Like a Local: Chef Roger Mooking

This regular series will feature personalities who don’t and have never lived in Montreal. But they love it like a local.

Roger Mooking may have been born in Trinidad, be he’s honed his skills for both cooking and music in Canada, becoming one of the country’s top chefs, as well as a Juno Award winner for his music.

Mooking’s training began at the George Brown Culinary Management Program in Toronto, a city he has called home since childhood. He quickly found his way onto both the Food Network and the Cooking Channel, where he hosts Man Food Fire and Heat Seekers.  Mooking is also the resident culinary expert for The Marilyn Denis Show and is the Executive Chef & Food Consultant for a half dozen Toronto restaurants.

Despite all of Roger Mooking’s ties to Toronto, he finds himself attracted to Montreal, which he feels exemplifies many of his culinary traditions.

Photo courtesy of Roger Mooking

Which came first — music and cooking?

When I was three years old, my aunt asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. I said I wanted to be a chef. I didn’t even blink, but when I was around 10, my brother was into breakdancing and he was a DJ. He would get all these records from New York, Hip Hop records like Houdini and Grandmaster Flash, so I really got into Hip Hop and breakdancing. When I was 15, I started thinking I could do this and I began listening to Ice T and stuff.

You’ve received a lot of awards for both cooking and music. Is there one that stands out as the most valuable?

Yes, I got a superhero cake from my daughter. That was the best award I ever received in my life.

How old is she?

I have three – five, four and two. It’s a crazy household with a lot happening.

When you do get out and spend time in Montreal,  how do you find the atmosphere?

Montreal has a very dynamic feel. The nightlife in Montreal is really vibrant, that whole ‘quoi faire’ environment. The people are really open and social – very friendly.  The restaurant scene is spectacular.

What do you feel is special about the food scene?

What I really love about Montreal, and Quebec in general, is that they are very connected to the source. Everybody is talking now about local, accessible, sustainable. That whole culture was living and breathing in the Montreal area. It never ended.

In the turn of the century, they were staking claims to land, harvesting and planting and building farms. That’s one thing I really covet about that (area). Now, it’s all fancy and everybody talking that same language, but if you look back as early as five years ago, it wasn’t quite as common a conversation (in other places).

 

 

Photo courtesy of Roger Mooking

Are there any restaurants or nightclubs that stand out?

Yeah, I haven’t been there yet, but my boyChuck Hughes has a couple of restaurants out there. He’s on the Cooking Channel as well. I’ve been meaning to come there and check them out myself, but everybody I send there comes back with rave reviews. It’s interesting because once the restaurant part (at Garde Manger) starts to die down it turns into a big party. I don’t know that I’d call it a club, but it’s definitely a party environment later on there in the evening. I’d like to check that out.

Is there a particular food that you look forward to in Montreal?

They have fantastic cheeses! Oh, my gosh, some of the best cheeses you’ll ever put in your mouth they make in that area.

What’s your favorite neighborhood?

Old Montreal is buzzing and beautiful. I’ve never been to Europe, but people say they feel like they’ve been transported to Europe. I love Montreal. It’s one of my favorite cities and some of the most beautiful people on earth are in that city, I’m not going to lie.

What about activities? If you had a free day in Montreal, is there anything in particular you’d want to do?

There are some amazing farmers markets that I’d go check out. And, I love to walk around Old Montreal. The energy is so vibrant and, again, the people are friendly. I feel like I’ve been transported to another time and another place when I walk around there.