Roger Mooking, host of the Cooking Channel’s Man Fire Food, turned a childhood quirk into a hit TV show.
“I had a healthy obsession with fire as a kid,” he says. “I continue to be interested in the ways people are cooking with fire.”
The newest season of Man Fire Food is now airing Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on the Cooking Channel and highlights the most unusual ways people cook with fire, from metal crosses over hot coals to custom-built trailers that can cook up to 600 pounds of meat.
Mooking talked with Parade about why he loves hosting the show and the next “it city” for barbecue.
What is Man Fire Food about?
The show is about satisfying people’s primal urge of cooking over fire. Sometimes we may be smoking pork butts or shoulders for pulled pork sandwiches. We may be doing barbecue of different types or a clam bake and lobster boil. Anything as long as we’re using live fire cooking, usually with wood or charcoal. It’s a pretty dynamic range and becoming increasingly popular.
What originally interested you about the concept, and what’s kept you interested for eight seasons?
I always had an overly healthy obsession with fire as a kid! I was telling that story to an executive one day and they were like, “Hey we have this idea for this fire show, that’s perfect!” So, it fell into place. I just continue to be interested in the people and contraptions and ways that people are cooking with fire. It continues to be interesting.
Where’s the coolest place you’ve traveled to while filming?
We’ve been fortunate to visit Puerto Rico before they were devastated by storms. We visited Hawaii a couple times before the lava hit there. We’ve traveled to Jamaica with this show, we’ve traveled all over the states. Right now, Nashville is this popping area, it’s doing what Portland was doing eight to 10 years ago. When we first started going to Nashville years ago, it wasn’t half of what it is now. It’s interesting to see the cities change as we go back to them year after year. It’s a never-ending trajectory of fire cooking.
You’ve been to so many places throughout the U.S. Do you think people cook with fire differently from region to region?
There’s still a regionality of cuisine. You go to Italy, and Sicily is different than Milan in terms of the food and the cuisine. I find that’s similar in many parts of America. You go to the Eastern part of Carolina versus the Southwestern part of Carolina, and they cook hogs differently. As we move around to different regions, I’ve started to see that blend more and more and those traditions and those rules are breaking a little bit here and there as people from different parts of the world come into the country.
The show doesn’t just show the food people cook, but also the way they cook. Did you come across any memorable equipment that people use to cook over fire?
There’s some cool ones. There’s one where we hang chickens around this Ferris wheel type of set up. We’ve done a couple of different versions of that. There’s these crosses where you stick a cross in the ground, and there’s some very rudimentary versions of that and more high-tech versions. There’s been contraptions that are several thousands of pounds where we put a whole cow on a grate. One time we even cooked with a woman [who used] a wood board with a pile of pine needles and just [cooked] mussels. There’s so many contraptions from the most rudimentary to the most high-tech.
What’s next for you?
I’m always doing 10 different jobs. I don’t like to tease what I’m doing—I just like to do it.