Roger Mooking: The Man Behind the Fire and Food

We grilled Man Fire Food host Roger Mooking about his best cooking tips, favorite dinner tracks, guilty pleasures and more.

What's the craziest thing you've ever seen cooked with fire?
In Season 1 of Man Fire Food, we filmed a bunch of philanthropic entrepreneurs cooking an entire cow over an open fire. The scale of the spectacle and the madness of the personalities contributed to the crazy in equal measure.

What's the most-important thing to remember when grilling?
Don't burn down your backyard.

Do you think being a musician has helped you in the kitchen at all?
Definitely. Music trains my brain to appreciate the nuances, the space, and to appreciate that the best things happen when you leave your comfort zone and explore new things. Years of playing live onstage and in the studio creating music are embedded in my DNA and have permeated all aspects of my life.

What's on your dinner party playlist?
Last week we held a Hawaiian-themed party for my daughter’s birthday, so it was all about luau classics. It was a lot of fun.

How about your cooking playlist?
Today, it was [The] College Dropout by Kanye West. This changes often, though.

You post a lot of #CookingTips on your Facebook page. What's your favorite cooking tip?
Never underestimate the power of your hands as the best kitchen tool. They are also free.

What's your favorite culinary destination?
The one I haven't been to yet. I have yet to hit Spain, Vietnam, Istanbul, Morocco, Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Israel ...

Have you ever tasted anything that was too spicy?
Yes, many times, and often while doing Heat Seekers with Aarón Sánchez. The most devastating was a soup in Florida that was basically a half a bowl of pureed chilies with some broth and a little noodles; the noodles were there for comedy, I think.

What's a spice or seasoning that most people don't utilize enough?
Salt. One of my pet peeves is underseasoned food at a restaurant. Restaurants spend all this time preparing the dish and then forget the most critical step, seasoning. It can make or break a dish easily.

If it were up to you, what would be the next big dining trend?
Airport food. See and you will understand. Hehehe.

You once said you never cook the same thing twice. If you had to cook‎ something again, what would it be?
I make these biscuits for my daughters by the truckload, it seems. We are always running out of biscuits, and I can't fill up the freezer with them fast enough. This is the one thing I make over and over and over and over and over and over ... again.

How do you get your kids to be adventurous eaters?
We buy one new thing every time we go to the grocery, which is often, with four kids. They are enlisted to try it with the rest of the family, and hopefully this has helped to develop their palate and appreciation for flavors. It doesn't always work, but one day they will appreciate this ... hopefully. A couple of them appreciate it more than the others.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure food?
Red-box Pringles. Homemade banana ice cream. A properly cooked Texas-style brisket. Double In-N-Out Burger with Cheese, Animal Style. An extremely buttery naan bread. Pig tail in a pelau (a classic Trini dish).

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