The Creationists

Creative Cooking with Roger Mooking

June 08, 2021 Steve Waxman Season 4 Episode 3
The Creationists
Creative Cooking with Roger Mooking
Chapters
The Creationists
Creative Cooking with Roger Mooking
Jun 08, 2021 Season 4 Episode 3
Steve Waxman

Not much in life beats the combination of music and food and both have been passions at the centre of Roger Mooking’s life. 

I first met Roger Mooking when he was a member of Bass is Bass and I worked at Warner Music Canada. Bass is Base was the hot independent hip hop group at the time and were being courted by all of the major labels. We didn’t sign the band but they did go on to enjoy a successful run of records before eventually splitting up with each member of the trio following alternative paths. I eventually worked on a solo music project with Roger but by then he had already become a star as a celebrity chef on the Food Network. The two of us sat down for a conversation about his career and the intersection of food and music in his life and we started at the beginning. 

If you want to know more about Roger, his music, restaurants, television shows and cook books, visit rogermooking.com

You can read a full transcript of the interview at imstevewaxman.com

Ratings and reviews always help us find new listeners and improve the pod.

Please follow The Creationists podcast on Facebook and Instagram. You can email us at [email protected]

The Creationists is mastered in post-production by Paul Farrant.

Show Notes Transcript

Not much in life beats the combination of music and food and both have been passions at the centre of Roger Mooking’s life. 

I first met Roger Mooking when he was a member of Bass is Bass and I worked at Warner Music Canada. Bass is Base was the hot independent hip hop group at the time and were being courted by all of the major labels. We didn’t sign the band but they did go on to enjoy a successful run of records before eventually splitting up with each member of the trio following alternative paths. I eventually worked on a solo music project with Roger but by then he had already become a star as a celebrity chef on the Food Network. The two of us sat down for a conversation about his career and the intersection of food and music in his life and we started at the beginning. 

If you want to know more about Roger, his music, restaurants, television shows and cook books, visit rogermooking.com

You can read a full transcript of the interview at imstevewaxman.com

Ratings and reviews always help us find new listeners and improve the pod.

Please follow The Creationists podcast on Facebook and Instagram. You can email us at [email protected]

The Creationists is mastered in post-production by Paul Farrant.

Not much in life beats the combination of music and food and both have been passions at the centre of Roger Mooking’s life. 

I first met Roger Mooking when he was a member of Bass is Bass and I worked at Warner Music Canada. Bass is Base was the hot independent hip hop group at the time and were being courted by all of the major labels. We didn’t sign the band but they did go on to enjoy a successful run of records before eventually splitting up with each member of the trio following alternative paths. I eventually worked on a solo music project with Roger but by then he had already become a star as a celebrity chef on the Food Network. The two of us sat down for a conversation about his career and the intersection of food and music in his life and we started at the beginning. 

* * *

Steve Waxman:  I'd like to start, if you could talk a little bit about how you got into how cooking became important to you. 

Roger Mooking:  Well, you know, when I was about three years old, you know, your parents or your aunts and uncles bug kids, 'What are you going to be when you grow up?' So, when I was three years old, I remember my aunt asking me "What are you going to do when you grow up," and without flinching I said I'm going to be a chef, right. And in context of this is her father, who is also my grandfather on that side of the family, my dad's side of the family, came from Guangdong province in China. After a long story ended up in Trinidad and then after a longer story opened restaurants, bakeries and stuff, right. So I'm now the third generation food and beverage person in my family so when I answered that I was going to be a chef, the context was well known in that household. She's like 'Are you sure you know what this is like, it's no joke,' you know, and I was just always really committed to it and I also realized that, I like food, you know, food was more than just a passing fancy for me from a very early age and I learned that the fastest way to get what I wanted in my mouth was to learn how to cook it and so I just started to learn how to cook it as soon as I could.

Steve Waxman:  So, look, I'm not sure how many people know, but I'm sure plenty do that, you know you had a music career as well. And I'm just wondering where the intersection happened. Did you go from cooking to music and then back to cooking? What happened here? 

