Hometown Hero Chuck Hughes loses bid for ‘Next Iron Chef’

Toronto Sun

When the secret ingredient was revealed for the elimination showdown, I knew it was all over. Tofu…really?

Despite the Food Network’s “The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs” being unbelievably over-dramatic, ridiculous and corny, I couldn’t turn away from it. I found myself rooting for Chuck Hughes on Monday nights the same way I would cheer on the Habs in the playoffs. Pretty weird stuff, I’ll admit.

Chuck Hughes, host of Chuck’s Day Off on the Food Network and head chef of Garde-Manger in Old Montreal, was the third contestant eliminated on the show, when he had to square off in “Battle Tofu” with Chef Beau MacMillan. For Hughes, that might have been the worst possible scenario; he even admitted to never having worked with the stuff. Hughes was the only Canadian contestant on the show; he gained a lot of attention after defeating Iron Chef Bobby Flay in “Battle Canadian Lobster” back in March. I rooted for Chuck not only because he’s a Montrealer, but also because of his simple approach to food. While the other contestants were wrapping their heads around mousses, foams, purrees, duos, and “deconstructed” this and that, Chuck kept to what made him famous: offering simple comfort food, done right, with a little twist. After all, he defeated Flay with a poutine, seafood chowder, and a lobster roll. On his 3 episodes on “The Next Iron Chef”, his dishes included a maple-glazed pork-chop and popcorn shrimp. Not exactly what you’d call ‘haute-cuisine‘.

Despite the fact that Iron Chef represents not only awful reality television but Food Porn at it’s worst, I enjoyed watching Chuck Hughes compete because I really believe he represents the food climate in Montreal: tasty food above fancy food. You really get a sense of this when visiting a place like Garde-Manger or Joe Beef; even though they’re among the top restaurants in the city, and possibly the continent, and you might have to call months ahead for a reservation, the spaces are inviting, and the food is comforting.

Although Hughes has recently become part of the bizarro world of celebrity chefdom, he still seems to be fighting the good fight for simple yet delicious food, and for that reason it was a shame to see him eliminated. On the flipside, at least now he’ll still be around Montreal and his two restaurants rather than acting on the stage of Iron Chef’s ‘Kitchen Stadium’.

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Categories: MTL Food Identities

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