7 Questions with Roger Mooking
7 Questions is a series of interviews with the culinary movers and shakers you want or ought to know better.
The Cooking Channel (aka Food Network 2) debuted last year to a good deal of fanfare from parent company Scripps Networks. From what I have seen so far, the new kid on the block is a force to be reckoned with. Some familiar FN stars have found a place to truly shine. Take for instance Aida Mollenkamp who’s stand-and-stir Ask Aida was at times awkward while her new food/travel show FoodCrafters is polished and sleek.
Several Food Network: Canada stars have also found an American home on the Cooking Channel as well. Last year I was lucky enough to speak with David Rocco host of David Rocco’s Dolce Vita. I also got a little phone time with the gorgeous gastro-Guidette herself Nadia G. of Bitchin’ Kitchen. Another FN: Canada arrival is Roger Mooking, host of Everyday Exotic (my vote for the best stand-and-stir on TV today) and co-host of the new Food Network hit Heat Seekers.
Heat Seekers is part food/travel series and part cop-buddy film. Or as Food Network puts it, “For chefs Aarón Sanchez and Roger Mooking, Heat Seekers is a tongue-testing odyssey to discover the most deliciously spicy food across the country — and to figure out why these dishes are so fun to eat.” I love this show.
Mooking is an anomaly within the cosmos of TV chefs; he’s an accomplished musician. I don’t mean accomplished in the way that I gigged away the 90’s in Nashville’s underground rock scene. I don’t even mean an accomplished musician as in Emril Legasse who is good enough on a trap-set to make a comfortable living. I mean accomplished as in award winning.
Mooking won a Juno Award (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy) for his work with the R&B group Bass is Base and their album Memories of the Soul Shack Survivors. He’s been apart of three Much Music Video Awards to boot. I feel quite confident in saying that Roger Mooking is the only person in history to both jam with James Brown and battle Michael Symon in Kitchen Stadium.
Cooking is a Mooking family tradition going back three generations and as a result Roger is first and foremost a chef. By developing a culinary philosophy built on perfect execution of globally inspired culinary traditions, Chef Mooking has become one of the most respected chefs in the Great White North so now it’s time for America to get to know him. To help, Roger answers 7 Questions:
It is who I am. All of my creativity is framed by my background and family history. As a chef it gave me a very broad jumping off point when it came time to create and develop new dishes. Plus my family are very harsh culinary critics, if it’s good they will say so. If it’s bad they look at you like “Get outta here with that ****.”
2. How does being a celebrity in Canada differ from being a celebrity in the States?
I don’t think about celebrity. I create things that I love everyday and I realize that you’re hot and your not. So it’s about touching people, which is the same all over the world. Celebrity is a by product of touching many people. I am blessed by being able to create things and share them.
3. Little is known in the States about the food scene in Toronto – can you describe what visitors should expect?
Toronto is a particularly culturally diverse city and although there are specific neighborhoods like India, Little Italy and such those areas are not exclusively populated by those people at all. This I have discovered is very unique from having traveled a bit and I’ve come to appreciate this about the city.
There is also a great wine region and farming community in the Toronto area so the access to market fresh produce, meats and wines is also fantastic. And because the demand from the immigrant communities is so great for their indigenous foods we also get a very wide variety of ingredients from all over the world in the most common of grocery stores not to mention specialty grocers. I really feel that Everyday Exotic was born of this community and my cultural background. The restaurant scene is as vibrant as New York but on a smaller scale. People in Toronto are serious about their food.
4. You’re a very busy man, how does a show like Heat Seekers fit into your lifestyle?
I grew up eating hot sauce sandwiches with butter as a kid. It was a favorite sandwich – bread, butter and hot sauce. So it fits into my life very naturally. The scheduling side of it is a challenge but I’m committed to it so we make it work. My team is the best on the planet and they keep me in line and able to focus on what I’ve gotta do.
5. Were you and Aaron friends before shooting began on Heat Seekers?
Certainly in another lifetime. The first time we met I felt he was my brother. We get along very well and have a lot of respect for one another, not to mention a lot of jokes.
6. Both of you strike me as pranksters, are there any practical jokes when you’re on the road?
Not ones that I can share here. Hehehe. But yes we have a lot of fun when we are shooting.
7. You’ve conquered Canada and you are taking the US by storm – what’s next for Roger Mooking?
I’ve only touched on about 10% of what is lying in my brain. There is still a lot of stuff I would like to do and you will have to wait for it as it comes together. We’ll save it for the next interview. Deal???
Now that you know Roger Mooking the chef better, groove out to Roger Mooking the musician. For more on Roger check out his web site HERE.