by Carlos Anchondo
Hugh Daschbach quotes Mark Twain when he says, “There are only four unique cities in America: Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco, and San Antonio.”
A southern Louisiana native, Daschbach has had the great pleasure of calling two of Twain’s favorites home. Since 1991, Daschbach has witnessed San Antonio’s growth and affectionately dubs the Alamo City a “slow reveal” that feels authentic and natural. He now shines as the culinary concierge at Hotel Emma, the luxury boutique hotel of The Historic Pearl. In this post, dreamt up by hotel owner Christopher Goldsbury, Daschbach helps guests realize whatever food experience they desire, whether that includes restaurant recommendations, chef-prepared picnics, or bringing food alive in the hotel’s demo kitchen.
Daschbach believes his job is to listen to the guests and have a conversation about what type of food and cultural experience they are seeking in San Antonio. Working closely with Chef John Brand, the hotel’s culinary director, Daschbach aims to please, employing personalized touches like a guided tour into the Pearl’s Farmers Market or incorporating selected produce into a guest’s menu.
“We are an independent hotel, which means that there is no rulebook,” Daschbach says. “Our job is to have a dialogue and find out what the guests really want.”
Growing up in a family of cooks, Daschbach believes that a good meal has the ability to create emotional connections between diners. He asserts that certain foods, such as a crawfish boil – his favorite meal – connect a community in a special way and that every place has a food that is the local equivalent.
Pointing to San Antonio’s Tex-Mex flair, Daschbach says that it is impossible to separate the city’s identity from the Hispanic culture. He maintains that the best time to eat Tex-Mex is from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at taquerias like Maria’s Café on Nogalitos or Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant on Fredericksburg Road. Daschbach acknowledges that Tex-Mex is just one slice of San Antonio’s food scene, which he says is in a period of unprecedented growth and interest driven by talented chefs who are in control of their own kitchens.
Whether it is at the tiniest dive or one of the 15 restaurants at the Pearl complex, Daschbach is always on the hunt for good food, especially when it is locally grown. Chef Brand designs his menus to feature area vendors and nothing but the freshest ingredients.
“Things are really happening in San Antonio,” Daschbach says. “You can meet the people building your menu and executing it as well. You have the rare possibility of connecting to those people.”
Since graduating with a double major in business and religion, Daschbach’s path to Hotel Emma has included positions as the assistant director of Trinity University’s Office of Conferences and Special Programs, the national sales manager at Cinco Solar, and the co-owner and managing partner of Ascent Recycling and Consulting. Thus far, Daschbach says that being on the team building Hotel Emma from the ground up has been “the most exciting project, hands down” of his life.
“This job gets to do the best of all the things that I’ve done,” Daschbach says. “It has brought me back to the hospitality industry and has satisfied my entrepreneurial appetite. This project and I found each other in a lot of ways.”
As a brand ambassador for the Pearl campus, Daschbach feels privilege, not pressure, to promote the Pearl as an emerging San Antonio destination. He says that hotel guests who only experience Hotel Emma or the Pearl complex have not truly engaged with San Antonio. He ultimately feels that a deeper exploration of the city will keep guests coming back for years to come.
“We want our visitors to see the whole picture and to see San Antonio for what it is,” Daschbach says. “At Hotel Emma, we don’t pretend that we have it all, but we have a pretty good start.”
Practically buoyant from the luxury of deciding what type of destination Hotel Emma wants to be and the service philosophy the hotel wants to have, Daschbach’s effervescence is almost as energizing as sharing a good meal with the people you love.