He’s starred in his own cooking series Chuck’s Day Off, authored best selling cookbooks and is the co-owner and executive chef of Montreal hot spots Garde Manger and Le Bremner. Chuck Hughes is a force to be reckoned with, but there’s so much more about this Canadian culinary talent that you need to know.
His culinary career began in the Rockies.
When he was young growing up in Québec, Chuck would help his mom at her restaurant, bringing bread and water to guests. I bet he was the cutest! But his first real paid gig in the industry came about a decade later when he was a busboy at the legendary Banff Springs Hotel. He knew that he always loved to cook, but once he saw the level of respect the head chef received (and all the ladies that came to the chefs’ parties), it confirmed his culinary calling.
He has cooked for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Even before Justin Trudeau “got a shiny new job,” says Chuck, he and his wife Sophie were good clients at Chuck’s restaurant Garde Manger. He had the honour of hosting the Prime Minister last spring at an event at Garde Manger promoting culinary tourism to Canada. What does the PM like to eat? “He just loves food,” reveals Chuck, and prefers simply executed dishes that showcase great ingredients, which fits Chuck’s cooking style to a T.
He'd be a hockey player if he wasn't a chef.
This one is kind of obvious if you’ve ever looked at Chuck Hughes’ Instagram. He unconditionally, with every fibre of his being, loves hockey. He gets his hockey kicks playing in a local league and at charity events, like the Barn Burner Hockey Game where Montreal and Toronto chefs hit the ice to support Community Food Centres Canada.
He owns so many pairs of Vans, he won't say how many.
When asked if the number of shoes was at Imelda Marcos levels, Chuck confessed, “I’m not sure she was in the game as deep as I am.”
Chuck did eventually reveal that it’s definitely more than 100 pairs, but less than 500. Vans have been his go-to shoe since he was 13, and he has such a tight relationship with the brand that they created a Vans kitchen shoe especially for him. The Black Crab has a cork insole for comfort, great when you’re on your feet all day, with a non-slip outsole and waterproof exterior to stay safe and dry when cooking on the line.
His favourite Montreal restaurant is a Jewish deli where he can bring his kids.
Were you expecting the hottest new restaurant in town?
The Snowdon Deli, open since 1946, is Chuck’s go-to spot to eat after hockey games and to bring his two boys. “They can make a mess and have a good time.” He loves the old-school wait staff and the family vibe, and his favourite eats are the smoked meat, chopped liver and, you guessed it, fries.
He wears his heart on his inked sleeves.
Yes, he loves food and he’s got the tattoos to prove it; from a slice of lemon meringue pie to a lobster to bacon. The first tattoo he ever got was for his mom (or, “to piss off my mom,” Chuck jokes). It has three skulls, flames and says MOM — it’s his favourite. He also has a black and white tattoo of his first son, which he holds very dear, and he’s waiting for that perfect snapshot of his six-month-old son to get a tattoo of him, too.
His favourite destination is Nozawa Onsen, Japan.
Since growing up in Saint-Sauveur, a small ski town just outside of Montreal, Chuck has traveled around the world, hitting at least 15 countries in the past year alone. Nozawa Onsen, a small Japanese town known for its hot springs and great skiing, is at the top of his list right now of favourite places. This picturesque ski village has tons of snow and amazing food: “It’s like B.C. with ramen,” says Chuck.
Even he has to hide veggies in his son's food.
He’s just like us! And by us, I mean parents who struggle to get a vegetable past their toddler’s lips.Like most 3 year old kids, Chuck’s son wants chips. (Don’t we all, though?) To trick him into eating the healthy stuff, Chuck makes ‘meatballs’ from fresh wild salmon mixed with healthy greens like spinach and kale for dinner, and smoothies with hidden veggies for breakfast.
Do you think Chuck put a green smoothie in that cup?
He made dinner for Metallica and their massive entourage with no notice.
For the last eight years, Chuck Hughes has been catering to the music scene at Montreal’s Osheaga Music Festival. He’s made tacos for Marilyn Manson, impressed Canadian chanteuse Feist with his stellar menu, and pulled off an impromptu dinner for heavy metal legends Metallica and their massive entourage. He mentioned that cooking for Metallica was one of the craziest experiences at the festival, when they pulled up in a convoy of limos and carried out their own refrigerators. No sweat for Chuck. though: “We want to cater to everyone.”
He loves to treat regular people like VIPs.
He has cooked for the music world’s elite, the Prime Minister and many celebs who visit his Montreal hot spot Garde Manger. But his favourite people to cook for? Regular folks. “Celebrities always get the best of everything. For me, it’s more fun treating those people that don’t necessarily get that VIP treatment and giving them that experience.”
He named his business after a bathroom sign.
Chuck needed to give his bank a name to put on the paperwork when he was opening Garde Manger, and his inspiration came from an unlikely place. When the Garde Manger space was being gutted for renovation, they found a cheesy, vintage sign on the bathroom door. At the bottom of the sign was written: ‘Crown Salts.’ He loved the sound of it.
Crown Salts is the umbrella company not only to his two successful restaurants, Garde Manger and Le Bremner, but also his catering company.