A Day Off with Chuck Hughes!


Last Thursday, 1 March 2012, my mum and I enjoyed the privileges of being invited to A Day Off with Chuck Hughes presented by American Express and the Asian Food Channel. It was sit-down dinner and cooking demonstration for S$136 ++ at il Lido.

Meet Chef Chuck Hughes: the artist and food obsessed, dimple-cheeked sandy blonde Eddie Haskell of Canada. Chuck is so passionate about food, so much so that his heavily inked forearms tattoos bacon, lobster, lemon meringue pie, oyster, arugula, just to name a few (For the full run-down of tattoos, visit Gastronomista). Last Thursday, he got an afc tattoo, and is planning to get a durian tattoo. Back home in Montreal, he is Chef and Co-Owner of Le Bremner and  Garde Manger – a den-like updated bistro against a hip and gritty backdrop of reclaimed wood, loud rock and raw bar platters.

Chuck Hughes!

Not too long ago in 2011, Chuck’s most defining moment of his career took place when he walked into New York City’s Kitchen Stadium and became the youngest Canadian chef to beat legendary Iron Chef Bobby Flay on Food Network’s Iron Chef America battle Canadian Lobster.
You might think, while Chuck’s from Canada and Bobby’s American, so Chuck should be more familiar with the ingredient. But, the secret ingredient was only revealed to them 15-20min before the real thing started. And in an environment where Chuck is entirely unfamiliar with, as compared to Bobby who has competed there probably a gazillion times, together with the high expectations and pressure to keep his reputation, beating celebrated Iron Chef Bobby Flay is absolutely, beyond describable, admirable and commendable.
Chuck also competed in Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef: Super Chef where all-star group chefs including Anne Burrell, Michael Chiarello, Elizabeth Falkner, Alex Guarnaschelli, Robert Irvine, Beau Macmillan, Spike Mendelsohn, Marcus Samuelsson and Geoffrey Zakarian (Check out my post about Chef Zakarian’s restaurant HERE!) as they compete for the ultimate title of the Next Iron Chef. Unfortunately, Chuck’s journey ended at Round 3, and Chef Geoffrey Zakarian went on to become the Next Iron Chef.
In Asia, Chef Chuck Hughes is best known for his hugely popular television show Chuck Day’s Off on the Asian Food Channel (AFC). On his show, he invites the people who help make his restaurants happen – people in his professional and personal life eg. His fishmonger, farmers, plumber, family etc. – and whips up delicious comfort food, as a sign of appreciation, with a rock ‘n’ roll twist. The show takes place in his Garde Manger kitchen on days where his restaurants are closed. Sandwiched in between the mouthwatering recipes are rock ‘n’ roll reality segments that gives the viewer insight behind the scenes of one of Montreal’s hottest restaurants.
The show is now in its 3rd season and airs in more than 20 countries. It has garnered 3 Canadian Gemini nominations and Chuck has received the Best Host Award from the original Factual Entertainment Awards in Santa Monica, California, which honors top international entertainment programming from around the world.
Clearly, Chuck is more than your ordinary television celebrity chef. Other than cooking, he’s a pretty active and sporty guy. He works out a hell lot and plays hockey!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

Garlic Bread

A basket of garlic bread to whet your appetite.
The dinner started off with a warm welcome from our host and speeches from key figures. Then the first course was serve, but with no sign of this bubbly big guy yet.

From left to right: Crispy Trout, Snow Crab Caesar, Home Smoked Salmon with Green Salad and Apple Vinaigrette

Crispy Trout, Snow Crab Caesar, Home Smoked Salmon with Green Salad and Apple Vinaigrette. Everything was simple and seasoned perfectly, but nothing very special.

From left to right: Endive and Asparagus with Green Salad and Apple Vinaigrette, Stuffed Zucchini Flowers, Caesar Salad

The vegetarian option wasEndive and Asparagus with Green Salad and Apple Vinaigrette, Stuffed Zucchini Flowers, Caesar Salad. The Stuffed Zucchini Flowers were my favourite. Fried in a tempura batter in the right proportion and stuffed with creamy ricotta cheese, yum yum 🙂
Finally, half way through our starters, Chef Chuck Hughes appeared and humored us immediately with his many jokes. If this is the first time you’ve seen him, you will admire him for his inimitable flair. Soon after, he began his cooking demonstration of the Crispy Trout.
Some interesting facts he shared with us:
1. Always add salt and pepper to everything you fry.
2. He uses lime/orange/lemon zest on everything he cooks/prepare.
3. His mum has always encouraged him to cook. Once his mum said to him “one day you will be chef” to which he answered “But I want to be a millionaire”.
4. He doesn’t measure things, “I just cook and I improvise as I go. If I don’t get it right, it’s not the end of the world. Just start again”.

