Courtesy of Hugh Daschbach
Hugh Daschbach is chief operating officer of local nonprofit Saint City Culinary Foundation and its flagship program HEARD.
Hugh Daschbach has what some might call a hodgepodge resume.
His CV is dotted with stints managing boutique hotels, helming environmental startups and overseeing facilities for Trinity University. All over the place? Maybe.
But there’s no arguing his varied work in the hospitality business has prepared him for his new gig as chief operating officer of local nonprofit Saint City Culinary Foundation and its flagship program HEARD. Both focus on providing mental health and telehealth services to foodservice workers.
The longtime epicure and Louisiana transplant chatted with us about the state of San Antonio’s hospitality industry as light appears at the end of the pandemic tunnel. We also asked him what it takes to gear up for Saint City’s first charitable culinary throwdown of 2021, a sold-out April 24 crawfish boil.
From boutique hotels to nonprofit life. How did that transition come about?
I wanted to stay in the hospitality industry and do community-based work … but I wasn’t necessarily looking to get back into a restaurant or hotel setting. When I heard about what [Saint City Culinary Foundation founder Joel Rivas] had been doing, I basically just asked if we could talk more about what he was up to. It just so happened that, after a few months, it dovetailed nicely to grow this organization that had really been a one-man job with the help of some really talented and generous volunteers. For the first time, [Rivas] was ready to grow the organization, and a little over a month ago, brought myself and another gentleman, JP De Loera, on as full-time employees. What we’re most excited about is the fact that we bring three different perspectives to this concept, which is such a need right now. Within the industry … there’s a sense of urgency to highlight mental health and wellness issues in a way that’s more proactive.
Let’s talk more about that need. What do you think drives this newfound urgency?
I think the need has always been there. This industry is full of people who are hardwired to serve other people, to take care of their community, to treat others better than maybe they treat themselves. There are certainly other industries that share that mentality … but when we look at this industry, with regard to the needs of mental health and wellness-driven conversations, we don’t want to just talk about the needs. We want to try to provide people with the resources to actually fulfill them. I think the last year’s COVID struggles and stressors have affected the general population, so the issue has been elevated. We need to take advantage of that growing awareness within an industry that, I think, is more likely than most to have challenges go unnoticed or unaddressed.
You’ll be competing against Chef James Canter and restaurateur Chad Carey in HEARD’s upcoming charitable crawfish boil. How are you gearing up?
These events have always been centered around … the unique perspective of community that comes with eating and drinking together, so for lots of reasons that have nothing to do with HEARD, I think people are excited to get back to a fun, but cautious, event. The fact that we’re able to bring awareness to this really important issue is … just a bonus. I feel like I’m on home turf competing in a crawfish boil, but it’s clear from the quick sell-out that people are looking forward to the joie de vivre that those two guys are going to bring to the event.
So many restaurants, so little time. Find out the latest San Antonio dining news with our Flavor Friday Newsletter.