s what we do here at the restaurant. We get a whole animal and ask, “What are we going to do with this?” I think it’s a perfect opportunity for us to showcase what we do—and be a little bit fun and be a little bit quirky.
C&I: What are you serving at the event?
McHugh: A duck neck sausage I’m excited about. It’s something we do at the restaurant every once in a while. We have a farmer that we get whole ducks from—and when I say whole ducks, I mean they’ve got the feet, they’ve got the neck, they’ve got the head, they’ve got everything going on. So we developed this recipe where we’ll skin the neck and we’ll make [forcemeat, or sausage filling] out of the legs and the thighs and we make a nice duck sausage and we stuff it into the neck and tie it off and whole-roast the head with the neck and everything and slice it. We’re going to make brown-beer mustard, and I’ve got some nice apples that we’ve been fermenting for the last week. We’ll some a kind of fermented apple pickle, if you will, to go with it.
Tickets to Chefs for Farmers are available at www.chefsforfarmers.com.