I’ve been around enough men to know that if there’s one thing they love, it’s the primordial instinct to put meat over fire.
I had that confirmed for me when I came across the show “Man Fire Food” on Cooking Channel, and I had it double-confirmed for me when I interviewed the show’s host, Roger Mooking. Even if you haven’t yet caught “Man Fire Food,” which is still a youngster as cooking shows go, you no doubt know Roger from “Everyday Exotic,” which is where I first saw him, or the popular “Heat Seekers” in which he and Aaron Sanchez travel around in search of the spiciest foods they can find.
So while Roger’s affinity for all things hot is well-established, I wanted the chance to talk with him one-on-one about his multi-faceted career, which is really taking off. (You thought I was going to say heating up, didn’t you? Get out of here.)
He’s a fascinating guy. He looks like he’s about 16, but a quick internet search tells me he’s in his early 30s. Born in Trinidad, currently living and working in Canada, an increasing presence on American food TV and now launching “Heat Seekers” in the UK and Africa all make a bio that’s impressive enough, but he’s also a Juno Award-winning musician who has shared the stage with, among others, James Brown, Celine Dion, The Marley Family, and Busta Rhymes. His debut album “Soul Food” is getting rave reviews from fans.
But back to food. Before I do any celebrity chef interview, I’m already familiar with their shows, and I’ve seen most episodes of “Man Fire Food” because I like Roger Mooking and I live with a man who is never happier than when he’s embracing his inner caveman.
“It’s all based on fire,” Roger told me. “If anyone’s building an interesting fire contraption and has a story to tell and good food to go with it, we’re there to cover it.”
“Man Fire Food” isn’t just another show about grilling. Well, it IS, but it’s way more than that. You won’t see Roger in his back yard, swabbing a rack of ribs with his secret-recipe sauce while the charcoal sizzles. This is bigger. Much bigger. We’re talking whole hog barbecue over a custom made pit that’s so big it opens with a cinder block pulley system, a rack that’s big enough to roast a 900-pound cow, a chuck wagon, even a fire truck that’s all tricked out with smokers. If men love grilling, this show will have them weeping. And if red meat isn’t your thing, you’ll be glad to know he also goes to a clambake in New England, and digs on some smoked salmon in the Northwest.
“We do cover regular barbecue and regular grilling, but it’s so much more than that,” Roger said. “We touch on so many different traditions.”
Grilling is crazy popular, and not one of those food fads that will fade away no matter how awesome it was (Yeah, I’m looking at you, fondue…). I asked Roger what it is about cooking food over fire that appeals to so many people, particularly men.
“It comes back to something that’s so primal and instinctive,” he said. “You build a fire and have friends over… there’s a community that’s built around the fire. It’s just primal to seek out fire. It’s a survival thing. We don’t rely on it so much anymore, but still it calls to us. And of course, from a sociological perspective, women kick men out of the kitchen. They want to feel a part of the house and all they have is backyard, so they make a fire. They cook meat.”
©2012 Ty Pott Christy Potter