All posts by Jason Salas

Chef and daddy. I cook with passion and love. I try and tell a story of what type of chef I am. I want people to see that I love what I do. Food is life. Its my life

The Humble Chef interviews Chef McHugh of Cured

Co-written by Jason Salas and Ainsley Daschofsky

The interview started by saying how humbled we were to be sitting down with Chef Steve Mchugh of Cured. Chef Mchugh is a man that you want to know. A man to meet before you die, or at least try his food. In the interview, Mchugh divulged that he hopes the food speaks so loudly for him that he doesn’t even have to be at the restaurant. You taste his mind even if he is nowhere near you. For Jason, he is someone you want to aspire to be like as a chef. We knew that this couldn’t be just any type of interview. It had to be from our hearts. It had to have passion and respect for the man we were sitting with. We were nervous. Ainsley and I were ready. This one was going to matter.

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Chef Life

 

 

Monday we are closed. Its a day that most restaurants are closed. Its a day of rest. A day to regroup. Many service industry workers spend Sunday nights drinking the night away and partying like its a Saturday night. But for some chefs its another long day at the restaurant. We are the only ones there. Inventory, menu planning, scheduling, cleaning, regrouping. For me I just took over a small restaurant in north Austin. It has brought the passion back into my life. You see I have spent most of my career behind the stainless steel tables. You would find me on the line or working the service window. Never the one to step out and say this is my food. I was there to make someone else look good. But this time at Royal Jelly I have the opportunity to finally take the main stage. I’m proud of what we are creating. The owner of the restaurant has been great. Young and full of energy and passion. He is someone that wants to grow and do the best job he can do.

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First off, I love food. If you have been following Ainsley and I while we are on this journey it is easy to see that we both have a love food that is I guess in some ways frightening. We spend hours everyday just talking food. Ideas, menus, passion, love and where to go next with our lives. Its been fun being a chef and a blogger. Some cooks and chefs look at us funny. They think “whoa she knows a lot about food, or he is actually a chef and knows his stuff”. It has opened a lot of doors for us. But it has also given us the opportunity to talk to other chefs about their passion and why they do what they do. This life is not easy. Trust me its not. But I love it. My little girl has told me multiple times that she loves that her daddy is a chef. We cook together and we share a father daughter bond that way. Its great.  But I have also heard ” daddy you have to work again, I miss you and want to be with you”. Those are the tough days

It is not easy to walk into a restaurant and say “hey I’m the new guy, and what you are doing is wrong and I am going to change the menu next week”. But this transition has been easy. One thing that I wanted to show with this new menu was love. I wrote a post about a restaurant a couple of months ago that talked about the love they had for their customers. Now I am not a front of the house person. But I wanted to show our customers that I love what I do. I wanted to give the restaurant a feel of ” they know what they are doing, this is love”. Before I created the new menu I must have gone over more than 100 other restaurants menus. Looking at what they had. What they lacked. Or what Austin lacked. I took inspiration from someone who I trust more than anyone. I cooked for their palate. And so far its working. I think I have something that is unique. Its not a menu that you have for yourself. Its small plates to share. I want it to be a place where you can order a couple of plates for you and another person. Enjoy food that is prepared with love. Have great drinks and food. And then do it again next weekend or a couple of times a week.

The Food

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When I first had the thoughts of Lamb Meatballs I wasn’t sure how it would go over. Lamb is one of those things that is hit or miss with some people I knew that if I was going to do this I had to showcase the meat. Not the spices or herbs that are in the mix. And I knew for sure that there would be NO mint in the mix. Sorry. Bolognese is a sauce that is near and dear to my heart. I didn’t want to make just a straight ragu sauce. I wanted to tell a story with this sauce. I wanted our customers to take a bite of the sauce and the meatball. Close their eyes and feel the story being told. As you take it in. Feel the sweetness from the tomatoes. The creaminess of the butter. The kick from the garlic. And of course lets not forget the house made creme fraiche that I make just for this dish. It really sets it off. The meatballs are full of juice. You really taste the lamb as it sits in the sauce. Just thinking of it makes me smile. There are other notes that I want you to feel as well. But I want you to figure it out yourself.

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Duck Poutine. What can I say. Canada you got it right with this one. There are only a hand full of places in Austin that serve Poutine. So of course I had to join the club. One thing that I told myself when creating this dish that if I was going to do this. I had to let the duck shine. I had to give it a ton of flavor. Show it some love. So I decided that I would let the duck marinate for over 24 hours. Really let the meat soak up all the flavors. After it cooks I take all of the juices and make this strong duck gravy. When we first made this dish I remember taking a bite and closing my eyes and thinking ” I may have something here” We finish it off with cheese curds and fresh thyme. We really let the duck be the star of this dish. I am very proud of this one.

 

Now I do have other menu items that are going to be coming out pretty soon. Over the next couple of months I will be rolling out different specials. Try my queso. Its all love.

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I know that its a little weird to be a chef and a blogger. I try not to promote the restaurant too much here or on our social media. I thought I would do a post of what its like to be a chef and give a little insight on the thought process of creating a menu. And where my mindset was while doing so. I love what I do. It has taken me almost half of my life to realize how talented I really am. For most of my career I stood in the back and pushed for other people. Now I am pushing for other reasons. For myself, my little girl, my life partner, and family. Being a chef isn’t about the food. Its the whole package. Can they cook? Can they handle stress? How do they handle a bad review? Can they be a showman? Can they live the life? Well I don’t know all of the answers to these questions for myself. But I know I try. And I hope it shows in my food. Its Love.

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Austin Halal Our Favorite Mediterranean Food Truck

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When you search for you favorite thing to eat in Austin and you don’t find what you are looking for. There are only a couple of things you can do about it. For most of us we go home and try and make it ourselves. Or just give up and go about our day. But for Raya Naser she did things a little differently. You see Raya tried really hard to find her favorite Mediterranean place in Austin. But let’s be honest. The scene here really isn’t that good. That was until now. That was until Raya did something about it. Last April Raya’s husband had a heart attack. It was an eye opener for the family. He asked Raya what she wanted to do in case he wasn’t able to be around anymore. Raya thought about it for a long time. And she decided that a food truck is what she wanted. Her dream was to have a place where people can go and enjoy great Mediterranean food.  She said this with a a couple of tears coming down. You could tell that for her this was life. Her husband is her best friend. He wanted to make sure that she had something that was stable in case something happened to him. As a husband and a father those are things that keep you from sleeping at night.

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Texas Forever.

It is not news to those of us who live in Texas. We were hit. We were hit hard. Hurricanes happen all the time. All over the world. But this weekend it’s us. It hit my favorite sptate. It hit Texas. We as Texans have a pride about us. We want things bigger, better, louder, deep fried and smoked. But what happens when we get hit by a hurricane? What happens when there is a point in our lives where we need to prove what type of person we are? Well I’ll tell you what happens. Like the days of old with the Mighty Ducks. We stay together.

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