Celebrity Chef Roger Mooking is no stranger in the culinary world here in Canada and internationally. He is considered one of the hottest chefs in Canada today, creating some of the most innovative dishes around. Aptly, his restaurant, located in Toronto’s Pearson Airport, is called Twist.
You may also recognize Mooking as a resident chef judges on Food Network’s heart-pumping hit show, Chopped Canada. The new season kicks off on October 16 with a Juniors’ special—just one of the specials worked into this new season. Other specials include a competition against the chef judges, firefighters, grandmothers and celebrities!
I had a chance to chat with Roger Mooking about what meal times are like for his family around the holidays.
As a father of an ‘army of daughters’ (as he describes on his website), Mooking encourages his own kids to be more adventurous eaters. I met him at a food event in Toronto last year and had a chat about the best ways to expand palates of our young ones. We agreed that offering variety and the ‘try everything’ attitude would hopefully lead to going beyond the expected kids dishes. It may not always work but that doesn’t mean to give up…so far so good.
SD: Do you have any Thanksgiving traditions with your family?
RM: We have some cousins and family around and we do an annual pot luck dinner at our house. We just hang out, joke, share family gossip and all the kids play so hard they sweat. Blessings.
SD: What are your favourite side dishes this time of year?
RM: Braised greens, root vegetables, garlicky buttery mashed potatoes, flan,… is ‘leftover turkey sandwich’ a side dish?
SD: What dishes have you made for your kids that they happily gobbled up, and what don’t they like?
RM: I honestly don’t remember because I don’t cook the same thing twice for these dinners.
SD: What are your must-have items in the pantry?
RM: A variety of salts, an array of oils, black peppercorns, and all kinds of spices at all times.
SD: Favourite spice (or ingredient) that doesn’t get enough attention?
RM: For spices i would say coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, all spice… for other ingredients I would say lots of citrus.
SD: Speaking of kids, we understand that there will be a Junior Chefs special this season. Can you give us a hint of what to expect?
RM: Some shockingly young culinary minds out there. I’m still recovering from the shock.
SD: How hard was it to judge kids? What did you have to keep in mind?
RM: It was like when Luke realized he was the son of Vader, the same type of shock. Do you take a gentle approach and keep hope alive or do you take the hard line and live with the guilt?
SD: How do you keep inspired in the kitchen?
RM: I love this! I don’t need to work to keep being inspired. It’s pure love.
SD: Any advice to get kids to expand their palates beyond mac n’ cheese and pizza?
RM: Don’t feed ‘em mac ‘n cheese and pizza. Kids in the rural villages of Cambodia don’t beg for mac ‘n cheese.
- For the Tomato Olive Salsa
- 2 mini cucumbers, julienned (keep aside)
- 3/4 cup sliced tomatoes
- 3 large green olives, diced
- 1 Tbsp finely diced red onion
- 2 Tbsp diced bell pepper
- 1 Tbsp loosely packed and thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
- 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
- 1/8 tsp kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1/2 lime, juiced
- For the tacos
- 2 cups shredded leftover turkey meat, reheated
- 12 small tortillas
- 4 tsp mayonnaise
- 1/4 tsp chipotle in Adobo
- Kosher salt to season
Prep and Cook
- 1Combine all salsa ingredients except the cucumbers and set aside for 10 minutes.
- 2In a separate bowl, combine mayonnaise and chipotle. Spread mayonnaise mix inside each tortilla. Divide turkey meat among the tortillas, followed by julienned cucumber.
- 3Sprinkle josher salt over the cucumbers and top with salsa.
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This recipe is terrific for lunches - or snacks, of course! They have lots of apples - shredded, with the skin on - so they're quick and easy - no peeling.