David Rocco’s Dolce Vita

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 Roger Mooking of Everyday Exotic and Heat SeekersRocco 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:

Aarón Sanchez and Roger Mooking of Heat Seekers1.  You have an extremely diverse ancestry, how has it helped you as a chef?

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.

She is so beautiful. Wow.

WTVC Exclusive: Cooking Channel Star David Rocco

On March 31, The Fine Living Network officially becomes the Cooking Channel (aka Food Network 2).  The new network will feature new shows from old favorites like Bobby Flay and Emeril Legasse.  It will also feature a whole new crew of TV Chefs to entertain and educate our insatiable palates.

Among the new guard is Canadian Italophile David Rocco who made his mark in the Great White North with his hit shows Avventura: Journey in Italian Cuisine and Don’t Forget Your Passport.  His most popular series, David Rocco’s Dolce Vita (DRDV), will be coming to American television sets via the Cooking Channel.  Rocco has also penned two companion cookbooks for his shows: Avventura: Journeys in Italian Cuisine (Bay Books & Tapes, 2000) and David Rocco’s Dolce Vita (Harper Collins, 2008).

Recently David was nice enough to grant me a few minutes of his time for an interview so let’s all learn a little more about America’s newest cheflebrity.

WannabeTVchef: So how are you enjoying the celebrity chef hoopla?

David Rocco: (Laughs) You know it’s crazy.  It’s been good.  It’s a fun ride.  You know we’re now in our fifth season and its been one of those steady growths.  Where when the Food Network first came out it was like, “Wow. There’s a 24 hour food station kind of.  Will it have an audience?” And now it seems to be that every network that doesn’t do food wants to do food.  It’s been fun.  I was in Singapore and Hong Kong touring cuz my show airs there.  It’s a great gig when you do what you love and you get kind of rewarded for it. (Laughs) I can’t complain.

WTVC: You’ve done five seasons of DRDV for Canadian TV?

DR: We’re actually in pre-production of our fifth season.  The show airs pretty much everywhere: on National Geographic, Discovery: Travel and Living, Food Network: Canada and we now decided that we need to go after the big market.  So Food Network’s new station, the Cooking Channel, seemed to be a great fit and we’re real excited about it.

WTVC: Will these be the episodes airing on the Cooking Channel or will you be filming new episodes?

DR: Yeah, no.  It’s going to be season one which has some great episodes and was a lot of fun so it’ll start at the beginning and work your way up.

WTVC: So what can American viewers look forward to when watching DRDV?

DR: Well I think it’s a unique series in that in North America there’s not a lot of series that shoot in one city.  I live part-time in Florence so we basically shoot the entire series on location.  The first couple of seasons we’re actually cooking in our flat in Florence so I think you really can get a sense of the Italian lifestyle, of the food, you know of the simplicity of the recipes and if you’re just looking to escape for a half hour in Florence and the joy of learning a dish or two as well I think it’s really fun.

WTVC: I’ve watched the highlight reel of the first season on your web site and the kitchen seemed awfully small, was that the one at your flat?

DR: Yeah.  Yeah the European flats are much smaller but you know the stuff that comes out of them is pretty damned good so you know it’s a different kind of lifestyle, the European lifestyle.  I mean what’s great is that you know a lot of the stuff comes from the markets, the open air markets and we do some traveling.  We’re on the Amalfi Coast, we’re in Sicily so you get to see a lot of great places as well.

WTVC: How do you see your life changing with your expansion into the US market?

DR: I think we’ve built the foundation for some good stuff and Canada has been a good test market, the cultures are so similar.  We’re kind of like cousins.  I think with the show having done so well here that our cookbook, which is the companion to the TV series, became a best seller here.  It won the Gourmand award (Gourmand World Cookbook Award) so it’s stuff when it goes into the US will just be well accepted and hopefully I get super busy and hopefully enjoy it all.  (Laughs) I’m not sure what to expect, you know.  It’s going to be different so we’ll just kind of ride with it.

WTVC: Do you own a restaurant or can we expect to see you opening one soon?

DR: I love the restaurant business.  It’s always been, obviously, a passion of mine.  But I’m the executive producer of the production company that does the show so we come from a different background.  Obviously a food background as well but our core business is media productions and we have a couple of other shows in development.  There’s always the interest in doing a restaurant clearly, but the time I’d want to spend in the restaurant in terms of proper attention and love would definitely take me away form my core business which is the production company.  It’s a struggle but maybe one day I’d be able to do something and have a happy medium.

WTVC: The new network debuts May 31st. When is the premiere of DRDV?

DR: I believe it’s on that day.  I think, the schedule hasn’t been released.  Actually I’m going to be in New York next week with meetings.

WTVC: Emeril has his pork fat, Rachael Ray her EVOO and Paula Deen loves her some butter.  What’s your favorite lipid?

DR: I’d have to side with Rachael; extra virgin olive oil is where it’s at for me.  Paula Deen would probably be a sad women if she came to my house.  Very little butter is used and very little butter’s in our fridge.

For a taste of David Rocco’s Dolce Vita check out this video:

Avventura: Journeys in Italian Cuisine

David Rocco’s Dolce Vita premieres Monday May 31st at 3ET/2CT.

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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up


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