Encouraged by his mother to turn his passion for food into a career, Montreal-bred chef Chuck Hughes now owns two restaurants in his hometown—Garde Manger and Le Bremner. As host of the popular television show Chuck’s Day Off on Food Network, his face (and tattoos) soon became a familiar sight. But he made headlines when he defeated celebrity chef Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America and then competed on the Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs. Hughes is currently working on the second season of his spinoff show, Chuck’s Week Off (the first season followed his journey through Mexico). This month, he released his first English cookbook, Garde Manger.
Do you enjoy travelling to promote your shows and events?
When you promote, you meet fans and people who enjoy what you do. It’s a great experience. When I was in Miami, I was walking by a restaurant and one of the busboys shouted out, “Man, you taught me how to make risotto last week. Thanks a lot!” That’s one of the most touching things someone has said to me in the last year.
Has your style changed since your first restaurant?
Montreal has a very distinct style. It’s very hearty and rustic. When I opened Garde Manger, that was the type of food I was making—rugged and heavier. We call [Garde Manger] the male and the new restaurant, Le Bremner, the female. The food there is more delicate and raw.
Any new tattoos?
It’s an ode to Mexico. The last episode of Chuck’s Week Off is of me getting this tattoo. There’s the Virgin Mary, a hot pepper, clams, a fish that I caught…everything I went through on my travels, I immortalized on my arm! [And] I just got one of a durian fruit while I was in Singapore.
Chuck Hughes on Vatel
"I saw it for the first time in cooking school. My favourite scenes are the ones in the kitchen. The French invented modern cooking and, in this movie, you see the birth of it."
On May 15, Chuck Hughes hosts TIFF’s Food on Film series at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, Ont., where he will discuss the 17th-century historical drama Vatel, starring Gérard Depardieu and Uma Thurman. (tiff.net)