Always up for a gastronomic challenge, Chef Chuck Hughes was not spared the customary durian induction and surprisingly took a liking to it.
“I really didn’t think I was going to like it as much as I did. I’ve never had something so creamy, so potent. It’s beautiful,” he enthuses and shakes his head at the incredulous looks. “I think people say it’s a bad smell but they don’t really take the time to smell it. It’s very unique—I don’t even know to describe it.”
Still, the pungent fruit was not an instant hit with the charming and winsome chef who hails from Montreal, Canada. “The first bite, I was like err... ok. The second bite made it more apparent that it was an acquired taste. If you eat enough of it, you’ll really start to enjoy it.”
And that’s coming from a man who has eaten live baby octopus. His penchant for tracking down local and authentic cuisines, was rewarded with his introduction to the street-food culture here, taking to the sights, smell and sensations of the famous Jalan Alor with gusto.
“That’s the beauty of eating out. I look for where the locals eat and if it’s too clean I stay away. I’m a great believer in discovering different cultures through food so I’ll eat whatever is there. I like to eat stuff that is good and I like to try different things so long as it’s not too weird,” he grins as he flexes his arms etched with a delectable spread of lemon meringue pie, lobsters and a mosaic of his culinary experience in Mexico where he was shooting his latest series Chuck’s Week Off.
But as much as he enjoys the travelling opportunities of being a TV star, as the saying goes ‘home is where the heart is’—for Chef Chuck it’s in the midst of the bustle and madness of his restaurants Garde Manger and Le Bremner.
“People say to me “Wow, it must be your dream” but not really—my dream was to open a restaurant. TV is very empty; there’s a camera with 15 people looking at me and I do my stuff. In the end the camera stops, everybody goes home and it’s like “What did I do?”
“But I get it now.”
Chef Chuck muses, “When I meet people who watch the show and then I realise; when people come up to me and say “My 7-year-old son wouldn’t eat carrots and now he sees you on TV and thinks you’re cool.”
“And that’s a big part of why I’m doing the show. If they (the kids) think it’s cool and it gets them to try something new; instead of opening a can they’re willing to peel a carrot, then that’s really the benefit for me. It’s heart-warming and it really gives you a sense of purpose.”
“That’s what life is about—we go through the motions or we really get involved.”