I’ll let you in on a little secret….I don’t really spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but I shamelessly watch an exorbitant amount of cooking shows on the Food Network. #mydirtylittlesecret.
A few years back, I was watching an episode of Everyday Exotic (a show where Chef Roger Mooking cooks with international ingredients, and demonstrates how to use them in every day cooking) where he prepared a dish that made my mouth water. He served up a much loved, tasty Caribbean classic – Stew Chicken.
Since my family hails from Trinidad, I’ve had my fair share of stew chicken, but Roger’s dish looked absolutely delectable! The chicken looked succulent and browned to perfection, the gravy was rich and thick, and his addition of plantain blew my mind (my mom never added plantain to this dish but her version is still pretty damn extraordinary!). It looked sooo tantalizing I wanted to gobble down a plate or two of it!
That episode aired a couple of years ago, and I still haven’t forgotten it! It made me a fan of Roger’s style of cooking and tempted me to sample his creations.
BTW, I still haven’t had a chance to sample his dishes, but that will soon change. He has recently opened up an eatery – Twist by Roger Mooking in Pearson Airport #YYZ, which will specialize in adding a “global twist” to locally sourced North American comfort foods. Mmmm, comfort foods! Lol.
The restaurant is designed to give travellers a flavoursome alternative to hum drum airport food.
I love the idea of the restaurant and needed to let Roger know, so I set out to interview him. He graciously answered my questions about his love of food, opening another restaurant, and being a judge on Chopped Canada.
Here’s what he had to say.
Hometown: Born in Trinidad, lived in Edmonton and Toronto, Canada.
Astrological Sign: Sagittarius, or Water Ox on the Chinese calendar.
Fun Fact: Was a founding member of the music group Bass is Base, and still continues to make solo music.
Most exotic food he’s ever eaten: A chicken nugget
When did you know you wanted to pursue your culinary skills?
I knew I wanted to be a chef at 3 years old.
How did you balance making music as well as embracing your cooking skills?
In my teens, I started working in kitchens and writing songs. All of my restaurant money went to making music in those years. Some people know me first as a recording artist and others as a chef.
How has your diverse cultural background (*Roger’s background is Trinidadian and Chinese) influenced your style of cooking?
My background is directly related to how I cook now. In my household kitchen growing up, we were culturally A.D.D, this has seeped into my cooking and I’m currently torch bearing that flame.
How did you come up with the concept for Twist?
Travelling can be very stressful, so I wanted people to feel at home in the restaurant. The food is North American comfort foods with a global twist. The global elements can be in the flavour profiles that we add to the dishes, the way the dish is presented, or the inspiration behind the dish.
We have to satisfy many dietary concerns every day so the menu is Mix and Match. Each guest can customize their meal by choosing a variety of items that complement each other in a way that suits their needs or wants on that day. Everything is prepared fresh and the menu has a lot of fresh vegetables and herbs prepared in a variety of ways from steaming to sautéing. We also do take-out so if you want fresh food on the plane, you can take it with you.
What are some of the dishes that will be featured on the menu?
We have a number of dishes. Everything from tomato tart, pork kebob, lamb burger (ba ba burger) and mussels. We also serve breakfast.
What’s your favourite comfort food?
Pho, I can eat that every day. Also, a great goat roti.
What’s it like being a judge on Food Network’s Chopped Canada?
Chopped Canada is a very demanding challenge that many chefs underestimate when they step into the kitchen to compete. As a judge, my job is to express the senses that the viewer cannot experience; touch, smell and most importantly, taste. Also, my perspective has a voice in deciding who goes home $10,000 richer. I take this seriously.
I wanted to say a massive thanks to Roger for taking the time to answer my questions and for sharing his thoughts on food. Can’t wait to check out Twist!