COOKIN': Neosho's Quenton Hughes' talents go from ballfields to kitchen

Apr. 15—NEOSHO, Mo. — There is a common phrase today that has a new meaning. It goes something like this: "That man is cookin'!"

Translation: That man is doing good.

You hear it often from athletes today. It might mean that a quarterback is "cooking" the defense by passing for a lot of yards or touchdowns. It might mean that a basketball player is on a hot shooting streak. You could probably even hear it in baseball when a pitcher is striking out a lot of batters.

For Neosho standout athlete Quenton Hughes, it might refer to success on the football and baseball fields.

Hughes takes the mound Tuesday night when Carl Junction comes to town for a Central Ozark Conference clash. He will look to cook up some strikeouts as the Wildcats seek a much-needed conference win.

But he also literally cooks. Hughes spends spare time in the kitchen making his favorite dishes, typically different pastas.

"I started loving it at a young age. I started doing more complicated things ... and started watching Gordon Ramsay videos and trying to recreate it," Hughes said. "I've always loved it. You get to appreciate what you've made at the end because you get to eat it."

Turning the tables

A senior at Neosho High School, Hughes has been the starting quarterback for the Wildcats the past two full seasons. He also plays shortstop and pitches for the baseball team in the spring.

He passed for more than 5,200 yards in his final two seasons in high school and is now leading the Wildcats as a top pitcher on the team.

"Quenton's been around since I got here nine years ago. His dad was on the staff the, so he's been around since he was at my knee," Neosho head coach Bo Helsel said. "He brings a lot of leadership. He's a good communicator with teammates and a positive example for the underclassmen. He plays good defense at shortstop. Pitching, he's our ace. He's pitched the big games and pitched well. I don't think he's had a bad start yet. The leadership that he brings to the team is great."

Hughes recalls his interest in cooking developing at a young age when he watched his parents often make home-cooked meals.

Oh, how the tables have turned. On Saturday, Quenton's dad, Eric, sat down at the bar of Hughes Brothers Lounge — owned by Eric's brothers Travis and Josh — on the square in Neosho while "Q" made him some chicken Alfredo.

The 18-year-old describes the feeling he gets when cooking as "peace of mind." He gets into a rhythm while he makes the sauce, cooks the food and his mind just gets into a relaxed state, and he enjoys that feeling.

Hughes says it feels similar to some of what he experiences when he takes the field for a game.

Since the opening of the Lounge in December, Hughes also has helped his uncles as a cook. He said he enjoys the opportunity to cook at a restaurant and serve his own spaghetti with what he says is a special Wildcat quarterback touch.

Of all the pasta plates he makes, this spaghetti with his own sauce is his favorite. He uses a vodka sauce and adds some spice to make it different from traditional spaghetti sauce.

"I love cooking that. It's probably my favorite thing. I could make it every day and eat it every day," he said.

The recipe was inspired by a trip to New York City to see family. Hughes recalls having a spicy spaghetti with vodka sauce and he just had to try and recreate it. He and his parents believe it is good recreation of the NYC pasta.

Hughes' dad revealed that the love for Italian food comes from some Italian lineage in the family, and Quenton spoke about that.

"We have a lot of family up there. My great-grandma grew up in Brooklyn and lived there most of her life before she moved down here," he said.

That trip to New York City was last summer, and Hughes said he was ready to try to emulate that sauce just two days after getting back home.

Cooking and being around food is something Hughes wants to continue to do beyond high school and as a career eventually. His goal is to have his own restaurant.

"It's a tough job. I've learned from these guys it's no easy business," Hughes said. "I kind of like that challenge."

Hughes hasn't been able to have friends over for a get-together to cook for them just yet, but said he's open to the idea.

"That's a good idea. Might as well have it down here (Hughes Brothers Lounge) too," he said.


Neosho has been up and down so far this spring and lost plenty of close baseball games as its record sits at 6-10 right now.

The Wildcats are coming off a 5-3 win over Ozark last Friday.

"We've had a really unlucky run the past two weeks. We've done a lot of things that shot ourselves in the foot," Hughes said. "Beating Ozark was like 'OK. We can do this. We can turn this season around.'"

The win helps with confidence, knowing that the Wildcats were able to get a Division I commit to Missouri out of the game in the first inning. Then the pitching and defense held on for the win.

The senior noted that the camaraderie of this team is better than he's ever experienced in high school.

Neosho looks to continue the winning ways on Monday at Kickapoo. Then it comes home for a Central Ozark Conference matchup with Carl Junction on Tuesday and ends the week on Thursday with a home game against Willard.

All games start at 4:30 p.m.