Chef Cooks for the Stars

Juno Award nominees and winners will get to savour some mouth-watering Alberta fare at this year’s Gala Awards dinner.

Edmonton-raised celebrity chef Roger Mooking has put together a tempting three-course meal for guests attending the event at the TELUS Convention Centre on April 2.

The host of the Cooking Channel show, Man Fire Food, was in Calgary Thursday to give media and invited guests a sneak peek at (and taste of) the enticing menu.

“This isn’t like TV, this is better than TV, right?” asked a smiling Mooking as he waved smoke from a searing six-pound piece of bison tenderloin toward his audience.

Guests were treated to the same dishes that Juno nominees and winners will feast on, including the Tomato Surprise salad, consisting of a mix of earthy kale, spicy arugula, sweet basil and delicate tomato topped with roasted garlic Nuh Gana dressing and spiced croutes.

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The bison steak, supplied by Lacombe’s Canadian Rangeland Bison & Elk Inc., will be the main course for more than 1,200 gala guests. There is also a vegetarian option of herbed mushroom toast (featuring sourdough bread from Calgary’s Sidewalk Citizen Bakery) with Parmesan crushed fingerling potatoes, grilled lemon and chili oil baby bok choy.

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And for dessert? A dreamy gluten-free concoction made with chocolate brownie chunks, sautéed banana, cracked caramel and Phil & Sebastian espresso mousse.

“I wanted to bring big flavours and the global influence I’m known for to the menu,” said Mooking, who has also appeared several times on Food Network’s Top Chef Canada and Chopped: Canada.

“I think that it represents Calgary, too. Sometimes people from outside the city have a sense that Calgary is redneck-y. And Calgary isn’t that. Calgary is very diverse. You have the coolest mayor on the planet. It’s a very dynamic place and I wanted to showcase those dynamics on the plate, with the ingredients, the menu and the flavours.”

It’s not the first time Mooking has been involved with the Juno Awards. In 1994, Mooking won a Juno for Best R& B/Soul Recording with his former hip hop-acid jazz trio, Bass Is Base.

The group was signed by Allan Reid, an A& R rep with A&M Records, now the president and CEO of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (CARAS) and The Juno Awards.

A chance meeting between Reid and Mooking at the latter’s Pearson Airport restaurant, Twist, 14 months ago sparked the initial idea for the new-and-improved Juno Gala dishes.

“He sort of jokingly said, ‘Oh, you’re with the Junos? So when am I going to be your chef?’ ” Reid recalled.

“I really didn’t think much about it. But when I was sitting on the plane flying to Newfoundland I thought, ‘What a great idea.’

“I wanted to do something special for the 45th annual Juno Awards. I wanted to try something different. We challenge people with Canadian music all the time and I was like, ‘Can’t we challenge people with what we eat? Why do we have to have that same chicken dinner all the time?’ ”