After losing her husband in 2016, chef and businesswoman Charmayne Hughes is trying to rebuild her life in the town of Albany, Missouri, using a refurbished nursing home to bring high-end dining to Gentry County.
“I’m not much on sitting home and knitting,” said Hughes, who is getting back into the restaurant business after nearly 10 years. “We were farmers, ranchers and had cattle, then I had a catering business and we were busy all the time.”
The Hughes Bar X Ranch restaurant originally was located in the town of Denver, Missouri, where she and her husband spent most of their marriage. For 13 years, Hughes served faithful customers who came to the restaurant for a comfortable atmosphere and fresh, high-end food.
“When I unlocked the door, you better be ready,” Hughes said. “The place seated about 160 people at that time, and I filled it all the time.”
Hughes’ food was so well loved that after many requests for her recipes, she created a cookbook in 2006, selling almost 5,000 copies.
As the original Bar X Ranch became a staple in Denver, tragedy struck for Hughes when her beloved restaurant burned down on Easter Sunday in 2007. It was at this time Hughes decided to take a hiatus from the business.
“My husband and I discussed it, and he said, ‘Well, I’m getting of age where you’re going to have to help me more, so I’d really rather you not build the restaurant back while I’m alive,’” Hughes said.
For nine years, Hughes spent time with her husband while continuing to cater. In 2016, her husband passed away, and not soon after, she was contacted by the city of Albany, who wanted to give her a building to bring her famous restaurant to the small town.
“I came and looked at it, and it was an enormous task to take this on,” Hughes said of her current location. After a bit of debate within the Albany City Council, Hughes decided to buy the building for a low price and begin to rebuild her business.
In 2017, the Hughes Bar X Ranch was reborn, with the addition of a lounge area and lodging to the spacious, multi-winged building. Now on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, patrons of the once-beloved restaurant can experience the upscale food once again, or they can drop in for a drink at the lounge on Thursday evenings.
Hughes spends hours in the kitchen, cooking her prime rib, sought-after walleye fish and an elaborate array of desserts.
“I want it to be comfortable, and I want it to be upscale,” Hughes said. “I see people, and they come to the kitchen periodically and they say, ‘It was good! Why aren’t people beating the door down to get in here?’”
Hughes said that while the restaurant in Albany is not quite as successful as her Denver location, she’s hoping to fulfill a desire for high-end dining in rural Missouri.