Q&A with Chef Chuck Hughes

Last week, Chef Chuck Hughes (owner of two Montreal restaurants: Garde Manger and Le Bremner, and host of Chuck’s Day Off, Chuck’s Week Off, and Chuck’s Eat to the Street cooking shows) was in town for a street hockey match against Parts & Labour’s Matty Matheson to talk bandages.

It took only one question and Chef Hughes was off, revealing how having bandages on hand will not only change the industry, it’s changed him too.

Q: How did you get involved with Elastoplast?

A: It was king of organic. In restaurants, there are knives, cuts, scrapes, bruises. I was approached at first (I make a lot from scratch, so working with food companies and products often doesn’t make sense).

At work and outside of work I’m pretty active – I play soccer, do half marathons, play hockey. And with cooking, no matter how good you are, you’re going to cut yourself. It’s a perfect fit.

It’s fun. It’s not just about the food. Summer means you’re a lot more active. I’ve done a 10k and 5k three or four times. I am a fat guy, not skinny - I enjoy pushing myself. At an event like this, it’s about what kind of potential scrapes there’ll be.

I like the theory behind it. It’s a no brainer – at both restaurants there are cuts, scrapes, burns. We use Elastoplast. But (in the past) the restaurant wasn’t equipped. They were always used in a panic - "Put anything on it." The industry was geared like that.

I wanted to better myself as an employee. I’m from the old school – I’ve been cooking since I was 16. The motto (back then) was "Shut up and keep on working." We’ve come a long way. The way we work, the way we treat the industry. We’re a lot more aware – e.g. handwashing, it’s no longer a grey area.

I do care. I don’t want my employees to be hungover or doing drugs. Hopefully, they’ll get two days off a week. But the industry is still not where it needs to be – salaries are low, hours are long. The people working the bar – they get cut from the tops all the time, yet it’s not spoken about. It affects the whole restaurant, the people behind the scenes from managers to chefs. It (Elastoplast) makes their lives easier. You have to respect yourself, your employees. I respect everyone from start to finish.

There are a lot of new ways of doing things - the Gordon Ramsey method doesn’t fly anymore. You can’t do that. When I was younger, I had plates thrown at me. As I grew older, I wanted to show that everyone deserves respect from the dish pit to the manager of a restaurant. Everyone is important to the team. Slowly, we’re getting rid of that old school attitude, but there are old chefs that are still strapped to their ovens. They can’t transmit knowledge to younger generation.

It used to be that the first aid kit had a cigar, condom and duct tape. I started thinking about myself - You never have them (bandages). When you have them, you actually use them (Note: You still have to put a rubber glove on top). It really made sense. And the kitchen aspect is so interesting.

They’ve developed a double bandage (it wraps around your finger twice, saving you the time and trouble of having to apply two). It’s cool – no one else is doing that.

Today’s hockey game with friends (I’ve known Matty forever) is such a fun thing. Elastoplast benefits my restaurant, my life, my lifestyle. It fits with what I’m doing.