The Man Behind The Secret: Chuck Hughes

Chuck Hughes – there is no need to introduce this young, dynamic and curious chef that kicked started his career several years ago, driven by the encouragement of his mother when he was only 16 years old.

By Arnaud Barbe

At the time, despite his culinary skills, cooking was for him but a hobby, as his vocation was in communication. He took on classes in the field, but soon realised that the jobs he found were always linked to the kitchen. He then arrived to the conclusion that his culinary skills and his passion for food were stronger than anything. Eight years ago, the opportunity of owning a vacant space in the Old Port of Montreal was offered to him; this marked the beginning of a great adventure: le Garde-Manger.

Don’t care to look for a sign, you won’t find it. Why, you ask? At the origin of this project was a group of young talent full of hope and very few resources. Way back when, they didn’t have the money to spend on making a sign. As for everything else, inside the restaurant are old objects found in the space’s basement, including a stunning fixture of the old Palace Theatre of St Catherine Street, a spruced up confessional, flaps used as counter fronts… Add to that evening candlelight illuminating its objects and walls steeped in history, and the jumble of disparate objects becomes magic.

The key to success according to Chuck Hughes? Passion and hard work! But to also question yourself. He thrives on a simpler cuisine, letting the products talk for themselves and mainly rediscovering the natural flavours of food. As the food trend is of a healthy one, he emphasizes on the freshness and quality of our local products, thereby minimizing the ingredients and putting vegetables in the foreground. He underlines with great enthusiasm the chance we have here in Canada to be blessed with the best seafood on the West or the East Coast. Grasslands produce extraordinary wheat and vegetables and the provinces of Ontario and Quebec have markets teeming with top quality ingredients. It’s in this abundance that he finds inspiration.

Between his two restaurants (Le Garde-Manger and le Bremner), his cookbooks and his television shows, this workaholic always finds time for creative projects. The latest? The creation of Black Crab, a collaboration with Vans shoes and Off The Hook. Vans is one of his favourite brands. First off, it conveys the philosophy of skateboarding. Secondly, in the beginning of his career, Vans shoes were a good way of having comfortable and stylish shoes for work. Ever since, a link was created between the Vans team and Chuck, so it was only natural to ask him to participate in the development of a new shoe design inspired by his career as a chef. Thus was born a model that was easy to clean, stain proof with waxed laces, a cork insole for comfort and a black outer sole made of rubber for a clean look and minimal maintenance. The Chuck Hughes Empire has just begun and we are happy to follow him in his many adventures.