“My mother always told me, “Don’t play with your food!”... But look at me now...” - Chuck If there’s one thing Chuck Hughes has always loved to do, it’s play with food. And whether his mother Francine likes it or not, she definitely had a thing or two to do with it. From the time her curious son insisted on being enrolled in a cooking class at the age of 8, it was clear he was crazy about the kitchen. And fifteen years later, when Chuck was on the fast-track to a successful but potentially passionless career in advertising, Mom was the one who suggested he turn his affair with food into a full-time relationship. So, it was to culinary school at the Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec. He quickly started working in some of Montreal’s hottest kitchens and hasn’t looked back since. Following stints at Globe, Tapeo and Time Supper Club, where he studied under the likes of chefs David McMillan and Frederic Morin, Chuck knew it was time for the next step.
In 2006, Chuck and his two best friends, Tim Rozon and Kyle Marshall, opened their own place, Garde-Manger. Set in a 125 year-old stone house in the heart of Old Montreal, it became Chuck’s playground; a vintage crab-shack cum underground club where he could put his magical spin on comfort food, and indulge his fantasy of creating decadent meals served up to his favorite rocking soundtracks. The den-like restaurant quickly developed an almost fanatical clientele of locals and tourists alike, and to this day, is as unique as its chef. The New York Times were “impressed that a place as rollicking as Garde Manger chooses to pay such close attention to what’s coming out of the kitchen”, The Today Show raved about Chuck’s seafood platter, while local paper Voir called his cuisine “sexy and solid”.
His food philosophy revolves around simple, well-made food. “I worked in restaurants where you’re putting cracked pepper on the side of the plate and there’s branches coming out of everywhere and you have to deconstruct your food before eating it...there’s a place for that out there, but it’s just not me.”
What “is Chuck” is an unwavering respect for mother nature’s finest, and his pledge to let quality ingredients speak for themselves. This love of all foods real, coupled with his firm belief in buying and cooking local, made Chuck the ideal spokesperson for Hellman’s Real Food campaign. Since 2007, Chuck has been blogging and talking about his passion for simple, uncomplicated food and is currently featured in both Hellman’s English and French television campaigns.
In 2009, Chuck invites the world into Garde-Manger’s kitchen with the premiere of Chuck’s Day Off, his first original television series.
Chuck lives in Montreal and likes to escape to nearby Magog with his dog Fakey whenever he can.