Chuck Hughes may be known for his 5-star meals, but this chef knows how to serve up love and warmth during the most difficult of times.

Share the Warmth is a charity organization in downtown Montreal, Canada that does a little bit of everything. With a mission of “overall development and success of children and youth, and food security for all,” Share the Warmth runs programs that help teens stay in school; provides work training for those with little or no experience or who have been unemployed for a long time; supplies and organizes a community market that runs on a pay-what-you-can model; and provides music education to over 200 children. One-third of residents in the charity’s neighborhood of Point St. Charles live below the poverty line.

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Share the Warmth also operates a much-needed food bank and serves community lunches twice a week to around 100 people. Over 1400 people come every month for food boxes, where they can “choose culturally appropriate food in quantities that serve their needs and the needs of their families.” Thirty percent of food recipients are children.

Chuck Hughes Steps Up To The Plate

Chuck Hughes smiling at the camera in his kitchen.

As part of its holiday campaign, Share the Warmth wanted to do something extra special for the people it serves. So the organization asked celebrity chef Chuck Hughes if he would cook a meal for the people in their community.

Chuck Hughes is not a stranger to Point St. Charles. He lived in this neighborhood for a long time. “You know, I myself have struggled in the past and needed some help,” he said. “So I guess I feel some sort of kinship.”

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Hughes, who beat Bobby Flay on Iron Chef, is the host of several shows on the Food Network, including, Chuck & Danny’s Road Trip. He owns two restaurants (Garde Manger and Le Bremner) and champions Hellmann’s Real Food Movement, which funds programs to get kids excited about food with cooking lessons and healthy eating education. But he stays close to his roots.

“Celebrity chefs get treated like rock stars,” Hughes told The Globe and Mail. “But really it’s a pretty useless title that doesn’t say much, but gives the air of importance. Today you see people getting on TV who have no idea what they’re doing. I’m not judging, but I came into this business because I loved to cook. I chopped carrots in a basement for nearly 20 years.”

What’s on Chuck Hughes’s 5-Star Menu?

And chopping carrots is what he did at Share the Warmth, among other things like steaming oysters, roasting chicken, cooking risotto, and baking apple tarts. The celebrity chef went all out for the people in his old neighborhood. It was certainly a festive meal to remember. 

Oysters were on the menu of Hughes’ own most memorable meal. On a surfing trip to El Salvador, the chef and his friends discovered oysters in the ocean. Hughes remembers digging right in: they just smashed the oysters open on rocks and slurped them back. “The worst oysters,” he said, but a great memory. At Share the Warmth, though, Hughes prepared the oysters with style.

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“People are really lucky here,” he said of visitors to the charity organization’s community lunch. “There’s sometimes a lot of stigma around food banks and the type of food that they could be serving, but here…we’re using all fresh ingredients, a lot of healthy stuff.”

Share the Warmth’s Kimber Fellows echoed his sentiments: “He really gets it that people who are experiencing food insecurity deserve well-balanced meals, healthy nutrition.” She went on to say that, when money gets tight, the first thing people cut is the food budget. Other expenses, like rent and utilities, are fixed. People don’t have a choice.

And with the increase in food prices, there has been a dramatic increase in food insecurity. At Share the Warmth, demand for food has increased by 65% since the pandemic.

A Once In a Lifetime Meal that is Good For You

Chef Chuck Hughes in his kitchen.

Hughes wanted to make sure that visitors to the soup kitchen got not only a healthy meal but also a special one. Volunteers like Carolyn Cutler were especially touched. “I’m particularly excited because it’s chicken, because, I’m not sure if you’re aware, but the meat has been very scarce. We’ve had very little meat to be able to give out for the last couple of months, over the summer and into now,” she said.

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The charity works hard to distribute healthy, nutritious food, but with the rise in food prices and the ever-growing need in the community, it gets harder and harder. If you’d like to do something to help, you can donate food and money by clicking here.

Hughes once said that if he wasn’t in the culinary arts, he would have been a professional hockey player or a ballet dancer. At Share the Warmth, hundreds of people are happy that he chose the first option.


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