Everyday Exotic. Everyday Exotic: The Cookbook. Heat Seekers. Man Fire Food. Soul Food.
While this is the resume of Roger Mooking in short (or pretty long, that’s a lot of serious kitchen cred), this Cooking Channel star has got the stuff. Starting off, his show Everyday Exotic shows people how to mix in exotic and exciting ingredients into their cooking repertoire. Then, he made it even easier for fans to cook-up his creative concoctions by creating Everyday Exotic: The Cookbook. Then along came Heat Seekers, filmed with Chopped pal Aarón Sanchez. They travel across America to find the hottest foods then they eat them…yes, eat things that could burn holes through metal beams. That’s not even to mention his award-winning Soul Food album that features slick, chill, vib-ing, R&B. Oh, and then throw in his brand new show, Man Fire Food: a show devoted to man’s most primal way of cooking…fire, obviously.
So, Roger just happened to have stopped by a Connecticut restaurant recently, filming for Man Fire Food. The episode that airs on 11/20 at 10 pm on Cooking Channel (sister channel of Food Network) features The Place in Guilford, CT. It’s pretty clear why Roger decided to visit Connecticut and, specifically, the Place. Clams, lobster, seafood, and other New England specialties are served outside from a big hunking grill from April to October. Here’s the Cooking Channel summary of “Seafood Feast”:
The best place to celebrate the foods of summer is The Place, located in Guilford, Connecticut. The kitchen for this roadside eatery is an outdoor 20-foot-grill, fueled by 12-foot-slabs of local wood. Brothers Vaughn and Gary Knowles take Roger to the lumberyard for wood, and the docks for fresh-caught lobsters and clams for a breathtaking wood-fired New England seafood feast…
Lucky us got to spend some time with Roger, ask him about his life, his new music, his new show, chowing down at The Place, and other juicy morsels.
1) You’re quite the renaissance man. You’ve created a cookbook, have three different shows on tv, and you’re an award-winning musician. How do all these pursuits jive together?
For a long time, I thought I was living multiple lives. (He laughs) Often, people look to mentors. Living in too many spaces, I never found anyone doing food and music. I thought following both was a unique opportunity. One day I had an epiphany in the studio when I was working through a song: it’s all just entertainment and lifestyle. Once I got that positioning, everything came together and I felt whole again. I realized I wasn’t living multiple lives anymore.
2) We also see on Twitter that you’re recording a new album. How are the tracks coming along?
It’s the record of my life, the record of my life! It’s really the best one I ever made in my career. I had a great team around it, too. I had a very clear vision for the songs and wrote specific to that vision. I’m in the mix phase now and will be handing it in at the end of month!
3) Your show Man Fire Food offers a great perspective on something so often overlooked in cooking: good ol’ fashioned, down-to-home cooking with plain ‘ol fire. What’s so enticing about food cooked this way?
In one lifetime you’re not able to learn everything. There are so many ways to cook and prepare food. You know, it’s really good for ADD/OCD people like me to stay inspired. When it comes down to it, food is a great conduit to people and community. No matter where you are, you learn about cultures through fire and how food is cooked around fire.
4) Oftentimes when you see hosts traveling to restaurants, they take a hands-off approach. They’ll talk with the chefs and owners and will taste the food, but that’s often it. In your show, Man Fire Food, though, you get down and dirty. Why is that so important to you?
I’m a hands on person, even at the studio or while cooking. I like to get my hands dirty: it’s the only way to be part of the action. I’m not a professor, I’ve gotta get into things. With food we get to connect with the world around us through our hands and taste buds. You have to taste, feel how hot the fire is. Art is not about the finished product, but the process of creating. Let’s say you’re a painter. I don’t necessarily want to see the final product. I would rather see the process. That’s the art.
5) You recently went to The Place in Guilford Connecticut for some great seafood. How does the seafood taste different when it’s cooked over that 20 foot grill or just fire in general?
One thing I learned about cooking with fire in America is that America is extremely regional. BBQ is so different: every place has their own tips, tricks, and techniques. There are different types of woods to smoke with, too. (He catches his breath here) Here at The Place they treat it really simply. The fire is always going, using the coals from the night before to light it up again. There’s a sense of history here too. Food is about more than flavor, it’s also about culture, people, and history. I also love the outdoor thing. Even in rain with tarps, they keep cooking and serving. It’s all open, made by hand, and even the chairs are wood stumps or cinder blocks.
6) You have said that Man Fire Food loves to seek out unique spots across the country. What was it about The Place that made it a spot that you definitely had to go and film at?
The length of the grill was impressive (You can tell he’s in awe)! There are 3-4 cooks circulating around the grill. You can tell they’ve got it down to a science. The heart of the dining area is right there at the grill.
7) We love watching Heat Seekers with you and Aarón Sanchez, but we have to wonder: do you have any taste buds left after eating some of the hottest food in the world?
We have eaten a LOT (emphasis his) of hot stuff. Tasty, hot, and even some that’s spectacle hot. We don’t eat everything, we have to preserve our palette.
8) Finally, do you have any advice for home cooks that want to take their cooking up to the next level?
Every time I go to the grocery store, I buy one new thing every time! Pick up something you never had, research it online or in a cookbook. There are lots of resources. Just experiment! Before you know it, you have an encyclopedia of flavors on your palette. You might find you like things prepared one way and not another. So, just because you didn’t like the new ingredient one way, try it again a different way!
Visit The Place from April to October
Address: 901 Boston Post Rd.
Guilford, CT 06437
Cash or check only
Outdoor seating only