Roger Mooking:  So what happened basically is I grew up in a household where there was always food and music.  Like I said my father comes from a generation of being around restaurants and bakeries and my grandfather owned a grocery store as well in the country so they came up in the food industry and he was born in Trinidad and then I was born in Trinidad and in Trinidad, it's like very musical culture. You know we had leftover oil bins and we invented the steel pan. You know some people had leftover oil bins and in Jamaica they made jerk pits. We made music out of the oil pans right, so it's very musical culture. My dad was an avid collector of records so I grew up hearing Roberta Flack, Nana Mouskouri, Jose Feliciano, Santana, The Beatles, Calypso music and then my brother was a DJ. When we moved to Edmonton my brother started DJing, and then Neil Hip Hop kind of broke out and I was listening to Grandmaster Flash and Nucleus and the Roxanne battles and then I started diving myself into NWA, Ice Cube, Public Enemy, Ice-T, all those things. So I kind of grew up in a household where we would be eating breakfast talking about dinner but in the background there was always this amazing music playing. They always had great records playing and mad cassette mixtapes and vinyl and we just loved music. And throwing  parties and I would be like the 10 year old kid on the dance floor with all the adults. I just loved music, you know, and then I'd go to the buffet table. So those worlds always intersect. Professionally, I guess when I was around 15-16, I started rapping and working in restaurants. So I would take all of my money from working in the restaurants and go to the local music store with my group, and we go rent a bunch of equipment like Alesis sequencers and mixers, microphones, we'd set up like blankets in the basement and create like vocal booths and we would just make beats and make records. And those records turned out to be JUNO nominated records coming out of the basement in my parents and my partner's basement in Edmonton. We won CMVA (Canadian Music Video Awards) awards off of those records in the basement like that but I was still working in and out of restaurants to finance that stuff with the group. So, I always had this world where I was intersecting with music and food and then the music really just took off and then the Bass Is Base thing happened that took off and all that crazy stuff. And then it's like, oh there's the music industry. As you know, you grew up in the music industry, it's a dirty business brother.  So I was like 'I don't like this business I like to make stuff but I don't like this business I'm out of this business,' right. So then I went to cooking school, you know, with my JUNO in tow and all that. I went to cooking school. I worked in restaurants full time while I was in cooking school. I did that whole thing and came out of that and I worked in hotels, catering companies, restaurants, and then started opening my own restaurants. But I was still making records. People would ask me to do the odd scoring mistake for a movie or come jump on his record and so I was always doing that stuff and making records always. And then, you know TV started cracking along with the restaurants and the music making and you know at that time I was putting out records with Warner still. So all these worlds just kind of intersected but it just started really naturally that I liked working in the restaurants, I was interested. I’d take that money and make records, you know, they always kind of been in tandem professionally.

Steve Waxman:  So at 15, what were you doing in the restaurant?

Roger Mooking:  Funny enough, I was doing a summer job with a family friend. They were contractors, and he didn't know what my capacity was. He was like, 'okay yo go demo this kitchen.' So he had me taking the tiles off the wall in the kitchen and right after about an hour he's like, 'Man you suck at this but I just built this restaurant. Let me go take you to this restaurant.' So he took me in the back door of this restaurant. And he's like, 'Yo, this is what a restaurant is like' you know and so I'm like 'Okay it's cool. It's cool.' After a while I just started hanging around there and then I would help out and next thing you know I had a job in the restaurant.

Steve Waxman:  But what were you doing in the restaurant?

Roger Mooking:  Oh well, I started out as a breakfast line cook man and I got really good, you know. At a certain point the manager realized that I could do the whole breakfast by myself. So I would come in at like 5:30 in the morning, set up the whole breakfast line. It's like a Denny's type of thing. It's Albert's restaurant in Alberta, which is like Denny's. It was a truck stop. It was just off the highway so it ended up being, effectively, a truck stop for all the truckers so we would get 200 people and I'd be banging out breakfast just by myself. The wheel is jammed and I'd clear the wheel and then they'd load the wheel again and I was the breakfast cook doing the whole line. And so I started out making omelets and pancakes and stuff like that and when I left that job they had to hire three people.

