Like so many chefs, Bill Hughes claims the love of food was instilled early in his life.
The owner of Bill’s Restaurant in Owensboro, Kentucky, grew up in nearby Leitchfield, and dinner was an important time of the day.
Those early years in his mother Martha’s kitchen also were learning times for Hughes.
“My mom is a fantastic cook,” says Hughes.
“We grew up having dinner as a family every single night. Food was important. I stated cooking when I was 5 or 6 years old. I learned to cook things I wanted to eat.”
The grown-up Hughes has been creating sumptuous things other folks want to eat for a lot of years, and since Dec. 13, 2011, Hughes has done it with simple style and delicious taste from his restaurant at 420 Frederica St. near Owensboro’s revitalized riverfront.
Hughes has always appreciated the culinary gifts from the sea and has worked to bring its delights to a Kentucky-Indiana audience that isn’t all that close to any ocean shore.
“Seafood probably represents 70 percent of our total sales,” says Hughes. “I lived three years in Charleston, (South Carolina), and learned to love seafood there. I learned more there from chefs I worked for versus culinary school.”
Hughes also attended Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina.
One of the keys to Hughes success with seafood in Owensboro has been the ability to get seafood that is ultra-fresh especially for a location 10 hours away from the nearest fresh catch stand.
Having a UPS Worldport Freight Facility in Louisville, Kentucky, (at the Louisville International Airport) has been a huge plus for restaurants in the region that want to have the shortest times from boat to table. Hughes uses this to his advantage by purchasing fish from Bluefin Seafoods in Louisville.
“We get seafood in three days a week,” says Hughes. “Most of it comes from Bluefin. I talk to their purchaser to see what’s fresh and what’s good. What’s coming in for the season, all those kind of things. I talk to my distributor four or five times a week.”
The UPS facility ships seafood from Hawaii, Florida, or other spots on the globe directly to Louisville via plane, then it is trucked to Owensboro.
Hughes recently composed a lunch or dinner that included three popular items from his ever-changing menu.
One of those was Rock Shrimp Ceviche, with cucumbers, cilantro, homemade pork cracklings, and “a lot of lime, some brown sugar,” according to Hughes.
Another was pork bellies served over stone ground grits, with redeye gravy and seared scallops.
The soup was a shrimp, ginger, turmeric broth with pork, shrimp, and lardo dumplings.
“I love the idea of surf and turf — people think of steak and lobster tail — we do a lot of elements to keep it interesting,” says Hughes.
For more information about Bill’s Restaurant, call 270-852-8120 or visit atbills.com.