I recently had the opportunity to sit down with my fellow foodies and Montreal chef Chuck Hughes as part of a Food on Film mini series presented by the Tiff Bell Lightbox. The movie nights pair celebrity chefs with foodie films for an evening of food, film and great conversation. When I heard I would get to be in the same theatre as Chuck, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity–would anybody?
Chuck’s movie pick for the evening was Roland Joffé’s Vatel, a biography of the 17th century culinary legend François Vatel starring Umma Thurman and Gérard Depardieu. The film followed the trials Vatel faced while preparing his feast for King Louis XIV which eventually lead to his demise. Vatel was known for his opulent food landscapes and creative mind when it came to his culinary abilities. Chuck compared his time cooking at the Banff Springs Hotel to the extravagance and grandeur we witnessed in Vatel’s kitchen.
After the film, Chuck was joined on stage by Jason Bangerter, the Executive Chef of both Luma and O & B Canteen at the TIFF Bell Lighbox. The Chuck’s Day Off host opened up about his own journey as a chef and spoke to the opulence and artistic endeavors that Vatel embarked on. He pointed out that the most exciting part of the film was the fact that it was a true story. While explaining how much he loved the movie he lit up like a kid on Christmas morning.
Chuck described his style of food art as grungy and shared that his restaurant Garde Manger and cookbook of the same name represented this style. He also referred to it as more Vatel-like unlike his second restaurant Le Bremner, which serves up lighter fare.
When asked about his food as art Chuck admitted that after working 14-hour days in a hot kitchen art was the furthest thing from his mind. “Taking pictures and making dishes for the camera was torture,” reveals Chuck in regards to building his cookbook Garde Manger. “It’s not the way I view food, I’d rather cook for people who are eating.”
He also admitted that Iron Chef was one of the craziest things he had ever done.
“I’ve been doing a lot of TV and competitions and a lot of crazy stuff and they always throw in jelly beans and calamari, I’ve just now realized I don’t want to make that taste good, I don’t care if somehow we can make it taste good, it’s not something I want to do.”
The evening was a great window into the world of Chuck Hughes and his mega personality. He explained that no matter how many times you tell a piece of beef “I’m a celebrity chef” it still takes just as long to cook! His down-to-earth persona was incredible to see. Whether on his show or in person, what you see is what you get with Chuck and his energy and passion for his craft is something that cannot be denied or missed.
You haven’t missed your opportunity to take in one of the Food on Film series. Catch David Rocco and his screening of Mid-August Lunch June 6th.
Written by Paula Cilia