Steve Waxman:  As a young kid doing that kind of thing, what was it like? Did you feel the passion?

Roger Mooking:  Yeah, so you know I was in the kitchen and it was like the adrenaline rush of coming off a stage in a stadium. I was like mad young. I got so much testosterone, hormones running through my body, so much energy and it would just be so dynamic. Your mind is like ten steps ahead but you're still active doing what you're doing now and your brain is flexing like this, and you do eight hour, ten hour, twelve hour shift like that you are keyed up. It takes you hours to come down, to go to sleep again or just do whatever you got to do. So, yeah, I really liked the rush of it but you know it's very  physically demanding. It's like doing construction work or like being a wrestler.

Steve Waxman:  Are you doing anything unique at the time with regards to making the breakfast or were you just cracking eggs, and putting bacon on the grill and stuff like that? Are you bringing any of your Trinidadian roots to what you were making at all?

Roger Mooking:  Oh man, I was like a 15 year old line cook making $4.25 an hour. There was a prescribed menu. I had to bang out the menu, you know. It's like when you go to Smithies, you don't have the line cooks Trinidadian mother's recipe coming up the Smithies menu. You do what you got to do.which you've been told, right? 

Steve Waxman:  You know, while you're winning your JUNOs, while you were putting together these acts, during that time did you always have it in your mind that you were going to continue to try to become a professional chef?

Roger Mooking:  At that time I liked to cook just for fun. You know, I was basically kind of homeless in that era though too. I was living on my aunt's couch. I was living between Chin's (partner is Bass Is Base) mother's basement. You know, just real music life. If I wasn't on the tour bus I was at some girl's couch, Chin's couch, my aunt's couch. Basically, I didn't have an apartment for a long time. So I didn't really have the infrastructure to be able to just cook like that, you know. But I always loved cooking so I guess, maybe somehow, in the back of my head and I love when we went out to restaurants and the record company would take us out to nice restaurants and I can appreciate it differently.

Steve Waxman:  So at what point did you decide that you were going to go to cooking school, and where did you go to cooking school?

Roger Mooking:  I went to George Brown College, it's a culinary management school. It was maybe 1999 or something like that. I was like 'Yeah I'm gonna go do this cooking man. I'm good at cooking and I was always really passionate about it, interested about it at that time. I would just be like a weekend warrior on the grill and stuff like that for fun and so I was like 'Yo, let me really dive into this,' you know. I think this is the thing and this is before like Food Network was popping off and stuff like that even too.

Steve Waxman:  Did you have in your mind what it was that you wanted to focus your cooking on? Did you have an idea of doing a fusion or was it something you learned in cooking school? I mean, I don't actually know what you learn cooking school apart from, you know how to use your knives and what spices go together.

Roger Mooking:  Yeah, you don't even really learn necessarily what spices go together. You know there's an industry around cooking so they prepare you for the industry. And, at that time, the industry was get a degree, get your seal, and go work in a hotel because it's got better pay than the restaurants, and they got benefits. That was the model of the cooking school mode at that time. There were no food trucks, there were none of these global restaurants. You remember back in the late 90s, early, early 2000s, you go to a restaurant, it was like The Keg. There wasn't Pizza Libretto back then, you know what I mean? There were a few restaurants and it was. They had like three salads, a chef salad, house salad, Greek salad, and you get a chicken with some herbs and asparagus. That was restaurants back in late 90s, early 2000s for the most part, right, or steak houses. Right? So, it was a very different thing. But I did realize that there was more that I didn't know about cooking in the industry than what I did know. And so I was like, okay,  let me see what this school stuff has to pass to show me. So you know that kind of allows you the gateway to get the step into being able to go into a hotel and in catering companies but when you come out of cooking school you're essentially a glorified dishwasher.

