Chuck Hughes on The Next Iron Chef

Have you been watching the new season of The Next Iron Chef over on Food Network? The stakes are high this year with a star-studded lineup of Super Chefs competing for one coveted Iron Chef spot, including Cooking Channel’s own Chuck Hughes.

The Chuck’s Day Off host and chef-owner of Montreal’s Garde Manger restaurant has made it through the first two Chairman’s Challenges with solid food, but he also seems to be endearing himself quite well to the judges: “You always look very happy when you’re cooking,” said food writer Simon Majumdar in Sunday’s episode. “It really comes through in your food.”

In the premiere’s “Heat and Meat” challenge, Chuck was paired up with chef Michael Chiarello, whose Easy Entertaining also appears on Cooking Channel. The guys overcame the wilderness elements and presented two pork dishes that the judges loved, landing their team in the top two.

Last Sunday night, Chuck (who’s Canadian) cooked up successful takes on all-American ballpark fare for a challenge in San Diego’s Petco Park. “The corn dog is as good a bite of food as I think I’ve had today,” said Iron Chef (and Cook Like an Iron Chef host) Michael Symon.

Though Chuck might not yet have the star wattage of some of his heavyweight competitors, many see him as a breakout star: Check out this recent piece from Grub Street deeming him the “next big celebrity chef.” Chuck’s fans have also come out in full force to support him — he’s currently neck-and-neck with chef Anne Burrell for the lead in the Next Iron Chef Fan Vote.

Want more Chuck? Chuck’s Week Off: Mexico, premiering tonight at 10:30pm/9:30c, provides a glimpse of what a chef does on vacation. That means cruising across Mexico in an open-air Jeep seeking out culinary adventures. Um, can we come?

Rooting for Chuck (or one of the other Super Chefs)? Vote for your Next Iron Chef  fan favorite here.