It was more than a month when I got wind that Chuck Hughes of the fame Chuck's Day Off on Asian Food Channel (AFC) will be coming to Kuala Lumpur. I got on checking AFC website and found out that he will be in on 22 and 23 Feb. Not sure if I will receive a media invite for this but I set aside these 2 dates from work, well just in case... Boss in fact did ask me if I can work for a food styling cum photo shoot on 22 Feb but I turned her down as I've just missed too many AFC invites!
As if that's not enough, I even roped in Capt'n Hook to win us seats to the dinner hahaha since he's good with words but sadly we did not get the seats. Anyway, true enough, the invite came in and I was literally jumping for joy. Not to say I'm crazy over Chuck Hughes but who can resist his charm, right?
The event started off with the affable Xandria Ooi, the emcee, introducing Chuck Hughes. She really did her homework well and got off asking him various questions. It got down to where did the host took him for dinner the night before and we were told Jalan Alor. He tried the street food and as we're all aware there's this durian stall at the start of the street. He mentioned how rotten they smell when he visits Asian grocers back home in Montreal but never got round to taste it until his night at Jalan Alor. He hesitated cos of the smell but somehow after tasting it, he was amazed by the creamy texture. Not sure if he's saying it in a jest, but most probably he might get a durian tattoo when he's down south when Xandria asked him what item he would tattoo on his body to remember Malaysia by.
He kicks off the cooking demo by introducing Jerry from Ritz Carlton who would be his right hand man. There was just so much fun watching him jabbing Jerry with all sorts of humour and blaming him for everything that did not turn out so well. One can just see how warm and friendly he is, just as we could see from his TV programme.
That's Jerry next to him
We were told that he had a new show, Chuck's Week Off, show casing his week off in a country and the first being Mexico. When he was asked if he would film one in Malaysia... being polite he said he might be and I wasted no time to pass him my business card asking him to come to Bayan Indah for a Malaysian cuisine class lol. Let's home AFC will bring in this series.
He first made his signature Popcorn Rock Shrimp with Spicy Honey. As he add in the breadcrumb coated shrimp pieces into the oil, he was asked how hot the oil should be and next thing we know, he flashed out his arm showing us a tattoo of 275°. It was an essential reminder then to fry our food at 275°F so that they will turn out crispy and not soaking in oil!
He's really my guy when it comes to cooking as he said he don't usually measure the ingredients, just like I do except for baking cakes and pastries. He started off very young in the kitchen so much so that his mother instilled in him that when he grew up, he must be a chef but that's not what it turned out to be in the beginning that he was working in advertising and somehow his love is cooking. Thus he enrolled in a culinary school, Institut de tourisme et d'hôtellerie du Québec.
Popcorn Shrimp Made "Live"
After graduating, he worked in some of Montreal's popular restaurants until 2006 when he opened Garde Manger with his 2 best friends. This is the place where they filmed Chuck's Day Off. With a second restaurant, Le Bremner, opened, he described Garde Manger is a He whilst Le Bremner is a She. Garde Manger serves a lot of meat and do not have a fixed menu as they'll cook what ever that is fresh in season but they do have the popular items and they certainly do entertain requests for items that are not in the menu. As for Le Bremner, it showcases more on delicate seafood.
Next up, Chuck demonstrated how to make Pan-Seared Beef Carpaccio with Potato Chips, Fried Capers and Lemon Aioli. As cooking is not rocket science, he usually does his mayonnaise with a whole egg instead of just the yolk as he won't know what to do with the single egg white. Waste not he said.
Beef Carpaccio Made "Live"
What Was Served
The last dish shown was a dessert of Chocolate Tapioca Arancini. We were told how this dish came about. In his restaurant, risotto is not cooked ala minute as it takes a while to get them cooking. Hence, in their prep they would cook the rice with water until they're 80% cooked. This is known as virgin rice. When an order comes in for risotto, he would then only add the stock and flavourings. However by the end of the night there would usually have left over of the rice. Not wanting to waste, he turns the rice into arancini - rice balls filled with chocolate and served on a bed of chocolate sauce.
Arancini Made "Live"
As you would see the difference in plating of those he have cooked and of those served to us... there's really no hard and fast rules as we see him throwing extra chilli, orange instead of lemon... not wasting the ingredients.
Capt'n Hook and I would like to thank Alice George Communications for the invite; Asian Food Channel for bringing Chuck in and also all the delicious food programmes shown on the channel; Ritz Carlton and American Express.
The Animated Chuck Hughes