Chuck Hughes Serves Up a Sentimental Homage


image22.jpegFrom the first page of Chuck's Day Off, you're invited into pictures, recipes, and stories about the people in Montreal chef Chuck Hughes' life. A shot of the chef embracing his half Rottweiler, half German shepherd, Filou, sets the tone for Chuck's narrative as he spends 283 pages showing appreciation. It's a beautiful concept that involves the reader. From the landlords at Garde Manger, to the kitchen staff who give their all, to the women who have influenced his career, Chuck's Day Off offers a closer look into this cast of characters and the incredible recipes that honor them. 

T H E  S T O R I E S 

Chuck's Day Off is divided not by recipe, but by Chuck's narrative about the person or group the meal was prepared for. Where the tv show allowed you to learn from step-by-step instructions, the cookbook narrows in with a story to accompany the recipes. It's the stories that truly connect you to the food that follows. From his family to his friends to the elements that inspire him, there's a way to relate to the food by the sharing of his memories and motivators.

In the "The Hockey Team" chapter, Chuck talks about his love for the game and the league he plays for. You get the keen sense that the chef feels most at home on the ice. Comparing hockey to working in a restaurant, Chuck talks about cooking for his hockey idols and the immense appreciation he has for their love of his food.

In his past life as roadie, the chef travelled and catered for bands on tour. The story kept me on my toes as Chuck talks about cooking for three days straight at his first Osheaga gig. As a musicophile, I couldn't get enough of this portion of the book. To hear the story and connect it with the gorgeous Fish Tacos on the next page made the experience whole for me as a foodie, a reader, and a music lover. There's pleasure to come from a full circle thought that pairs with a visual.

Every chapter of the cookbook follows this theme of story and recipe. It is incredibly humbling to read and inspires the idea to think about the food that connects you to the people in your own life.

From the very first page, Chuck holding his dog Filou, to the very last page, listing the many names of people he thanks, this cookbook is more than its recipes. Chuck's Day Off pays homage to the connections and inspirations behind the food. It is an outstanding take on the typical cookbook. It takes a dive into more than pictures of good-looking food and easy-to-follow recipes. For anyone who enjoys cookbooks or appreciates food, this is one for collecting. 


T H E  R E C I P E S

The beautiful and wide pages of Chuck's Day Off inspire you to want to crack it open and get in the kitchen. The layout of the recipes is simple to follow with each distinct element of the dish divided. Even the technical aspects of some dishes are without fuss. In an explanatory visual on how to shuck oysters, no easy task for most, is broken up into four steps that take the difficult out of the job. Some of the more complex recipes that require various steps, like the Bison Tartare, are designed on the page to be exceptionally approachable. Regardless of your cooking level, you will easily be able to follow along and will continually be invited to explore, make mistakes, and play with ingredients.

If any part of the book calls to home cooks who enjoying throwing dinner parties like myself, it's the chapter on the Staff Meal. Picture telling a couple of your friends they're invited for dinner on Friday night where they'll dine on Garbage Salad followed by Hot Dog Risotto. The whole chapter intrigues the norm and entices a unique spin on relative classics. Playing on templates, the Fish Bolognese calls for chorizo, white fish, capers, and pitted olives. My Italian roots gravitated toward the Boston Salad with Fried Sardines; a layered stack of buttery lettuce leaves and fried fish with a light snowfall of roasted, crumbled, and jewelled speck. Though it sounds off the radar, the chef notes that the item is a popular dish at Garde Manger. Though I'm charmed by the concept of the cookbook, what makes it whole is how it isn't specifically targetted to a certain level of cook. Whether you're a home cook or a restaurant cook, Chuck's Day Off isn't about tuning skill, it's about inspiring your food thoughts. 


T H E  P I C T U R E S    

Chuck's Day Off will visually trap you into rummaging through the pages to see more. The photography reflects Chuck's cooking style: totally fuss-free yet gorgeous, jagged around the edges yet put together. The first thing to grab you when picking the book up is how wide the pages are. The book itself is appealing to hold, and with its soft binding, easy to place down on the table to follow along. The next thing to pop at you are how the pictures act more like art. The collection of food shots are among the best. Deep and darkly rich colors page after page, from Pork Belly with Coffee Glaze to Sticky Fig Pudding. Gorgeous plates set on cutting boards, rustic tabletops, and dark wood. If the stories and recipes hadn't already captured me, the pictures alone would have been worth the buy.






image (5).jpegLEMON TART 

B U Y  Chuck's Day Off

M O R E  Chuck Hughes

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