Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor
Food Network and Cooking Channel personality Chef Roger Mooking has made guest appearances on shows such as The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Marilyn Denis Show, Iron Chef America, Top Chef Canada, and Chopped. Besides being a Chopped Canada judge, he is also the host of Everyday Exotic and Heat Seekers with Aarón Sanchez.
So how does this Trinidadian born, Canadian-raised chef, television host, restaurateur, cookbook author and musician follow all this up?
By heading to Muskoka, of course. Mooking will be hosting an up close and personal weekend retreat at Deerhurst Resort October 26 – 28 where he’ll share his passion for food and have some fun in cottage country.
“Every Fall, Deerhurst hosts a culinary weekend where guests get the chance to meet, mingle and get tips from a top Canadian chef in a relaxing, lakeside setting,” says Jesse Hamilton, General Manager. “With his exciting, fresh and personable approach Roger Mooking will bring his own unique vibe to this year’s event and we can’t wait to see – and taste – what he’s going to create.”
Chef Mooking spoke to us about his upcoming retreat, his love for Muskoka and his appreciation for all things grilled. We also spoke about Inspired Cooking, a collaboration Vacay.ca did with Mooking last year.
Vacay.ca: It’s been awhile since we worked on the book “Inspired Cooking.” It was such a great experience. Can you say a few words about the importance of healthy dietary habits and some of the recent work you have done to promote clean eating practices?
Chef Roger Mooking: Well, I’m a believer in the “all things in moderation” train of thought. One day I may be chasing a fatty piece of Brisket or a Tomahawk Steak, and the next day I’m looking for a vegetarian or vegan option to balance things out, or just for variety sake. In many ways the pursuit of healthy eating habits is never ending and depending on which nutritionist you ask can be laden with conflicting information. So I keep it simple, eat lots of veggies of all kinds, lots of fruits of all kinds, a moderate amount of protein of all kinds and keep it as natural as possible. At my restaurant Twist by Roger Mooking at Toronto Pearson International Airport, I make sure there is lots of variety for any dietary need. I work with a few companies and always try to push the “fresh is best” mantra. Overall, I keep it pretty simple and defer to a lot of what my parents and grandparents showed me by example; truthfully time has proven that they were right all along. Listen to your elders!
Vacay.ca: You are heading to Muskoka where you will be hosting a weekend retreat at Deerhurst Resort. What can visitors expect? Can you give us a hint of what you will be creating? Are there any local ingredients or products you hope to infuse into your creations?
Mooking: I just do projects that are fun and try to make anything I’m working on as fun as possible. So the weekend is going to be full of great food, great drinks, and bear hugs in a beautiful setting at Deerhurst Resort in Muskoka. On opening night the Deerhurst team will be making a vast array of food from live food stations and I will be making Fried Chicken nibbles with crispy Basil, Japanese Spices and Lime Mayo; every time I make this dish it is a big hit! On Saturday night, I’ll be doing cooking demonstrations and serving up a family style meal of Grilled Tomahawk Steaks, Confit Salmon with Campari Tomatoes, Grilled Rapini, Falafel and Roasted Potatoes, Maple Glazed Carrots and Fennel with Pistachio and Caraway, and finished with an array of desserts both gluten free and carb friendly. Really every dietary concern will be covered and everyone will leave feeling stuffed like a turkey. I’m using a lot of Ontario and Quebec products throughout the weekend, alongside some international ingredients to achieve the authenticity of some of the global flavours.
Vacay.ca: I always love watching you grill and create BBQ on television. Sorry, I have to ask…can visitors to this event expect some heat?
Mooking: Yes, we will be playing with fire and smoke a bit. I’ll also be doing a Q&A along with a cookbook signing on Saturday and we’ll be snapping lots of pics for social media.
Vacay.ca: What are your thoughts on Deerhurst Resort? It’s such a beautiful property.
Mooking: I’ve been to Deerhurst several different times for a variety of things and every time I’m asked to come back, I don’t hesitate. Fall season in the Muskoka is a magical time and place and it’s such a beautiful part of the province with great service and amenities, what else can a spoiled brat like me ask for?
Vacay.ca: How did this weekend come about?
Mooking: The resort reached out to my team and we came up with the programming for the event using their resources. Along the way we found ways to integrate some smoke and fire, bring some comfort food with hints of international flavours, and make it action packed for the guests.
Vacay.ca: What do you think of Muskoka? Have you worked in the area before, and if yes can you speak about the region?
Mooking: I’ve spent a little bit of time in the area but can’t profess to be a die hard cottager like some folks I know. I’m a lover of the outdoors though and love to go for walks in the woods and it’s even better if I don’t run into any bears. Hehehe.
Vacay.ca: Away from the business of running the retreat, do you plan to do anything fun in Muskoka?
Mooking: Well the weekend will keep me pretty busy with event preparations and execution but for the most part so I will see what I can get into with any free time I pull together, no idea right now though.
Vacay.ca: What’s next for Chef Mooking? Where can we expect to see you in the future? Perhaps a return trip to Deerhurst Resort? TV Shows? Books?
Mooking: Right now season 7 of Man Fire Food is airing on Food Network Canada. I’m constantly developing or creating something new but no one knows until it finally comes out, I like to create in a bubble and with as little distraction as possible. But lots coming up…promise.
Vacay.ca: Thank you for your time. Any last words or comments?
Mooking: Come to Deerhurst and have some fun!