Chuck's Poutine

Second Course – Chuck’s Poutine. Poutine is basically cheese curd and French fries with gravy. It is the late night street food in Quebec. Here, Chuck has added his own spin on it, and instead of French fries, he roasted the potatoes. Complementing the springy and salty cheese was a sweet gravy which had a strong tomato ketchup-y flavor. Chuck’s poutine was somewhat like a healthier version of the traditional poutine, but nevertheless roasted potato with cheese curd and tomato ketchup, it definitely reflected the unique flavors of Quebec!
Then there was a choice of beef, seafood, or vegetarian for the main course. My mum chose beef, while I chose vegetarian.

Braised Short Rib on Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Green Beans and Poached Tomatoes

Braised Short Ribs on Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Green Beans and Poached Tomatoes. This was probably the most disappointing dish of the meal. The ribs were not tender enough, and worst of all, it was screaming for some more sauce. The mashed potatoes were average, smooth and silky, but with no hint of garlic at all. Sighhhhh my mum had been looking forward to this dish 😦

Root Vegetable Risotto with Carrot Butter

Root Vegetable Risotto with Carrot Butter. I was initially hesitant about my choice of a vegetarian main course as risottos are risottos. How special can a risotto be? The seafood option of Stove-top Clambake and Butters definitely sounded more exciting and interesting. But as I thought further, I realized that risotto ain’t as simple as it may seem. Good risottos and bad risottos are worlds apart. In The Next Food Network Star Season 7 Episode 7,  the godfather of celebrity chefdom, Wolfgang Puck, took Jyll to the woodshed for her awful risotto. He narrowed his eyes upon seeing the plate of risotto she whipped up and said, “This is not really a risotto. Can I come and show you how to make a risotto? Come with me, in the kitchen. It has to be liquid, and it has to be on a hot plate.” And with that, he got up, and escorted a shocked and mortified Jyll to the kitchen and did just that. A good risotto depends on the equipment used, ingredients used, soffritto – it’s aromatic flavor base -, the rice, stock and the mantecatura – the last essential step when butter, olive oil or cheese are vigorously stirred into the risotto off the heat to bind the ingredients together and give the risotto the desirable creaminess. Perfectly cooked risotto should not stick to the serving spoon, nor should it be so liquidy that it runs off your plate. The texture should be supple and fluid, with a creamy, slightly soupy consistency, but with body. Chuck’s a good cook, no arguments. And because I trust that he can do this perfect risotto, I was willing to give up my love for seafood and give this vegetarian main course a try. Besides, I haven’t had many fantastic risottos (my best so far is at No Menu @ Boon Tat Street Singapore!) – I’ve had many average ones – but I’ve had many fantastic clambakes.
And I was glad I put my love for seafood aside this time, as this risotto was inimitable. It had the perfect consistency of being rich and creamy. The rice was al dente and the root vegetables were slightly sweet and crunchy which provided a wonderful textural and taste contrast. What’s more is that the carrot flavor was distinct. By far the best risotto I’ve ever had.

Maple Pecan Pie with Chocolate Cupola

Desserts. Nothing beats an ambrosial, delectable dessert (ok that’s an understatement. I’m serious). Maple Pecan Pie with Chocolate Cupola. The Pecan Pie was the best I’ve tasted. The pastry was crispy and buttery, and the filling, loaded with tons of pecans, was deliciously rich, sweet, dense and chewy. I’m the kind of person who can resist and control tempting desserts – cakes, cookies, pastries, brownies (unless if they have nuts and are moist!), pies, puddings etc. – unless if its really that great and includes Dark Chocolate of course. And so given the fact that I almost finished this pie, if not for the better Chocolate Cupola – a dome shaped chocolate mousse on a chocolate hazelnut biscuit covered with chocolate ganache – along with the Vanilla Ice Cream topped with caramel sauce and streusel, goes to show how heavenly this Pecan Pie was. The Chocolate Cupola was decadent. Even better than a heavenly Pecan Pie. Chocolate mousse on top of a Chocolate Hazelnut Biscuit, finished with Chocolate Ganache. I wiped this one clean.
It was 4 simple courses, but with one of Canada’s favorite sons, it was definitely  Québécoise cuisine at its best. Many thanks to American Express, AFC, il Lido and other sponsors for hosting this event!
A new TV show Chuck’s Week Off: Mexico, where Chuck takes a break from the daily grind of running his 2 restaurants and trades in his black T-shirt and apron for a pair of shades and sunscreens as he travel to Mexico, will soon be premiering on Cooking Channel and AFC very soon 🙂

Find Chef Chuck Hughes @:
This entry was posted in Canadian, Dinner, Invites, Vegetarian and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Day Off with Chuck Hughes!

  1. OMG i got so hungry when reading this post…

  2. Hello mates, its wonderful article regarding educationand
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