Behind the Curtain
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.
Awakenings Reflections: Behind the Scenes Discussions
Behind The Curtain
by Roger Mooking
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.