Celebrity Travel: Go Away With Roger Mooking
Once best known as MC Mystic in his group Bass is Base, Roger Mooking is recognized by foodies worldwide for his work on television ("Man Fire Food," "Heat Seekers," "Everyday Exotic") and cookbooks. Born in Trinidad and raised in Canada, Mooking is based out of Toronto. The chef and restaurateur says that one of the small pleasures of life is finding ice cream and gelato spots wherever he travels. "I would eat ice cream every single day and after every single meal if I could get away with it, says Mooking, whose latest album is "Eat Your Words." Fans may stay in touch with him via Twitter (https://twitter.com/RogerMooking), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/RogerMooking/) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/rogermooking/).
Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?
A. When my family moved to Canada when I was five years old, we spent a few months traveling the country end to end by train. I recall this trip vividly. I would wander off to the kitchen car, because the staff used to give me free food. My parents soon learned that when I suddenly disappeared on the train, I could always be found in the kitchen hanging out with the cooks. The cabin crew got to know me pretty well and before long I had a train hat, uniform, pin and was basically unofficially working there. I don't remember much else about the cities we saw, but I will never forget that train.
Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. My grandfather is from a small village in China. It's actually a village of all Moos -- my (real) family name is Moo. The Moos are from the Hakka tribe, which are a nomadic tribe in China, so traveling is in my blood. It is a village of signature round houses and my name is in a book in the main round house in the village. My dad has been there and saw the house his father was born in. It was a very small, single-room stone house. It is my dream to go there with my family.
Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia is one of my favorite places on the planet. Some of our most memorable adventures have been to Tokyo and Kyoto (Japan), Milan and Bologna (Italy), Paris and Bangladesh. Each place has its own unique fashion, food, architecture, social dynamics and energy. We go with very few plans. Once we settle in, we pick a direction and walk for hours in one direction and usually end up running into the things people seek out, as well as others you would never find if looking at those guidebooks exclusively.
Q. What are your five favorite cities?
A. Kuala Lumpur, New Orleans, Tokyo, Paris, Toronto.
Q. What is your suggestion for people who may be a little timid about traveling to a new destination?
A. Like with any new adventure, I always like to walk around as much as possible and try to talk to some local who appears to be in the know. I find striking up a conversation in a coffee shop, at a checkout counter while shopping or just speaking to the people next to you at a restaurant can end up being the best concierge known to humanity. In Tokyo, we struck up a conversation with the people sitting next to us at the bar counter after a great meal and before you know it we found some new friends who kept DM'ing us reams of local hotspots and good vibes. Talk to people and you never know what you will unearth.
Q. Where have you eaten a meal so amazing that you'd go there again if you had the time?
A. In Phnom Penh, we went out for an incredible spread of local Cambodian food. The spread filled the table with about two dozen different dishes all plattered up for a family meal. I love vegetables and the majority of the dishes were stewed, steamed and braised vegetables of all kinds, scattered with a healthy balance of warmly spiced meat dishes. Every Cambodian meal is served with rice and a meat broth, so with every bite you can cleanse your palate and wash down the last bite with a clear super flavorful broth. That meal in Cambodia is one of the best meals I've had in my life.
Q. Where is the most romantic destination?
A. OK, my wife had a childhood dream to visit Paris, and we made that a reality a few years back. I went into that trip solely to make my wife's dream come true and went in with a bit of a chip on my shoulder about it. But there is something truly magnificent about Paris, the smooth cadence of the local French, the flippant yet helpful manner toward tourists and the overall ambiance and architecture. I left Paris with my chip sufficiently and rightly knocked off and in love with the city. Paris is truly special.
Q. If you've ever gone away for the holidays, which was the best trip?
A. When I was in my teens, my grandmother and I went back to Trinidad for a couple of weeks. I have very fond memories of my grandmother and especially of this trip, seeing her back in her element and hanging out with friends that I only previously heard stories about. I also took a short weekend trip with my cousin and his wife to Caracas, Venezuela, during this trip and that is when I discovered my love of arepas.
Q. What untapped destination should people know about?
A. Kuala Lumpur is a magical place. It's tropical and humid with the benefits of all the bustling commercial hub and cosmopolitan amenities. It also has a very raw gritty feel that reminds me of New York City a few decades ago, before all the big box stores took over Manhattan. There is also a very unique blend of Indian, Chinese, Thai and local Malay cultures and cuisines in a way that I have never seen in any other part of the world.
(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow "Go Away With..." on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)(c) 2019 DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.