Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cooking Channel's Roger Mooking Talks Food and Kids

Roger Mooking of "Everyday Exotic" on the Cooking Channel.

There's a new chef in Cooking Channel's kitchen, and he's ready to treat your kids' palates to new flavors and ingredients.

Roger Mooking, host of the channel's "Everyday Exotic" and father of two little girls (ages 2 and 3), mixes unconventional ingredients into traditional meals to show audiences that it can be done -- and without all that crazy fear.

Mooking, who is also a musician ("Soul Food") and Executive Chef/Co-Owner of Kultura Social Dining and Nyood Restaurant in Toronto, will be rolling into town Labor Day weekend, first to visit Taste of Beverly Hills on Sept. 4 and then the Los Angeles Times Celebration of Food & Wine on Sept. 5.

He will be joining fellow Cooking Channel chef Aida Mollenkamp ("FoodCrafters") on the channel's Ice Cream Truck and scooping out gratis samples of L.A.'s Carmela Ice Cream.

I had the chance to talk to Mooking about his show and how he gets his girls to try new things -- things like lychee and coriander.

His main advice was: Repetition. That, and making it fun for the kiddos.

L.A. Story: What inspired you to create "Everyday Exotic"?

Roger Mooking:
We had really always focused on, with our kids, teaching them one new ingredient a week. And it takes a little time for kids. Sometimes they’ll try it, they don’t like it. The next day they love it. The next day, they don’t like it. But they need to have the repetition of it to decide whether they like it or not. So we just tried to introduce new ingredients to them all the time. So one day it was lychee, the other day might have been coriander.

Funnily enough, one of my daughters, she is crazy, crazy, crazy into trying everything. She’ll try anything you put in front of her. Usually she loves it. And the other one, although we did the same thing with her, she’s really picky. She only likes soft, mushy things. She doesn’t like too many flavors.

(The show) was born of a situation like that. It’s important to expand people’s understanding of food and demystify some of those ingredients. I think a lot of times people pick up these ingredients and they look at it and they go, 'I don’t know what to do with it.' We’re trying to break down the barrier and introduce it in something that’s already very familiar. It’s a gateway show. Once you go through, you’re like, 'Oh wow, there’s so much opportunity.' And hopefully it inspires you to do new things.

L.A. Story: What are some of your tips for introducing kids to new foods?

Roger Mooking:
There’s repetition, but also, a lot of ingredients come in different forms. So one week we were on coconuts. We got some fresh coconut, we tried that with fruit salad. That worked well. We tried coconut milk, and we took coconut milk and made pudding, like a Jell-O with it just using gelatin. And that was simple, and they really liked that because they like mango tofu and stuff like that.

Another thing with coconut is that we cooked rice with it and made coconut milk rice. So they get the coconut in different ways. They might not like it fresh, or they might not like it shredded. They may like the flavor but just in a different form. We tried different forms of the ingredient.

L.A. Story: Have you had fun traveling the country in the ice cream truck?

Roger Mooking:
The ice-cream truck is crazy. It’s so much fun. Imagine you come into a town and somebody’s giving you free ice cream. Already you’re in a good mood. We get a lot of people who are watching the shows and the channel, it’s good to touch down with those people. We give away ice cream. Everybody has a good time.

L.A. Story: Do you have favorite city that you’ve visited or a fun experience?

Roger Mooking:
Each one is really interesting, but in Atlantic City, we were right on the boardwalk. We also videotaped a lot of stuff for the Cooking Channel blog that will be coming out soon. And we just had jokes on the boardwalk, and we captured a lot of funny video, so you’ll start seeing a lot of that stuff landing as well.

Catch Roger Mooking on Cooking Channel show "Everyday Exotic." And check out the channel's website at:

(Images courtesy of the Cooking Channel.)

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