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How chef Chuck Hughes beats stress (without a day off)

Montreal chef and TV host Chuck Hughes.

REUTERS

For Chuck Hughes, Montreal's rock-star chef and the host of Food Network's Chuck's Day Off, healthy stress is all in a day's work.

When is the last time you took a real, entire day off?

Oh, it's been a while. With the business that I'm in – running two restaurants and having the TV show – there is always something I need to handle and there is also a lot of travel, so I'm always working to some extent. To be honest, not working makes me really nervous, but I do think it's important to spend time on yourself. I'm lucky because work at my restaurants is mostly nights, so I can often take time during the day. Today I'm playing hockey, I've got a yoga class at 4 and then at 5:30 I'm at the restaurant, espresso in hand, and ready for the staff meeting and a big night.

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Presumably, being a chef/author/TV star can get pretty stressful. How do you manage?

One of the biggest things was changing my lifestyle. When I was younger working in kitchens, it was a lot of late nights. I'd work a really stressful shift and then go out and party all night to get my mind off things. It was fun, but I can definitely say I wouldn't be where I am now if I had kept that up. My schedule for the next couple of months is almost not humanly possible – it's a little over the top, and I really need to be on.

Are you a good delegator?

It's not something that comes naturally, but I'm getting better. When I first opened my restaurant, I wanted to be the boss, the chef, the psychologist, the plumber, a friend, an enemy. I wanted to do it all.

Which was the more stressful experience – opening your first restaurant or beating Bobby Flay on Iron Chef?

When we opened the first restaurant we were young and crazy and a bit stupid, so there was some sort of blissful ignorance there. We were living our dream and we had a very punk-rock approach to it. Battling on Iron Chef was one of the most stressful things I have ever done. I had been cooking for 15 years at that point and then it's like your entire career comes down to one hour. It was probably the worst food I've ever cooked, but Bobby was having an off day, so it worked out well for me.

Is getting tattoos a form of therapy?

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I think it is therapeutic. It hurts so much and I think why the hell do I put myself through this, but I do. I just got a new one yesterday. It's a kitchen bell, like 'ding – order up!'

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