‘Man Fire Food’ host Mooking has a burning passion for barbecue
Ask Roger Mooking of “Man Fire Food” what initially inspired his love of barbecue and he will give a surprisingly candid answer.
“I used to love fire and playing with fire and luckily I had no major accidents with fire,” he says with a laugh. “... You know, I think that’s just a primal human instinct to be enamored with the fire and being around it . ... I just had this affinity with it growing up and when I started to cook and kind of went through regular traditional restaurants and kitchens and catering companies and hotels, you’re kind of like yearning to see like what else can we do with cooking and then the live fire thing, I kind of reached back to my history of just loving fire and started diving into that. And next thing you know, I’m traveling around eating all this fire-cooked food.”
Now in its eighth season Wednesdays on Cooking Channel, the series finds Mooking, an accomplished chef, restaurateur, musician and cookbook author, traveling the country searching for more people who cook with fire, the contraptions they use and the dishes they create with them. This season’s episodes focus more on global cuisines and take Mooking to such locales as New Orleans, Bakersfield, Calif., and stops throughout Texas to see how people are putting their own spins on international foods through barbecue.
That was evident in last week’s episode in Houston, where a Japanese favorite got a Texas touch.
“What we did is we smoked a brisket and we made some sushi from nigiri with smoked brisket on top of it,” he explains. “It was really good . ... The rice has the kind of sweet and the tang and the soft texture and the brisket is soft and fatty and smoky and there are spices on there as well. So you get a full bang in one bite.”
Houston, which has a large Vietnamese population, was also where Mooking got to try one local’s interpretation of pho, a traditional soup.
“It’s a smoked brisket pho,” he says, “so Vietnamese soup with the noodles, the whole thing, a really delicious broth that’s a recipe that he learned from his mother and he puts smoked brisket on top of it as well. So again, really simple and you’d think that somebody would have done that before because a lot of pho comes with brisket but this smoked thing just added a whole other layer to it and it was a real Texas-style brisket.”
“So it was the Texas thing and the Vietnamese thing all coming together with an old family recipe and it just made sense,” he continues, “And it was a beautiful thing.”