Steve Waxman:  I understand that. You know one thing I'm curious about, though, is when you're in cooking school, I'm not sure how many people would be in a class, but can you identify the people that had skills versus the people that were, you know, just on the next step to wherever it was they were going to go somewhere else in the world?

Roger Mooking:  Yeah, for sure. There were maybe three or four of us in my class that were like 'Oh, yo, they got it,' or you know they would finish and be cleaned up and washed all the dishes and some people are still chopping vegetables. So, you know, there's a few of us like that in the class. I think of the people that graduated in my class the first year, half the people drop off in the second year. By the time we graduated, of the people still in the industry from my graduating class, I know of three, including me.

Steve Waxman:  Wow. And that's out of how many people do you figure?

Roger Mooking:  In my entire class, I don't know. In my class specifically there's maybe 40 but there were several of my classes right so maybe a couple 100 a year.

Steve Waxman:  So you graduate and then the first thing is going into hotels.

Roger Mooking:  Oh, what I do when I graduate - so when I was in school I worked full time at this restaurant called Verveine on Queen Street East at that time, Queen and Carlaw kind of area, right. So I was working full time and going to school full time. So I would get up at five in the morning, go to school, class was six, leave there, come to work for three, work till about 11 midnight, and repeat. I did that for two years, no days off, basically. So, when I came out of cooking school, I got another job and then I ended up in a hotel, so I was doing hotel for a minute. And then I did that for a while and then the people who I'd opened for Van were opening another restaurant. And so they came to me and they said "We know that you work hard, you've good ideas. You come to be the chef of this other restaurant." So that's how I got my first executive chef job at this restaurant called Barrio on Queen Street East as well. The Queen and Pape area.

Steve Waxman:  So when you say that they told you that you've got good ideas, what kind of ideas were you bringing to the table?

Roger Mooking:  Well they knew me from working in Verveine for a couple years while I was in cooking school. They just knew that I was thinking beyond just being a line cook. I was thinking about how do you build a business, asking the inquisitive questions. How do you put this together, real recipes as well as just operating operations. So they're like okay well this guy has got his head on and before long I was running their brunch shift and it was a fairly complicated bistro brunch menu. And I remember the time I came down, it was me and another guy named Michael who was on the line. Then breakfast just started, got really crazy. It was my first real shift running the breakfast, and I was running the wheel and I was running "Okay, this, this time in five minutes on this" boom, boom! And they're like who is this kid that just came out of school, like, what the hell he's like running the line right. And so they're like, okay, well this kid, he's on a different kind of plane with this shit, you know. So they kept that in mind and when they opened Barrio, I guess they figured that I had the capacity to do it and you know just my background and how I approach and think about food and culture and bringing those worlds together. They're like 'Okay, we think this fits, let's give it a shot.'

Steve Waxman:  So while you're working in these restaurants and you're basically cooking other people's recipes are you coming up with your own recipes at the same time? Are you thinking ahead a little bit about what a Roger Mooking menu would be?

Roger Mooking:  Yes and no. I mean to a certain degree I was there to learn and I was really appreciative of all that stuff and a lot of techniques but always it's like 'Oh yeah,' you know, you're kind of bubbling in the back thinking, 'Oh, I'll do this.' So on the weekend you practice something, you try and make something, just invent something, you know, create something and it turns into something good and you don't really know what it is. You know it's like, well it's not really a mille-feuille, it's not really a this, it's kind of this in between and so I just kind of built a world of making dishes that were kind of in between things that still tasted and look good and we're approachable and you can understand.

Steve Waxman:  When you were going to strike out on your own, is that opening up a restaurant or is striking out on your own building the persona of Roger Mooking the chef, or are they hand in hand?

