Chuck Hughes' sweet tooth for hockey
If there were a Stanley Cup for chefs, Chuck Hughes would have hoisted it over his head on a few occasions. A world-renowned chef, restaurant owner, TV personality and author, the Quebec-born Hughes has an undeniable passion for food. But, it’s not his only one.
If there were a Stanley Cup for chefs, Chuck Hughes would have hoisted it over his head on a few occasions.
A world-renowned chef, restaurant owner, TV personality and author, the Quebec-born Hughes has an undeniable passion for food. But, it’s not his only one.
The co-owner and chef of highly acclaimed Montreal hot spots, Garde Manger and Le Bremner, happens to be a huge hockey fan.
Hughes, who holds the distinction of becoming the youngest Canadian chef to win on Iron Chef America, fell in love with the game – and a certain team – at an early age.
“My first Habs game was in the old Montreal Forum,” recalled the star of Food Network Canada and Cooking Channel (U.S.) shows Chuck & Danny’s Road Trip, Chuck’s Day Off, Chuck’s Week Off and Chuck Eats The Street. “I was very young and I don’t remember that much. One of my most memorable games was when Guy Lafleur came back to play in Montreal. I was there for that.
“My mom was a flight attendant and the airline she worked for took care of all the Canadiens flights. I had a Guy Lafleur signed stick. Growing up, hearing so much about him and then getting a signed stick and seeing him live when he came back to Montreal was unbelievable. It was special.”
Hughes’ connection to hockey players endures. It’s not uncommon for NHLers to visit his restaurants throughout the season. He’s also worked on cooking-themed projects with Canadiens players.
“The hockey players are a big part of our clientele,” noted Hughes. “We get away teams, the Canadiens, coaches – we’re very lucky. We get to see a lot of the players. In that sense, we’ve been connected to them. It’s fun for us. And the players are super laid-back and very polite. Most of the guys are eating greens and proteins. They are great – just awesome, down-to-earth guys.”
When Hughes, who has his own product line called My Kitchen Staples, isn’t busy at his restaurants or cheering on Les Habitants, you can expect to find him in his happy place, namely, anywhere there’s ice.
Hockey and Hughes just seem to go hand-in-hand.
“I love hockey,” he said. “I love to play the game. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a frozen pond or a rink, indoors or outdoors, 3-against-3 – I just love everything about it. It’s all about that sheet of ice. I don’t like to admit to people how much I play. They’re either jealous because I play five times a week, or they look down on me and say, ‘So, how come you’re not getting better?’ But I just love to play and I love the Canadiens.”
As for similarities between life in the kitchen and life on the NHL stage, Hughes notes a few that stand out.
No. 1 on his list? Not surprisingly, teamwork.
“That’s the most important thing,” he said. “Working in a kitchen, it doesn’t matter how good you are or how fast you think you are – you’re never as good unless it is with the team. I think that’s the most important part in sports. If you have a tight group and people are really committed, you will have success. The camaraderie – that’s life in our kitchens. I know the players are big on that, too.”
If Hughes were to choose one current player – someone he’s hasn’t met – to sit down with at one of his restaurants, he’d pick a future slam-dunk Hall of Famer who is still going strong at the age of 45.
“I’d love – just in terms of legends – to meet Jaromir Jagr,” said Hughes, who has also had several celebrities and musicians visit his restaurants, including music legend Mick Jagger. “To be able to hang out with him for a few minutes would be amazing.”
Jagger or Jagr? It’s an easy question for this hockey fan.
“I’d rather have the moves like Jagr,” quipped Hughes.
While he’ll continue to work on sharpening his hockey skills, he’ll also be keeping close tabs on the Habs.
A date in the Stanley Cup Final would bring about a feast for Hughes and his hockey buddies.
“If the Canadiens make it to the Cup – every year the Olympics comes around we get the biggest lobster possible – we’re going to do something crazy,” he said. “But there’s a lot that has to happen before that. It’s a fun year to see the Canadian teams doing well.”
Hughes settled on two words as the interview came to an end and his day at the restaurants began.