Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Day Off with Chuck Hughes @ The Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Know this man? Yes, he is none other than the charming Chef Chuck Hughes who appears on Chuck's Day Off on Channel 703 (Asian Food Channel) every Wednesday at 9pm.

Chuck Hughes in Garde Manger

Chuck Hughes and his lemon meringue pie tattoo

A chef with a great sense of humour

Canadian celebrity chef Chuck Hughes was recently in KL, Malaysia for the third edition of the Celebrity Chef Series, jointly presented by American Express and the Asian Food Channel (AFC). I was lucky to be invited to the media session at The Ritz-Carlton KL on 22 February where we got to sit-in on an exclusive cooking demo, sample his food as well as listen to many of his many amazing tales (which kept us very amused throughout the session). Since I love cooking and meeting up with chefs, this was indeed a fun day for me.

Just a little backgrounder on Chuck Hughes - he hails from Quebec, Montreal, Canada and in 2006, with his wo best friends opened their own eatery, Garde Manger. The restaurant serves comfort food and plays loud rock music, and is an attraction for tourists and locals alike. In 2010, he started the TV show "Chuck's Day Off" where he cooks for his friends and co-workers on his day off,  the show is filmed in Garde Manger. (If you have time, you should watch it bcos it's things you can and will cook at home - the other day I learnt a new trick from his show - using 2 plates, first one downside up, place cherry tomatoes and then another plate placed upwards, then using a big knife, slice the tomatoes in the middle... saves lots of time! I would never think of doing something like that but that's so clever!)

The most defining moment of his career was when he became the youngest Canadian chef to win the popular show, Iron Chef America. With his delicious lobster recipe, he became the only Canadian chef to beat the legendary chef Bobby Flay. He also opened a second restaurant, Le Bremmer in Montreal and is launching a new series "Chuck's Week Off: Mexico".

We sat right in front of the stage so we got a very good view of Chuck Hughes.. ahem I mean the cooking demo..

The MC for the afternoon, Xandra Ooi who kept us entertained and taught Chuck Hughes some Manglish. ;P

Chuck Hughes was telling us about his first encounter with durian. According to him, "it's one of those things that's so bad, it's good"... He says that he will be getting a tattoo of a durian on his arm soon. Btw, speaking of tattoos, Chuck Hughes has loads of tattoos on his arms (and he says there are some on his back and chest too) - he tells us that he grew up loving tattoos and the first one he got was actually of 3 skulls with the flames and mum etched across it. Haha! He has bacon, lemon meringue pie, lobster and aragula leaves tattooed on his arms - that's how passionate he is about food.

See the 275 degrees one on his right arm - that's the perfect temperature for cooking potato chips! I'll never forget that now too.

For his cooking demo, Chuck Hughes prepared 3 dishes for us - popcorn rock shrimp with spicy honey, seared raw beef with potato chips, fried capers and lemon aioli and chocolate risotto arancini.

Here are some interesting facts he shared with us:
1. Always add salt and pepper to everything you fry.
2. He uses lime/lemon/orange zest on everything he cooks/prepare.
3. His mum has always encouraged him to cook. Once his mum said to him "one day you will be chef" to which he answered "But I want to be a millionaire".
4. When coating something in batter, always add flour first before the egg. Flour will help the eggs to stick.
5. He doesn't measure things, "I just cook and I improvise as I go. If I don't get it right, it's not the end of the world. Just start again".

Zesting an orange

Always wear a glove when coating batter

The popcorn rock shrimp with spicy honey is first dish he ever created for his first menu in one of the restaurants he worked at (not his own). He likes it because it is a combination of salty, sweet, spicy and crispy. It's so popular that people who go into his restaurant now often requests for it. It looks quite simple to prepare and was delicious.  (Will share the recipe soon in another post)

Our favourite from the afternoon was the seared raw beef (sort of like beef carpaccio but seared on the outside) and he slices it a little thicker than you would a carpaccio for more texture.

Seared raw beef with potato chips, fried capers and lemon aioli

The inspiration for this dish came when one day they had leftover risotto rice and decided to make this dessert, chocolate risotto arancini. He placed some chocolate in the center, coated it with panko breadcrumbs and then deep fried it. Nice when eaten warm.

Talking to the press after the cooking demo

Showing off his tattoos again ;)

And yes, the moment I have been waiting for... a photo with Chuck Hughes ;)

*First four photos are courtesy of Asian Food Channel/Martin Laprise. Thanks to Alice George Communications for the invite.

Full set of photos available to view here.

Catch him on Asian Food Channel (Astro 703) on Wednesday 9pm. 



  1. Replies
    1. Lol I always get excited when I get to meet the chefs. Not so much when I see pop stars or actors/actresses.

  2. ahem. the food looks temptingly attractive (especially the chocolate rice ball!), but not as tempting as the chef, right :P

    1. ahem. ahem. ahem.
      Suffice to say, I was very happy that I could get a photo taken with him.

  3. so nice... got to meet him in person . such an experience =)

    1. Hi June. Yes, was definitely a pleasure to meet him - a really down-to-earth chef.

  4. loved the beef carpaccio. can't wait to try it when i get a good cut of beef:D

    1. Yeah lor, it's our favorite too. Need to get a really good quality cut before we can try it though, scared food poisoning otherwise. (I'm quite scared to attempt tartare / carpaccio stuff at home)

  5. OMG he's so hot I'm melting. It's always a thumbs up to have bf/husband who can cook ;)

    1. LOL. Yes, men who can cook are definitely SEXY!

  6. I have such a sweet tooth, the chocolate rice balls were my fav.
    Nice post :-)

  7. lucky you!! I really enjoy his show, cooking... and his looks of course! ;)

    he reminds me of Tyler Florence... another hunky chef who cooks like a dream too!

    1. I always enjoy meeting chefs (be it celebrity chef or chef from the restaurant), it's very nice being able to chat to them about cooking and food.


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