Roger Mooking:  You know man when I went into cooking I went in with the resolve that I didn't want to be famous for anything ever again. I've been through that with the music industry and was like, I'm good without it. I've done that. It's cool, you know, I'm good. I just want a very anonymous simple life, go to work, cook my food, go home, sleep with my wife and do it again. As it turned out, where I started to build that was at Barrio, that job as executive chef that I had. And as it turned out it was around the corner from where Food Network used to produce television shows, and the main executives for the network used to come in like three, four times a week at that time they were launching the channel. And they were working just relentlessly, you know, so they weren't about to be going home and cooking every day so they would just come to the restaurant and eat. And I got to know them after a while. I didn't know who they were, I just knew them as Holly and Tanya. And about a year later they said "Hey, you know Roger, we're actually working for the Food Network and we work around the corner and we come here all the time and you're a personable dude and your food is good, you know, we're here all the time so you know we're trying to do some shows why don't you come and try some shows?" And, again, I just wanted an anonymous life, my brother. And so I reluctantly went, just out of courtesy to them, and did these like little audition things and, you know, long story short, just a few years later I opened my own restaurant and they showed up in the dining room again. And they were there like "Oh, I'm glad that stuff didn't work out before because we do it different now." And I'm like good, because back then it was bad. I wasn't having anything to do with it. And so we sat down again and now it was much more of a collaborative conversation and my mind was more prepared to decide that if I'm going to go down this road, I'd already kind of started building a persona as a chef, nationally, you know, if I'm going to go down that road I want to be able to control the environment, right. Because with the music industry, they chew you up and spit you out. So if I'm going to be chewing up and spitting out in the food world, I at least want it on my own conscience, right. So I said, "Look, I'll go down this road but I want to be part of the creative voice. I want to have a voice at the producer's table and make decisions." And so we figured out a way to do that and we launched the show Everyday Exotic and that started my TV food career as well.

Steve Waxman:  So you said that you were already building a national reputation of sorts, how did that happen?

Roger Mooking:  I opened this Barrio restaurant, there's magazines and stuff poking around and doing our little articles here and there. Then I opened this bigger restaurant and when we opened that restaurant, our launch party was a Toronto Film Fest party for Vince Vaughn. And as it turns out, we ended up on the cover of Hello Magazine because Vince Vaughn was coming out of the party with another girl and he was supposed to be dating Jennifer Aniston at the time or something like that, some craziness like that. So our restaurant got splashed all over the world, you know. And so people were like, 'What's this restaurant?' And so that kind of helped kind of catapult the next stages of things. And then just more press poking around and building like that and the show started popping off and I released Soul Food, that was my album with Coalition and Warner at the same time as launching Everyday Exotic, my first show. And so, all that stuff was happening simultaneously, you know.

Steve Waxman:  So how many shows have you done so far? I mean, There's Everyday Exotic, There's Man versus Fire, right?

Roger Mooking:  No. Everyday Exotic was the first one. We started that in Canada and sold that around the world to a bunch of countries. Then I did stuff like Iron Chef, Chopped, that kind of stuff and then I started working with America and then we did this show called Heatseekers with Aaron Sanchez. And then I did some more Chopped and then Chopped Canada and then The Best Thing I Ever Ate and all these specials and guest appearance kind of things. And then we launched Man, Fire, Food and we just wrapped up season nine. So it's been a bunch of different shows over the years.

Steve Waxman:  When you go to open up your own restaurant, this is the time that you get to put together a menu that is all you. So, do you have a concept in mind of what it is you want it to be and what kind of food is going to be on the menu from starters through to dessert?

Roger Mooking:  Well, I was practicing all that stuff at Barrio where I was Executive Chef, right. Really, that's where I formulated my style, I guess you could say.  And my whole thing was I just like to cook good food. I'm Trinidadian so I grew up eating western Indian food and cooking West Indian food. My grandfather's from China so I learned how to cook a lot of Chinese cuisine growing up and being around a lot of that. I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, so there is a heavy Ukrainian influence so I'd come home and my mother would have some Ukrainian Babka in the kitchen. So I learned all of that kind of stuff. Going through restaurants, I learned a whole bunch of stuff. So I would make dishes, kind of a mash up of a whole bunch of stuff. And they just tasted good. They looked simple, tasted good, were approachable and were tasty you know. So I kind of started that all out of Barrio and that was the first crack at doing that and that's really what it was. I realized that, where music was a vessel to be able to express emotion, thoughts, ideas, in a way that brought the world together, universally food could also have a unique capacity to do that as well in culture. So food has always just been a tool to express a greater thought, you know, mashing up cultures. Bringing people and cultures together through food and then bringing them all at the table, everybody from different parts of the world together at the table, because they see their food represented at the table in a small way, so they may approach it and all of a sudden they're sitting next to this Chinese person, this black person and that was the environment, right. And so, food was always the tool to tell that story and that's always been and that still is my mission to this day.

