For the first time, Roger Mooking is sharing his personal truth in Behind the Curtain*. In conversation with award-winning alternative hip-hop recording artist and broadcaster Shad, and a prominent producer and multidisciplinary artist Byron Kent Wong, Roger reflects on the effects of racism on mental health and shares untold stories of his experiences growing up in the Prairies and working in the American South. The conversation includes how food, art and music helped him on his journey. Behind the Curtain is filmed at Montgomery’s Inn.

Behind the Curtain – Part One

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Behind the Curtain – Part Two


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Roger Mooking is a Trinidadian-born, Canadian-raised chef, restaurateur, TV Host, author and award-winning recording artist. Roger‘s multi-faceted career is inspired by his culturally rich family background and his love of people, art and travel. As a Food Network and Cooking Channel Host for over a dozen years, Roger brings his charismatic energy to such international hits as “Man Fire Food”, “Man’s Greatest Food”, “Everyday Exotic”, “Heat Seekers” and as a judge on “Chopped and Chopped Canada”.

Shad is a Canadian Juno Award-winning rapper with five solo albums under his belt, one retro pop-rock side project, a Master’s degree and numerous accolades. In addition to his achievements in music, Shad has elevated his practice by emerging as a vital broadcaster. After hosting CBC Radio’s Q, he went on to host the Hip-Hop Evolution docuseries, whose 2016 season on HBO Canada earned both a Peabody Award and an International Emmy Award.

Byron Kent Wong is a multidisciplinary artist, musician, creative director and story teller. He founded ZERO11ZERO on the belief that artistic meaning is defined by the process and journey, not just the destination. He has worked on projects with HBO, David Bowie, Barack Obama, The Seattle Art Museum, Nike and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. As an Emmy-nominated creator, he leads new developments and processes for education, globally-renowned film, broadcast, music and digital event spaces.

Awakenings Reflections

Roger collaborates with award-winning producer Byron Wong on a series of eye-opening interviews with mental health experts, social justice advocates, cultural leaders and culinary peers. In these candid conversations he further explores the impacts of historical racism on mental health and communities. These discussions take into consideration the current landscape of the world and possibilities for the future.

As we navigate these historic times, Roger Mooking sits down with Dr. Eileen de Villa, the City of Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, along with Dr. Roberta Timothy, Stachen Frederick and Dr. Suzanne Shoush, health professionals from diverse professional and cultural backgrounds.  They discuss the realities of our circumstances, how we got here, what we need to know, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected Black, Indigenous and people of colour differently. The conversation highlights issues such as trauma, inequity, transmission and wellness from a mental, physical and emotional standpoint while imagining what a healthy future can look like. By acknowledging mistrust, we can begin to build new bridges with communities and work together to save lives. Join Roger for this real talk about living through, and beyond, the pandemic.

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Dr. Eileen de Villa is the Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto. Dr. de Villa leads Toronto Public Health, Canada’s largest local public health agency, which provides public health programs and services to 2.9 million residents. Prior to joining Toronto Public Health, Dr. de Villa served as the Medical Officer of Health for the Region of Peel serving 1.4 million residents. Dr. de Villa received her degrees as Doctor of Medicine and Master of Health Science (MHSc Health Promotion) from the University of Toronto and holds a Master of Business Administration from the Schulich School of Business.

Dr. Roberta Timothy is an Assistant Professor in the teaching stream, and is the new Director of Health Promotion at Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, and an Adjunct Professor in Critical Disability studies at York University. She specializes in the areas of Black health; intersectionality, violence, and ethics in health work; health and racism; art-based methodologies; transnational Indigenous health; and anti-oppression/anti-colonial approaches to mental health. She is currently working on Black Health Matters project.

Stachen Frederick has been named by the Women Executive Network as one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women and is recipient of numerous awards. She is the founder of BrAIDS for AIDS, a not-for-profit organization to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in the African, Caribbean and Black Communities in Canada and around the world. Additionally, she is the executive director of Weston Frontlines Centre, a youth charity in Toronto.

Dr. Suzanne Shoush is an Indigenous/Black physician and mother who lives and works in Toronto’s downtown core where she has spent more than a decade working in the City of Toronto’s shelter system. She is the Indigenous Health Faculty Lead for the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto, and a co-founder of Doctors for Defunding Police. Dr. Shoush is actively involved in the COVID-19 pandemic response for people experiencing homelessness.

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Dr. Kamala Uzzell is a national board-certified, licensed clinical mental health counselor. She is the Founder of SOLAY Counseling & Consulting, P.C. In addition to being a practicing psychotherapist, Dr. Uzzell is an adjunct professor and Senior Consultant of Search Assessment. She regularly serves as a subject matter speaker and has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) as a guest therapist on the television show Unfaithful: Stories of Betrayal.

Julien Christian Lutz pka Director X is an award-winning Canadian film and music video director born and raised in Toronto. He’s directed videos for popular artists like Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Rihanna. He is a vocal advocate against gun violence and co-founder, director, and executive producer of Operation Prefrontal Cortex, a community partnership and a resource for those who want to see change in our communities.

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Rodney Scott is the founder, chef and pitmaster of Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ. In 2018, Scott was named Best Chef: Southeast by the James Beard Foundation Awards. Earlier this year, Rodney was featured as the subject of his own episode in Netflix’s acclaimed “Chef’s Table” series. In spring 2021, Rodney will publish his first cookbook, “Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ: Every Day Is a Good Day”.

