As executive chef at Google’s Bakery Square location, Cory Hughes has been preparing gourmet eats for computer gurus. His latest culinary venture will be considerably less high-tech.
This fall, Hughes will open Fig & Ash, a farm-to-flame restaurant in the North Side’s Deutschtown neighborhood.
“I wanted to go old-school,” Hughes says. “I want to make turn-of-the-century dishes with modern flair and flavors.”
In addition to milling grains, baking bread and butchering meats in-house, Hughes and his crew will partner with local farmers to get fresh ingredients for their wood-fired cuisine. The quarterly menu melds classic Italian and French cooking styles with a contemporary American twist.
Patrons will be able to dine on tarragon tagliatelle with smoked Littleneck clams, calamari, shrimp and sherried lobster cream, or order a heritage pizza topped with San Marzano tomato, hand-pulled mozzarella, fresh basil and parmesan.
“This is what I would cook at home for my family on a Sunday night,” Hughes says. “It’s refined comfort food.”
The Philadelphia native began washing dishes in a restaurant in 1994. A year later he was promoted to prep cook. He worked in mess halls while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and eventually went to school at Pittsburgh’s Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts.
Unable to draw or paint, Hughes uses food to express his creativity. His work has graced the tables at The Café at the Frick, Spoon, Eleven and Six Penn Kitchen.
Fig & Ash is his masterpiece-in-progress.
Since 2016, the chef has been renovating a two-building site on East Ohio Street. Once completed, the 1,800-square-foot space will feature a first-floor dining room and bar area for 52 guests, an outdoor courtyard for an additional 22 and a private event area in the basement. The second and third floors will be converted into apartments.
Bob Baumbach is the project architect. The interior design work, which Hughes describes as “rustic chic,” is being led by Michael McAllister.
Temper and Grit, a local furniture manufacturer, created the custom wood-fire oven and butcher block tables inlaid with bronze, steel and copper. Visitors will have a clear view of the kitchen to watch their meals being prepared.
Pittsburghers got their first taste of Fig & Ash on May 18 during the Northside Sandwich Week Sampler event at the Priory, where Hughes served up Jamison Farm-sourced lamb sliders. He was crowned Northside Sandwich King.
He’s hoping folks come back for more this fall.
“I’m drawn to Pittsburgh; it’s my kind of place,” Hughes says. “I’m excited to be a part of this revitalization.”