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2Profle: Roger "Bass is Base" Mooking

Photograph of Roger Mooking.

Bring up '90s funk-soul Canadian band Bass is Base and their hit "Funkmobile," and most Gen Xers will recall the group with a flood of high school memories--including music by Cypress Hill, Busta Rhymes and TLC, all of whom Base opened shows for. So it may come as a surprise to learn that in the time since, one of the group's key players, rapper Roger Mooking (a.k.a. MC Mystic), has been steadily building a food empire.

After opening two restaurants in Toronto to much acclaim--Kultura and more recently Nyood (more are in the works)--Mooking is now starring in his own Food Network show, Everyday Exotic, which shows viewers how to make everyday meals with what might be considered unusual or foreign ingredients. "I will take papaya one day, and I'll show you how to make an everyday meal with it, but also something unique and special, like a papaya and watercress salad or a grilled chicken with a fresh papaya barbecue sauce," says Mooking. "Hopefully I can introduce some ingredients to people and expand their repertoire and pantries."

That's something Mooking knows a little something about, having grown up in his grandfather and father's restaurants in Trinidad and Bonaire. (His family moved to Edmonton when he was five years old.) "From three years old, I knew I wanted to be a chef," he says. "I started working in restaurants when I was 14, and I would take all my money and go to the recording studio. For me, recording was fun, something to do. And people said I was good at it."

This fall sees him returning to the radio with a new album (his first solo), Soul Food (Warner Music), which reunites him with Base members Ivana Santilli and Chin Injeti on songs. Fittingly, the album comes with an eight-page booklet featuring hand-scrawled recipes, which listeners can also access online in detail to try at home. "The chicken and herbs is simple, quick and delicious," says Mooking. "It's also a one-pan dish--a great time saver for busy lives."

Take it from him: A new show, album and baby girl, in addition to his 17-month-old daughter. How does Mooking manage? "It's a whirlwind," he admits. "I have great partners who oversee the restaurants. You build great teams in each project and let them do their work." When it comes to work-family balance, Mooking says it's a challenge. "My wife is fantastic. She's a great mother, wife, companion. I bounce every idea off her. And she has the patience of a monk." Still, he makes a special effort to be home for dinner--"It's important we eat together," he says--and he and his wife are adamant about taking their children everywhere with them. "I try to expose my eldest daughter to different foods, so everything we eat, she eats. If we're going to a fancy restaurant, she comes. So far, so good."