Food TV Star Chuck Hughes Talks Christmas, Family, Food and Fun
Saturday, December 10, 2011 • 8:03am
Feeling a little overwhelmed by the idea of cooking and entertaining over the holidays?
Chuck’s got your back.
Chuck Hughes, the host of “Chuck’s Day Off” on the Cooking Channel is hosting his own holiday festivities for the first time, and the resulting special, “Chuckmas,” will show that when it comes to holiday entertaining, we’re all in this together.
While in the area this week to promote “Chuckmas,” Chuck talked with TheAlternativePress.com about stress-free holiday cooking, which can sound like a pipe dream in this world of cooking shows that have made everyone a foodie and added words like “ceviche” to the national lexicon, not to mention celebrity chefs who make it all look easy.
“That food has become so popular is a great thing,” he said. “A lot of times I get asked ‘Do we really need another cookbook? Do we really need another cooking show?’ But the fact that the world is a lot more conscious about what they put into their bodies is a good thing. People are eating real food. They’re not afraid to get into the kitchen, to slice up a fresh tomato, to make stock. It’s a sign of the times. It’s where we need to be going.”
Chuck said that one of the beautiful things about food is its ability to unite people.
“Food is what brings us all together,” he said. “Everyone eats – we have to. So why not make the thing that affects us the most be something we really take pride in?”
A rising star the world of food TV and owner of successful Montreal restaurants Le Bremner and Garde Manger, Chuck lowered his voice conspiratorially when he confides, “It’s not that complicated to cook.”
“Shhhh, don’t tell,” he joked. “Food is one of the most basic things to work with. The best most amazing food is almost always the most simple, the most authentic, the most real. And that should be your focus when you’re cooking for the holidays. It should be about authenticity, and not about outdoing your aunt.”
Chuck and his girlfriend, Sabrina, recently bought their first home, and “Chuckmas” will showcase their first holiday hosting family and incorporating Chuck’s French-Canadian background with Sabrina’s Russian-Jewish heritage.
“It’s all about family,” he said. “It’s about a good, honest, home-cooked meal. We tend to get so caught up in the game of trying to do everything perfect and trying to impress that we forget what it’s really about. We have to remember to focus on being with our family.”
Chuck other recent project, “Chuck’s Week Off: Mexico” involved three months of traveling through Mexico on various culinary adventures, but Chuck says he learned about more than Mexican cooking.
“Mexico was a life-changing experience for me,” he said. “I’d see these people who just have nothing compared to what we have, and they are happy. They have their family around them and they’re happy. That’s the attitude we need to bring to our holiday gatherings. We need to focus on the good time we’re going to have, and stop trying to impress everyone.”
However, Chuck was quick to point out that the last thing you want to do when you have a houseful of guests coming over is to try a new recipe.
“I do have the chance to practice my craft more as I’m in the industry, but in terms of a skill set or special abilities, I’m just like anyone else,” he said. “It’s about trusting yourself, being creative, pushing your own personal limits, staying focused, and remembering that the whole point is to have fun and spend time with your family and friends.”
The worst, he said, is when you’re having a party and you’re so busy in the kitchen and with hosting duties that you’re not a really part of the gathering.
“My parents were like that 10 years ago,” he said. “The turkey had to be basted every 25 minutes, I had to wear the tie my mom gave me … my mom’s a lot more chill now. It’s a different style of Christmas now. It’s more relaxed. Even with ‘Chuckmas,’ I wanted to keep it simple.”
He may be an accomplished chef and one of the fastest-rising stars in food TV, but Chuck admits he turned to his mom and his aunt for some advice.
“To be honest, I’d never cooked a turkey before,” he said. “I’d done drumsticks and wings and things, but a full Thanksgiving or Christmas-style turkey, I had never done.”
For Chuck, this Christmas will be special in a lot of ways.
“This is the first year I’ve had family over,” he said. “This is our first home, and it really feels like a home. And that’s what it’s about for me. Home, family, and good food.”