When Chuck Hughes chooses a location for Chuck’s Eat the Street, his Cooking Channel show in which he visits restaurant-heavy areas of American cities, it’s usually out of some combination of his own knowledge and tips he gets from viewers and sources.
But for this Thursday’s episode, which is about Dallas’ Bishop Arts District, Hughes got his tip from a closer source.
“The production company that I work with, and for, is based in Dallas,” Hughes says. “Everyone else in the country, it’s research, tips from chefs, people that we know that are local, wherever you can get your information from and kind of get it together and focus on a certain street. Dallas was a little bit different. The crew and the production staff are from Dallas, so it’s really about showcasing one of their favorite spots in Dallas.”
In the episode, Hughes visits Lucia, a small and in-demand Italian restaurant, where chef David Uygur gives him a hands-on demonstration of a hand-cranked machine that churns out the bigoli pasta that accompanies duck ragout; Lockhart Smokehouse, the much buzzed-about barbecue joint, where Hughes gets a culinary history lesson from pitmaster Will Fleischman, who serves up both brisket and shoulder clod; and Dude, Sweet Chocolate (which now has a Fort Worth location as well) to try chef Katherine Clapner’s hand-made, artisanal chocolate “salami.”
Hughes says he has visited Dallas in the past, but he had never been to Bishop Arts (an area of several foodie-friendly streets), which has only really started rolling within the past decade or so.
“It’s kind of unknown even for some people in Dallas,” he says. “The beauty of this show is that you can come from Dallas and still learn something new. And really, that’s kind of the premise of the show in general: to have people who are not from that city excited to go to that city, and to give people from that city a reason to get out there and explore their own city.”
If you’re familiar with Bishop Arts, an area of Oak Cliff that has become one of DFW’s busiest concentrations of non-chain restaurants, you might wonder why Hughes left out such places as Emporium Pies, Bolsa Mercado, Boulevardier or several other spots. But there’s only so much Hughes can cram into a half-hour episode (and he does hear from viewers about places he’s missed). The decision is something he faces with every episode.
“Most streets have a lot more to showcase than what we can offer,” Hughes says. “But I think the goal here is to get some people going to these streets, and on their own, they’ll be able to discover these spots that are just as great. It’s one of the hardest parts of coming up with this show.”
Hughes, who is the owner and chef of Montreal’s Garde Manger and Le Bremner and has appeared on several Cooking Channel and Food Network shows, has visited cities as far apart as Portland, Maine, and San Francisco, or Anchorage, Alaska and San Juan, Puerto Rico, for Chuck’s Eat the Street. He wants viewers to learn something from the show, but he wants to learn himself as well, whether it’s about the cities or about cooking techniques from the chefs he visits.
“I’m lucky that I get to go behind the scenes and learn,” he says. “A lot of restaurants really don’t give up secrets that much. So it’s part adventure, and it’s part food, and it’s really about showcasing these places that have something new, different or authentic and real.”
And yes, we did drop the name of Magnolia Avenue, Fort Worth’s own boulevard of home-grown restaurant dreams.
“Magnolia Avenue,” Hughes said. “I’m writing that down right now.”