Matt Horn started in 2016 by honing his barbecue techniques in his grandmother’s backyard and serving his food at the farmer’s market in Tracy, California. He later hosted pop-ups in the Central Valley and Bay Area drawing crowds of up to 1,000 people. His first restaurant Horn Barbecue opened in West Oakland in October 2020.

How It Started

I’ve been in the Entertainment industry and in public view for 30 years. My public journey began shortly after high school with national exposure as a Recording Artist from Edmonton, Alberta. Over the years, I’ve had a media presence both nationally and globally, before the internet made this a reality for anyone with access to Wi-Fi and a device. Maneuvering the media landscape through the making of art, food, music, television, advertising, marketing and publishing has exposed me to a myriad of circumstances and situations; some of which I cherish and others I wish I could forget entirely.

The Creation

For the most part, what you, the observer, see is the spit-polished parts that are glossy, perfectly lit, meticulously edited, and presented in the most user-friendly, digestible bites. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to share these morsels as they are a testament to the simple beauty of human aspiration. The creation of any “thing” is the culmination of a shocking number of equally motivated and inspired humans working collectively, with all their own baggage and greatness in tow. We toil, trudge, and trample through our own challenges to make the “thing” as a team and then all return to our respective worlds to repeat this again and often with new teams and with new challenging inspirations to make the next sensory dish. What is unique is that I am often the pinpoint through which all of these cumulative efforts are presented, in that it is my face, voice, body and intent that carries whatever message is being served; I chose this and I’m ok with that. But…life is not spit-polished for us, we have to do that to it, and it comes with a price.

The Vehicle

A luxury car survives a muddy journey intact and then with great effort is detailed, to return it to showroom worthiness, because we humans like to see beautiful things. We are enamoured by beauty and that is fine. The vehicle will still carry us whether it is clean or dirty and we will be fine. You’ve seen my shiny vehicles over and over, and if you’ve cared to pay attention to them, thank you. In reality, the journey is much more complicated, significantly messier, and sometimes my carriage rolls over many times before righting itself; and in those moments it’s not so shiny and it is difficult – this is called life.

The Curtain

Humans carry an incredible number of burdens with them, we all do in some form. Not everyone faces those burdens publicly, and that is perhaps wisest, but that is simply not my lot in life. In an interesting turn of fate, we have all had to peel back our curtains in recent times. With COVID-19 we have allowed people into our lives in previously unimagined ways and they now see how many crooked pictures hang on our walls, how wild our children are, how small or large our living arrangements really are, and that pile of laundry that our dog loves to sit on fresh out the dryer. At first, we were sort of mortified by these truths, but as the drudgery saw no end, we embraced it and let it all fly because well…we were all collectively in the same muddy, bumpy vehicle. Simultaneously, we have been living through the rebirth of authoritarian politics globally, international economic tumult, and a racial reckoning; all of which we had spit-polished for a very long time. Times up.

The Truth

In reality, we are all just humans on a ball, the same ball. We have created a landscape where we subdivide humanity for the simple convenience of organizing all these bodies in a way that creates an acceptable order and allows us to function reasonably. The universe is ordered but also chaotic and it’s time we invite some of that chaos into our lives. With chaos comes uncertainty and again…that is life, muddy and rolling over unto itself.

I have made a valiant effort to present a shiny vehicle for you all these years but in reality, and like you, I am bruised, scarred, tormented and traumatized by so many things. This is not to say that I am also not overjoyed, blessed, in love, and enjoy a fantastic array of magic regularly, but it is not always shiny, and publicly, shiny has mostly been what you have seen. So, it’s time to unravel truths and show some of the realities of what is normally edited out, the stories and challenges, the potholes and the mountains.

Our Stories

As I said I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta via Trinidad before moving to Toronto, Ontario. There were not a lot of people who looked like me or were nearby to support someone who looked like my family did in my early years; that manifested and continues to manifest lingering and ongoing trauma. These situations perpetuated through adolescence, young adulthood and still do in full-blown, grown-ass man status. Some of you, to your surprise, have recently been shocked to finally observe, through social media and video capture, some of the horrors we face. I am never surprised. Never. In fact, they are what we have come to know as triggers, and they are from direct as well as observed personal experience. Fortunately, I am here to tell some of these stories, but many individuals are not. My life is public, and I will be sharing these stories and having conversations with others, through a variety of outlets in the coming months and years.

Awakening: Together

Like you, I am hoping for a better future for the next generation and contributing some knowledge, experiences, and tools to make our ball that we all stand on a little bit brighter and fairer for us all. We are all connected whether we choose to accept that or not, so let’s connect in love and spread it. I will continue to share the pretty polished thing with you, but you will also be witness to the not so pretty things. I’m fine with that, hopefully, you will be as well as I take you “Behind The Curtain.”

* Content posted on “Behind the Curtain” as part of the Awakenings program operates under the principles of anti-oppression, anti-colonialism, sustainability, advocacy and storytelling. The content, views and opinions expressed are those of the individual story teller/presenter/producer and does not necessarily represent the City of Toronto’s views or opinions or an endorsement of such views or opinions by the City of Toronto.

Any content provided on “Behind the Curtain” is not designed or intended to constitute medical advice. It is not meant to be used for diagnosis or treatment. Please talk to your medical doctor to help you make decisions about your treatment or medication.

The City of Toronto is not responsible for any legal claims, costs, damages, liabilities, or obligations arising from the use or misuse of any content presented or filmed as part of the Awakenings program. The City of Toronto does not guarantee or warrant the quality, accuracy or completeness of the information presented or filmed as part of the Awakenings program.

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This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada.

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