Celebrity chef Roger Mooking makes his living by giving cooking instructions and inspiration to millions of viewers through his three TV shows on the Food Network and the Cooking Channel. But last summer, it was Mooking who got the cooking lesson when he spent a day with members of the Nisqually tribe as they cooked salmon and other local seafood.
That visit will be broadcast on Tuesday as part of Mooking’s new show “Man Fire Food” on the Cooking Channel. In the show, Mooking travels the country discovering inventive ways to cook with fire.
Born in Trinidad, Mooking grew up in Canada where he established himself as one of that country’s most innovative chefs. At one point, he owned seven restaurants in Toronto.
Mooking rose to prominence in America as the host and co-creator of “Everyday Exotic,” an instructional cooking show. He also hosts “Heat Seekers,” a show that has him traveling the country in search of the most tongue-searing food and drinks he can find.
Mooking called in from Toronto:
What did you learn during your visit with Nisqually tribal members Reuben Wells Sr., Reuben Wells Jr., John H. Scott IV and Hweqwidi Hanford McCloud?
They really welcomed us and they showed us all the secrets they’ve been holding on to dearly for centuries and generations. I got a little insight into their tribal history and their food history: how they fish, their techniques, what it means to them as a culture and a people.
I understand they showed you how to roast king salmon on hazelnut branches over an open fire.
They put it in the ground over the fire and it gets kissed by the smoke. It’s really good. It’s the first time I’ve ever done that technique. It’s all stuff they harvest locally on their reserve land (oysters, mussels and clams). They brought it all in and cooked it up.
I’m guessing there was no barbecue sauce involved?
No. They cooked it pretty straight up. The product they’re working with is so fresh and so full of flavor, you don’t have to do much to it.
What appeals to you about “Man Fire Food?”
We’re able to meet different walks of life and different aspects of cultures and different corners of America through fire. We get to dive in and learn about their traditions and their history. This episode is particularly poignant.
Given your interest in cooking over flame, were you born 10,000 years too late?
(Laughs) Perhaps, but I’m still able to find people in this era cooking over flame, so maybe I’m right in the moment.
Are you worried about running out of ideas?
When we were conceptualizing the show, that was one of the initial concerns. But we quickly outlined all the things we can do. When you explore the lifelines surrounding fire and food, we can go so deep. I’m not concerned because we can explore every culture on the planet: Indian, Greek, Peruvian … endless outlets.
You got your start with “Everyday Exotic.” What is the philosophy behind that show?
It takes everyday North American meals and transforms them by adding one ingredient or technique. There’s a lot of people out there that make the same six meals over and over and rotate them. This expands the boundaries and updates those, but more importantly, hopefully inspires people to see that it’s easy to get out of a rut if you just try something different.
When is the last time you made a meal for yourself and what was it?
This afternoon I made soup. I’m a freak for soup. I had a bunch of chicken bones so I made a really nice roasted chicken stock. I put in some spinach, some vine tomatoes. I made dumplings with corn meal and whole wheat flour.
Is the celebrity chef thing maxed out or will it keep growing?
It’s extended way beyond the realm of food publications. There’s a trajectory that doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Excuse the pun, but there’s a huge appetite for it.
I hear you are a musician.
I’ve played with James Brown, The Fugees and the Marley family. In 2008, I released an album called “Soul Food.” I’m just finishing my new album this week. “Soul Food” was an exploration of soul music. This record is a little more in the vein of hip-hop. ‘Man Fire Food’
What: Chef and host Roger Mooking gets a cooking lesson from the Nisqually Tribe.
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Cooking ChannelCraig Sailor: 253-597-8541 firstname.lastname@example.org