As one of Canada’s most recognizable chefs, Roger Mooking has built a reputation on celebrating and creating globally inspired cuisine. Currently serving as a judge on Food Network’s Chopped Canada, and as executive chef of the newly opened Twist by Roger Mooking at Toronto Pearson International Airport, he has plenty of insight into Canada’s current culinary scene and where to eat in Toronto right now.
What do you find exciting about Canada’s culinary scene these days?
[I love that] using the best-quality ingredients is now the norm in more restaurants here. Even the big-brand chain restaurants are changing their entire ecosystems to stay relevant. Also, Canada is really embracing its developing diversity. Canadian cuisine is moving beyond poutine and maple syrup by looking to traditional First Nations foods, foraged Northern ingredients and all the amazing ingredients and styles that come from every corner of the world.
Tell us about Twist by Roger Mooking. Why the airport, and why now?
When the opportunity to bring a high level of food quality to Pearson International presented itself, the challenge was just too compelling to pass up. Throughout my career I’ve done catering, hotels, theatres, lounges, sharing plates, quick-service casual, fine dining and resorts, but I had not yet had the chance to do an airport project. New experiences are what I thrive on. My goal with Twist is to highlight the diversity and flavours of Toronto, right inside the airport.
If you could eat only one item from your menu at Twist, what dish would that be?
The Twist menu is “mix-and-match” style, designed so our diners can satisfy any dietary whim. So, I would have to order a few things to build my own adventure. The roasted fish, lightly wilted spinach and brown rice are my favourite trio of dishes. Ask me tomorrow and you may get a totally different answer.
Roger Mooking’s Guide To Toronto Eats
For Brunch “[Try the] brunch buffet at Montecito. This place is dedicated to making an array of dishes that work well together, served in the most inviting way.”
For Indian “Lahore Tikka House in Little India. I go for the fried fish, saag (spinach), naan, kabobs and a mango lassi.”
Worth the Splurge “Nota Bene is still one of my favourite restaurants in the city. I appreciate the craftsmanship and adventure in the flavours and techniques.”
For Indonesian fare “Try Little Sister Indonesian Food Bar. The food is delicious and the flavours are spot on. Have one of everything.”
For Spanish tapas “Stuart Cameron at Patria is a wildly talented chef. I love his patatas bravas and Iberico ham selection.”
For great roti “Ali’s Roti Shop in Parkdale is the closest I can get to eating a roti in Trinidad, which is my birthplace. Oxtail soup, chicken roti, doubles and mauby—these are some of my comfort foods.”
Chef Insider: Normand Laprise
These days, chef Normand Laprise of Montreal’s lauded Toqué! restaurant is a familiar figure on the international culinary scene. In the past two years alone his cookbook won a James Beard Award, he was a guest judge on Top Chef Canada, he received the Order of Canada, and he was invited to join Les Grandes Tables Du Monde, France’s elite circle of international chefs.