In memory of our chef and dear friend Tom McHugh…
This is the story of how Amery Ale Works met Tom McHugh. It all started just two years ago when this barn was just opening. I was just beginning to hire my first employees and had a kitchen shift listed. Tom applied and from the initial review of his resume, he was well overqualified for the position. Then I met Tom. He came in for his interview and he explained that he was battling stage 4 prostate cancer and was looking for a position where he could use his love and passion for the kitchen, but with less hours and less demands on his body. I told him I was looking for a part time chef and someone to help me figure this all out. I think we both knew after that initial discussion that we were meant to meet. With that Tom was hired as my first employee.
Now if you can imagine the beginning days here at Amery Ale, we had this small kitchen that was filled with a prep cooler, a double door refrigerator and no freezers. Storage, well that was non-existent. Heck, most stuff was non-existent as it was whatever I could piece together from Craigslist or auction sites. Our creative and imaginative Tom took this puzzle that I gave him and he started to solve it piece by piece. First we had samples, then we had a menu, then there were more employees and we simply just kept building this place. Tom took us from this little kitchen that was just starting to what we are today, the place with delicious Thursday night pizzas and those dang addictive beer brisket nachos. That was Tom. Those are his delicious nachos. That is what he did. He could build something from nothing, he could take a challenge and overcome, and best of all, he put his own touches on it along the way.
Now, for those that haven’t gotten the chance to meet Tom’s family, he has a wonderful wife named Candice and her son Parker. As the first week went on, Tom told me “Jenna, you have no idea what you’ve built.” He kept saying this was going to be big and that I needed to hire more people. Boy was he right. He introduced me to his loving family and our original barn crew included Tom, Candice and Parker. We still laugh about the first weeks and months from when we hung slips on clothespins to when we held a champagne toast for Tom and Candy who were working on their anniversary as we were such a small and new team. That was Tom. The man who would share his family, his talents and his time to help build something from scratch.
For Tom, Amery Ale Works wasn’t a job. It was his passion. It was flexible so that he could rest between cancer treatments and battle as long as he did. It also afforded him a day off here and there to go fly-fishing, which he loved, and time, even if working alongside them, with his family. He was patient as he trained new employees, inventive even with our simple menu, laid back, caring, and generous. If you were lucky enough to come on a Friday day shift, you often got a good story or two as he prepared your meal or poured a beer. One of my favorite memories was from October during our first ever Oktoberfest. We had roll out the barrel playing and Tom grabbed an empty half barrel and rolled it through the bar as we all danced and cheered. That was Tom, our Irishman, adding to the fun and the chaos of the kitchen and this barn.
Not every day does someone walk into your life and change its whole trajectory, but for me, that day was in April 2017 when I first met Tom. I truly hope he is as proud of himself as I am of him of everything that he’s created out here. I will always be grateful that our worlds collided.
Please join us for a Celebration of Life and Benefit in honor of Tom McHugh on Saturday May 18th, 2019. At 12pm, we will gather to share memories of Tom and raise our glasses in a toast to our dear friend. We will follow this with a day of celebration including live music, raffles, a beanbag tournament, and of course Tom’s famous build your own burger bar. We hope you can join us at one of Tom’s favorite places, Amery Ale Works, to celebrate the life of our chef and our dear friend, Tom McHugh.
For more information on the celebration of life and benefit, please follow this link: Celebration4Tom