This is huge news, food-hounds. Bon Appetit's food and drink editor, Andrew Knowlton, revealed his nominee list of restaurant's vying for the spots on the magazine's Top 10 Best New Restaurants 2014. Area favorites Cured, owned by chef McHugh and wife Sylvia, and Southtown's favorite former pop-up, Hot Joy, made this year's list. This marks the first time in several years (if not ever, online archives only go so far) that San Antonio restaurants have made the nominee list.
"They emailed me this morning before [the list] came out, and I waited and watched until it showed up on my browser," McHugh said of the nod.
Cured, which opened its doors late last December, was part of chef's vision since relocating to San Antonio from New Orleans.
"I wanted to open a place where I wanted to eat, and I would frequent," said McHugh, while also mentioning menu items he's played with since last year that are finally making their way on the menu like the recently added crab and watermelon salad. He also credited John Besh, who he worked under for 12 years eventually opening Luke Riverwalk.
His first order of business after learning the news this morning was calling Cured's managers to thank them for their work.
"We had to surround ourselves with good people, because we have this business that requires attention, and that means they took a gamble on us and the restaurant and it's paid off," McHugh said. Cured's popularity from the onset has also called for McHugh to hire on lead servers, a pastry chef and an in-house butcher and a half (one on a full-time, the other part-time basis).
He also mentioned Hot Joy's ownership, The Empty Stomach group, which he credits for single-handedly pushing SA out of its culinary comfort zone.
Hot Joy's twice-fried wings.
For his part, Quealy Watson, executive chef and partner at Hot Joy, credited his staff for the restaurant's accomplishments.
"Opening a restaurant is hard and nerve-wracking work, so it’s always nice to get recognition like this. It’s hard for Chad & I to take a compliment sometimes, because we’re our own worst critics, but we’ll take this one. More than anything, though, we think this recognition is a credit to the entire Hot Joy crew, who work hard every day on making our place as good as it can be," Watson said in a statement.
When asked about his part in helping draw national attention to the area, Watson, reminisced on the early days of opening The Monterey, the group's first eatery.
"We're more of less doing the food we want to do and San Antonio will like, not just what will sell," Watson said. "This is what we wanted...to make a restaurant that competes on a national level. We're definitely excited [about the nomination], we're not playing too cool for school."