Photo courtesy of Cooking Channel
Chuck Hughes visits the trophy room at Graceland during a break from filming "Taste of Soul."
Canadian Chef Chuck Hughes knows how to pick a street. When I spoke to him last week, he was cruising down Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, taking in the sights on a day off.
Hughes was in Los Angeles to film an episode of the Cooking Channel's new show “Unique Sweets,” but I called to talk about the Memphis episode of “Chuck's Eat the Street” which airs tonight at 7:30 p.m. The show premiered Oct. 9 and features celebrated streets with rich food cultures, including Mission Street in San Francisco, Magazine Street in New Orleans and Walnut Street in Philadelphia.
Hughes said he was excited to add Memphis to the list.
“For me, the whole purpose for the show is to get out and explore a wish list of places I really want to visit,” Hughes said. “I'd been to Knoxville, but not to Memphis.”
When Hughes visits a city for a new episode, he looks for places and people he calls “little gems.” So when filming the Memphis episode called "Taste of Soul," he stayed off Beale Street to find a different perspective. “We wanted to find other places in Memphis that are unique and interesting,” Hughes said.
For instance, instead of the Rendezvous restaurant, Hughes visited the Rendezvous' depot where pit masters smoke and ship about two tons of ribs every day. Then he worked his way down Main Street with stops at Felicia Suzanne's, the Peanut Shoppe, and Rock 'n Dough Pizza Co., the food truck operated by Jeremy and Amanda Denno.
Hughes was enthusiastic about all four stops, praising the city's authenticity and the expertise of Memphis chefs.
At Felicia Suzanne's, he cooked with chef/owner Felicia Willett in what he described as “a dream kitchen,” preparing fried catfish, grits and the restaurant's signature collard greens. “It was really an experience to meet a chef who has shaped the way Memphis eats,” Hughes said. “Her style is simple but so well done. You can tell she's the real deal.”
He also roasted peanuts with Ridda Abu-Zaineh at the Peanut Shoppe (pictured above) and spent time with Denno making pizza and peanut butter pancakes.
“August in Memphis in a metal box with 900-degree wood burning oven was all part of the fun,” Hughes said, laughing. “Rock 'n Dough was cool because here's a guy with a family business built out of passion, hard work and love for what he does.”