Steve Waxman:  Well I want to delve into the creativity of creating a dish. If we can maybe walk through creating a recipe. What would you consider a signature dish for you?

Roger Mooking:  Over my career there have been several but I mean right now we do this dish Twist Fried Chicken at Twist. I have a restaurant at (Toronto's) Pearson International Airport and we do this Twist Fried Chicken and it really fuses like five, six different cultures and techniques of fried chicken.

Steve Waxman:  Let's start with the idea.

Roger Mooking:  Okay, so you know when you're formulating a menu, and in the Twist menu specifically...Okay, let me step back. If I open a steakhouse, I can pretty much quantify the demographic of the patrons of that steakhouse to a very narrow parameter. And so I create my steaks and the offerings on that menu, and then you as a marketing person understand that you pinpoint the market, and you tell that story to that market very specifically. And you know, generally, the customers that come in and use your establishment will be within this narrow bandwidth. In an airport, it's not like that. In an airport I have every dietary restriction, every age from one years old to 101 years old, with every health condition, every capacity of their stomach, every variable for feeding a person coming to the airport. So how do I devise a menu, conceptually, that will satisfy a broad range of people, but not have 600 items on the menu because it still has to be efficient and functional within 3500 square feet. There's a finite form factor, right? So in doing that I had to kind of create a model of how I wanted to do that and we came up with this model called mix and match menu. So the mix and match menu was the concept of you get your main fried chicken but then you could also add on a this, a this and a this if you are celiac. But, if you're not celiac, you could get this and this and this with it. Or, if I'm vegetarian, I'm not gonna have the fried chicken but I love this braised tofu thing, but I can have a high starch diet at the same time so right now, if I'm a bodybuilder, I can add rice to this, I could add potatoes to it and I could add macaroni and cheese to it, or I could add sauteed spinach to it and broccolini too. So it allowed us to have a very broad capacity of service within a very limited menu framework, so first I start there. Then, as you do that, okay there's 10 items on a menu like that.  I need a chicken dish. I need a beef dish. I like a pork dish. I like an array of vegetable dishes, some starch dishes. And so when I was like okay what's the chicken dishes, I want a grilled chicken dish and I want a fried chicken dish because everybody loves some kind of crunchy something right. And most people who like chicken love fried chicken. So that kind of was the jumping off point. It's like, okay, if I'm going to make this for chicken consumers, there'll be the grilled option for the healthier people and the fried chicken for the debaucherous ones or the ones who are healthy but want to be debaucherous because they're going on vacation. So I decided it was gonna be fried chicken, but how am I going to do the fried chicken, that's really what the question was. How do I make it deliver on the brand promise?

Steve Waxman:  So, how do you do that?

Roger Mooking:  Okay. So, fried chicken. So I looked at what is the best fried chicken I have had in my life. Some of the best fried chicken I had in my life is in the south and in Japan and in Southeast Asia.

Steve Waxman:  Really? 

Roger Mooking:  Yeah, incredible. They make fried chicken gangster like karate chicken, fried chicken. You go to Japanese restaurant, it's fried chicken and fried chicken nuggets. But there were flavor touchpoints and at Twist we trade global cuisine, North American comfort food with a global twist, that's the brand, right. So, I knew I wanted fried chicken. So I know that one of the tenements of it was marinating that chicken in buttermilk. I'll tell you that secret, we marinate that thing and seasoned buttermilk for 24 hours just like they do in the south. That's what they do. Okay. Then in the south, what they do is they dredge it in flour. Often seasoned flour. What we do, over much trial and error, I came up with a mix of three different ingredients that make up our dredge.

