Q&A: Christmas countdown with celebrity chef Chuck Hughes
Chuck Hughes has teamed up with Pusateri’s to make this holiday season a festive, stress-free delight. Whether you’re looking for the perfect hostess gift, a no-fuss catered holiday feast or a few scrumptious hors d’oeuvre ideas, Pusateri’s is sure to deliver.
Not only has Chuck created a memorable prime rib Christmas dinner for Pusateri’s (available through catering or made at home using Chuck’s recipes), but the culinary hunk has also curated 10 different foodie-delighting gift boxes. There are boxes that will appeal to every type of gourmand. For home cooks, the Garde Manger chef recommends gifting them his Chuck Hughes antipasto collection gift box, which comes with all the ingredients needed to make his signature hot maple nuts (the gorgeously wrapped package even comes with the recipe card). For those who love food but aren’t adept behind the stove, there’s something for every appetite. From chocoholics to snack addicts, there’s a gift box that’s sure to sate.
We caught up with Chuck to chat about his Christmas traditions and to pick his brain for some holiday entertaining tips.
The holidays are fast approaching. What are some of your favourite Hughes household traditions?
When I was a kid, we’d have to dress up in suits and pose for pictures. It all felt so complicated, almost fake. Now we roll into my mom’s, still in our PJs and it’s much more relaxed. The kids open presents, we eat brunch, then we go skating or skiing before returning in the evening. We warm up by the fireplace, maybe roast a few marshmallows, and then we all enjoy a big dinner of turkey and tourtière together.
If you’re out playing in the snow with the kids, who makes Christmas dinner?
My mom. We call her our own Martha Stewart. When people ask me what my recipe for turkey is, I always say, “I have a mom for that!” But I actually don’t love turkey the way other people do.
What would be your dinner showpiece, if you were hosting Christmas?
Prime rib. It’s easy to cook, it’s impressive and people don’t serve it frequently, so it’s exciting. Also, when you’re cooking a Christmas feast, you need to think about what you’re going to make with the leftovers. Prime rib sandwiches are epic.
When you are hosting, what gifts do you love to receive from guests?
I love stuff that lasts. I don’t drink, but even if I did, a bottle of wine disappears very quickly. A good sea salt, a nice bottle of olive oil or some maple syrup: these have longevity. The gift boxes are great because they have a mix of items that will last and some that can be enjoyed right away.
How do you feel about homemade gifts?
Unless you are five years old, I don’t want to hear about it. I’m kidding. Fruit ketchup or pickles make great gifts. We have a recipe for these spicy nuts (combining nuts, my red pepper spread and some maple syrup); you can buy them pre-made at Pusateri’s or you can make them yourself. Or, for someone who loves to cook, you could give them the ingredients with the recipe card—that would make an excellent present.
Let’s flip the question around. What is your go-to hostess gift to give when you’re invited to a party?
I’ve been working on my own line of products for a while, and right now I am obsessed with my red pepper spread. It’s flavourful with just enough heat, and it’s super versatile. I’ve been gifting that a lot lately, mostly because people keep asking for it. It’s addictive. But the best gift I can give people is a helping hand. I am hard to beat in the dish pit. At a party, you’ll often find me in the kitchen, helping lighten the load for the host.
What advice do you have for party planners this time of year?
Preparation is key! People are there to see the host. You shouldn’t be stuck in the kitchen, stressing out. Serve food you can prepare in advance (like an antipasto spread with a few great cheeses, and torchon of foie gras). Oysters also always create a good vibe. And it’s also nice to have a holiday cocktail on offer, too.
As a non-drinker, what do you like to sip on over the holidays?
It’s becoming more and more common for people to want non-alcoholic alternatives. Pusateri’s has some great products by Prince Edward County’s Kinsip. You can use their bitters to make great mocktails. All you need is to add some juice and sparkling water.
You had the onerous (more like envious!) task of sampling just about every item at Pusateri’s. If you could take only three things with you to a desert island, which three would they be?
The CXBO chocolates, definitely. I’d also have to bring some caviar from Acadian Sturgeon. The owner, Cornel Ceapa, has a PhD in sturgeon biology, and his caviar is some of the best in the world. His smoked sturgeon is also delicious. And for my final pick, it would need to be a two-parter: my red pepper spread with Pusateri’s bite-size chorizo.
What do you want for Christmas this year?
I’m hoping for some snow right now! Ha! But I’ve been pretty good, so maybe Santa will help me out with some renos at the restaurants. A few upgrades in the kitchens, some new skates and lots of snow—and I’ll be happy.