Chuck Hughes (Garde Manger, Le Bremner, Chuck's Day Off, Chuck's Eat the Street) is set to co-host a new culinary competition show this August along with Guide Resto Voir and television personality Anne-Marie Withenshaw for the French-language network CASA. The show, A couteaux tirés ("at daggers drawn"), is a loose homage to the Esquire Network show Knife Fight, hosted by Ilan Hall of Top Chef fame.
In CASA's version, two Quebec chefs will have one hour to create a minimum of two dishes with ingredients revealed to them on the spot. Think Iron Chef, minus the drama and pretension and with a little more party and a lot more fun, banter and booze.
Eater Montreal contributor Joanna Fox spoke with Hughes this week about his transition to French-language television.
What made you interested in doing this type of show?
The reason it all got started was that I liked the idea of it being a homegrown show, a Montreal thing. Yeah, it's a cooking battle, but no weird ingredients or anything, just really good food and talented chefs. It's basically a friendly battle between like-minded people in the same city. I think that's why it makes so much sense. The point is to cook amongst friends, and of course, win the competition for bragging rights. It's also cool that it gives me the opportunity to do something in my own city, completely different from what I've been doing, and in French. It's a fun project and ultimately I think that the restaurants and chefs that will end up being featured on the show are going to be pumped.
Do you have any ideas about who's going to be battling it out?
I want to make this the type of show where most chefs will want to come on. The whole point is to have a good time and to showcase other people's talents. I mean, you don't have to be Daniel Boulud to be in this competition. We're lucky this city is just jammed with talented chefs. Ultimately, I think everyone is going to learn from it. There's so much talent here, it's going to be awesome to see these guys at work, no matter who it is.
Ok, so can you tell us what you know about the format?
It's based on the show Knife Fight, but it's different people, a different city, a different situation. We don't know all the details yet but it is going to be comparable to the original concept. I want to have fun with it and showcase chefs and food that get people excited. Hopefully we can have this incredible level of elevated competition using exceptional local food.
A lot of people may not know that you and Anne-Marie are actually friends.
We've known each other for, I would say, 10 years, at least. We were introduced by mutual friends and found out we had all these weird similarities so I guess we just clicked. Her work ethic is great and she's a really fun, smart, positive person to be around. With her, we're going to be working really hard, but at the same time we're going to be drinking chocolate milkshakes– by that I mean she's a bit of a YOLOer. I really feel like she bites into life. With her experience doing Guide Resto Voir, she's gotten to know exactly what's going on with the restaurant scene in Quebec, probably more than me, so I'm just really excited to be working with her. Basically we both want to just get a bunch of people to come on the show, have fun and cook some sick food.