Steve Waxman:  (laughing) The Colonel's secret recipe. 

Roger Mooking:  Yeah, that's one of the secret parts of it right. And we season the buttermilk with some stuff and soak it 24 hours, chicken thighs and breasts, so you get a thigh and a breast right. So if you're sharing, because the menu is also designed to share, you know, if you like the breast and my girlfriend likes the thigh, then we can fight over who gets that and then you can order your other array of accoutrements to go with whatever your dietary needs are. So I created this dredge again over much trial and error, this dredge of three different ingredients, so those allow me to have an extra crunchy last, extra crunchy for a longer period of time, and give it a little extra texture, right, and still protect the chicken so the juiciness of the chicken is retained inside of the meat. So, when you bite into it it's super crunchy and it stays super crunchy. But when you bite through it, it’s bursting in juice. And to the bone, it's seasoned like it's tasty to the bone. Okay, so that's how we do it, we fry the chicken like that and we do it to order.  And you got to imagine all of a sudden a flight gets canceled and you have 200 vouchers at your door, man, people order fried chicken like we do it to order so when an order comes in, we pull it out the marinade, we dredge it and fry it for 12 minutes, every single time. We have one fryer dedicated to only frying chicken. So we do that, but now, how do we add the layers of the culture to it? So I'm a fan of Japanese togarashi spice mix so we make our own Japanese togarashi spice mix so when it comes out and it's still hot and wet, we dash it with the togarashi spice mix and we put that on a plate. Then we take a very Chinese concept of frying herbes on mass. So you go to some parts of China and what they'll do is they'll have like a stew or some kind of grilled food, and they'll take a handful of fried herbes, whether it's basil or cilantro or whatever, a handful of it and pile it on top so you don't even see the food you just see this pile of herbes. And you kind of with go through it, and the herbes crack on top of it so it adds crunch and texture and it cracks, and as you dive into it, you get the fried herb flavor and the crunchiness of that thing with the braised food or your pork belly, whatever it is, and you get in and it starts to dress it and contribute to the stew of it. So I took that concept and I fry a few basil leaves and we placed that on top of the two pieces of chicken that have been dredged in the togarashi spice mix. Beside that, you get a vessel of a dip. It's like a lime aioli, like a lime mayo. So the concept is you break into the chicken, it breaks the basil, the basil cracks onto the chicken, super crunchy, super tender and moist and juicy on the inside, it has the spice mix of the togarashi on the exterior of that, you dip it in the lime mayo so you get a nice creaminess, but also the zing of the citrus that cuts through all the fat, and then you dip on the broken basil, and it kind of sticks to it, so you get this bite. It presents very simple, it's just fried chicken with some red stuff with dust on it, some basil on top of that and then a little vessel on the side and presents very very simple. But when you cut into it, and you take it, you dip it and you get the basil back on there, the complexity of the flavor is incredible. You get the fried basil, you get the togarashi spice, the crunch on the exterior of the chicken, the super juiciness on the inside that's seasoned down to the bone, the zing of the citrus, and the creaminess of the mayo in one bite in a very simple package. So as a customer, you know, fried chicken. You've had fried chicken before. You know fried chicken, you like fried chicken. So you're gonna get fried chicken, but we're gonna give you something that's a little bit unexpected and a new experience around the fried chicken that's like, Oh, Okay. Dang. That's what's up. So we have a lot of customers say that's the best fried chicken I've had in my life. Right. But that's cumulative knowledge of traveling the world and going to the south, going to Japan, going to Southeast Asia and seeing how that's done, growing up in my family and being multicultural. We are and trying to bring all those things together in a very familiar approachable package.

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If you want to know more about Roger, his music, restaurants, television shows and cook books, visit rogermooking.com