Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Cheeky Chuckling Chef Chuck

Story and pics by Veronica Ng

The invitation said “come and meet Iron Chef Chuck Hughes in person” as he put on a culinary demonstration at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.  What it didn’t say was that the 35-year-old star of AFC’s Chuck’s Day Off is as friendly and charming in person as he is on his hugely popular show.

It didn’t take me long to get him talking about himself, his beloved mother and his love for food and passion for cooking or even his many tattoos. Obviously one of the biggest influences in his life was his mother, Francine. It was she who encouraged him to pursue his passion for cooking.

“I got into cooking really early. My mum got me involved in the kitchen when I was a very young boy,” says Hughes. The first dish he ever made all by himself was an apple pie when he was only five years old. I really wanted to surprise her. She was astounded by the fact that it was an authentic apple pie. We ate it and it was really good,” he said with a tinge of pride.

“My mum is from a place called New Brunswick in Canada which is very well-known for seafood. A big part of my upbringing revolved around food. We’d have these big family parties all the time. Fresh Lobsters and seafood were our favourites”.

His love for seafood is evident in his TV show, set inside his restaurant, Garde Manger. In fact, Garde Manger has been dubbed the “vintage crab shack-cum-underground club” and the menu showcases his lobster, shrimp and fish dishes.

Why a reality show in a restaurant, I asked. “I wanted the show to reflect the reality of working in a restaurant and I wanted to invite everyone who make it all happen on a daily basis to come and actually see what I do,” explains Hughes.

Hughes also wanted his show to reflect his style of cooking.
“I wanted it to be real and to show the reality of working in the restaurant – good food, good music and good people,” he says.

Chuck’s rugged good looks, cheerful, easy going personality and great sense of humour have ensured his show’s success. In fact it has garnered three Canadian Gemini nominations (equivalent to American Academys) last year and he also won the Best Host Award from the original Factual Entertainment Awards in Santa Monica, California in 2010.

This is his first trip to this region for the American Express and Asian Food Channel’s Celebrity Chef Series which is aimed at giving culinary enthusiasts in South-East Asia a chance to meet some of the channel’s top rated chefs and sample their food. Chuck Hughes was here as part of the American Express and Asian Food Channel’s Celebrity Chef Series.

Chuck’s Day Off airs on the Asian Food Channel (Astro ch 703) on Wednesdays at 9pm.

Food dishes in order of appearance:  

Pan-seared Beef Carpaccio with Potato Chips, Fried Capers & Lemon Aiolo

Popcorn Rock Shrimp with Spicy Honey

Chocolate Tapioca Arancini

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