When I was approached by the Cooking Channel to interview celebrity chef Roger Mooking, I thought his name sounded familiar.
Ah, I follow him on Instagram!
“Oh, you’re the one who posted on my Instagram about the interview,” Mooking said. “Yeah, you got those dogs.”
Hey, he follows me, too!
Mooking was in Hawaii a couple of months ago filming an episode for the Cooking Channel’s “Man Fire Food,” a show about the inventive ways people cook with fire. He met with chef Mark “Gooch” Noguchi (@musubman), who taught him how to prepare a traditional Hawaiian imu complete with lau lau, whole pig and the rest of the usual spread. He also hung with Scott Shibuya (pictured with Mooking above), owner of Guava Smoked, who smokes pork, chicken and turkey tails with guava and kiawe wood in a unique smoker he made out of an Air Force cargo container, an airplane food cart and a computer fan.
I got a chance to chat with the ridiculously busy Mooking — he’s also a father of three girls, a recording artist with a new album coming out in July and the host of two other shows, “Everyday Exotic” and “Heat Seekers” — on Monday. So I asked him these 5 Qs:
1. What’s with you and fire?
(laughs) As a young kid, I used to love fire. I used to play with it a lot, probably more than I should admit in some printed media. And here I am, still playing with fire.
2. This was your first time to Hawaii. What did you think?
You see all the classic tourist thing, the luau and the flowers and all that imagery. But when I got there, I got a more realistic sense of what (Hawaii) is. I met with Gooch and those guys and I was tapped right into the food community, but also the real community of Hawaii. When we did our imu, we didn’t go to a luau show with a bunch of tourists. We had a real imu, you know what I mean! I got a real sense of the people, how warm and welcoming everybody is. The sense of community and love for their island and where they’re at and sharing that with the rest of the world, sharing their love of food — I could sit with those kind of people all day.
3. What did you think of Scott and his smoker?
What a nice guy he is, huh? I love that he literally took us in his backyard and opened up his house to us. He took us in his backyard and showed us his smoker contraption that he salvaged from bits and pieces of jobs he’s had. Then we went with him to the KCC Farmer’s Market and got to experience that market in all its splendor. (His meat) was delicious. I was really intrigued to see how powerful the guava wood smoke would be.
4. What did you think of Hawaii’s version of rotisserie chicken?
We went to Koala Moa, which I found fascinating. First of all, you travel down the highway, then you pull into this thing that looks like a shipyard, not a restaurant, and there are all these trailers and industrial equipment out there. What is this place? Then they started to cook. They laid up the chickens and lit the fire under the trailer and did the whole thing. Over the years I’ve eaten a lot of chicken, but that chicken was just spectacular. Something so simple about it, but it was so delicious. The skin was crispy and crunchy. I got it fresh off the (grill). The meat was really tender and delicious. I kept going back and picking the skin off the racks. I must’ve said, ‘One more,’ like 20 times!
5. Did you eat anything else while you were in Hawaii?
The night we landed, we went to dinner at a Japanese restaurant that looked like a cowboy saloon. (Tokkuri-Tei.) Then we went to Leonard’s Bakery and had some of those malasadas … If I ever do a donut show, we’re coming back to do malasadas. (laughs) Because that shit is crazy!
“Man Fire Food” featuring Hawaii chefs and food producers airs June 10 on the Cooking Channel. Check your local listing for times.