Chef Steven McHugh Talks New Lüke San Antonio, Impact of Oil Spill on Restaurants

During my visit to San Antonio, I had a chance to talk with Chef Steven McHugh while hitting the booths at the New World Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting. McHugh, the executive chef at John Besh’s New Orleans restaurant Lüke, recently relocated to the San Antonio area to begin the development of a new Lüke location along the city’s popular riverfront.

With Chef Besh regularly recognized for his great eateries in the Big Easy, as well as awards and acclamation for his first cookbook, My New Orleans, the new Lüke San Antonio is his first foray outside New Orleans. According to McHugh, it was only natural to expand into the south Texas city.

“It started back during Katrina,” explained the chef. “We had a lot of employees, a lot of people who relocated here. San Antonio, Houston, all of Texas were very good to the people of New Orleans. We established a really great relationship with IBC as well who helped John reopen after the hurricane. We also know that San Antonio has that great German influence similar to New Orleans. When we realized that we had an opportunity to do a Lüke here, I talked to my wife, and we decided to do it. John has quite a bit on his hands in New Orleans, so it was a really good fit for me to come here.”

Diners can expect to see much of the local resources utilized when it comes to the menu of the new San Antonio location.

“We really want to do for San Antonio what we did for New Orleans – really make it local,” said McHugh. “We’re not trying to bring New Orleans to San Antonio. We want to open a French/German brasserie utilizing local beef, local products, local farmers, local beers and wines. San Antonio has so much to offer.”

With the new eatery looking at an early fall opening, I asked about the foreseeable influence of the recent British Petroleum oil spill on the restaurant’s development as well. According to a recent article from Nation’s Restaurant News, a group of Louisiana restaurant owners are even taking the matter into their own hands, filing a lawsuit against the oil company for damages. McHugh noted that the loss of local resources is certainly of great concern to everyone in the restaurant industry.

“I’m still heavily involved in the restaurant in New Orleans, so every day I’m calling my chefs, calling the producers, seeing where we’re at as far as pricing. As they close those oyster beds and fishing areas, we’re just doing the best we can,” the chef noted. “At this point, we’re trying not to panic as much as people would think. We want people to come and enjoy the seafood, because it is still there and available. By us not raising prices, by us still offering our regular, local menu, it’s the only way to help keep these fishermen in business. With so much oyster production coming out of Louisiana, it’s hard to see them closing so many oyster beds. It seems like most of the difficulty is still happening to the East, but who knows. There’s already so much seafood that is imported into this country at lower prices, to have this happen is just devastating.”

“As I go forward, as the restaurant gets closer, we do have a menu, but I’m always tweaking it. We’re really just holding off as much as we can, trying not to cause a panic. John is really a trendsetter in New Orleans, and people tend to follow his lead in a lot of ways, so we want to be on the forefront of supporting these local fishermen.”

Slated to open in September/early October, the new Lüke San Antonio location will be a two-level dining room within the new Embassy Suites Hotel. Situated along the city’s Riverwalk area, the restaurant will seat approximately 300 guests.

~Jennifer Heigl

*Photo: Courtesy of Besh Restaurant Group

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