Vol. 1, No. 6 | Toronto, Ontario | News & features from the good food revolution
Roger Mooking Gets Busy
by Malcolm Jolley
Is Roger Mooking the hardest working man in FoodBiz? He's certainly busy. The executive chef of two of Toronto's perpetually packed hotspots, Kultura and Nyood, has just come back from a multi city tour of Asia, where his Food Network TV show, Everyday Exotic has been picked up in 22 countries with a combined potential viewership of 131,000,000 hungry fans. In the meantime, through his long standing partnership with restaurateur Hanif Harji, Mooking has been involved in opening Madras Pantry, a hip West Queen West dosa shop and consulting on the kitchens of a number of Ontario resorts, known more for their scenery than culinary prowess. On top of all this, Mooking recently released an album with Warner Brothers Canada, Soul Food, which he is enthusiastically cross-promoting with his TV and kitchen gigs.
On the phone Mooking sounds relaxed and pleased, not frantic as I would expect such a serious multi-tasker to be. Once he got me up to date on all his activities, I ask him what he considers himself to be first: a chef, a musician, a TV host? "I do entertainment," he explains, "people think I'm in the food industry, or the music industry, but I am really in the entertainment industry. That's how we look at it when you come to one of our restaurants."
Moving between restaurants and recording studios is nothing new for Mooking. As a teenager growing up in Edmonton, he would take restaurant jobs ("Diners and truckstops - I would open the kitchen at 5 AM.") to pay for his studio time. Mooking achieved success in the 1990s as 'MC Mystic' in the Juno Award-winning trio Bass is Base. Mooking parlayed that success into formal culinary training at George Brown College, where he graduated top of his class and landed a job at The Royal York under Chef Jean-Charles Dupoire (now at Loire). From there Mooking went to be the opening chef at Barrio Lounge, one of the first of the new generation of restaurants and bars in Lesleyville. Mooking got noticed, and impressed Hani Harji, who had met with success at Blowfish, enough to bring him in as a co-owner at Kultura and then Nyood.
"Cooking is in my blood," explains Mooking, who is the third generation cook in his family, "I will always do it. I wanted to be a chef since I was three or four years old." When I ask the multi-dimensional, entertainer the secret of his restaurant success, he laughs: "There's no secret. We just work really hard. And build great teams of people. You can't do it all yourself, so you need great people on your team. That's it."
Find out more about Roger Mooking, and listen to a sample from Soul Food at his website: rogermooking.com
Malcolm Jolley is the editor of Good Food
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