The Cooking Channel’s Man Fire Food visited Paula Marcoux at home to give her a taste of the television business. So what does it take to bring Cooking with Fire to the small screen? A dash of creativity, a capable host, a savvy food historian, and a mutual love of good food and flame.
Our Plymouth, Massachusetts, backyard has seen plenty of men, fire, and food over the years; sounds boastful, I know, but that’s the plain truth. On the other hand, our humble patch of ground is almost never frequented by good-sized film crews from cable cooking shows — or at least that was true until the day this summer that Man Fire Food came to town.
To be honest I was not sure that getting Cooking with Fire on the tube was such a great idea. First off, just thinking about television makes me feel out of my depth. I have been a faithful TV-watcher — quiz me on the cassoulet episode of The French Chef or the time Gilligan was hunted by a psychotic assassin with malaria and a high-powered rifle and I’m right there. (Okay, so it’s been a little while and I’m not really up on current offerings.) But, once informed that only an oafish ingrate would fail to jump at the chance to be on Man Fire Food, and that, when it comes to TV, ignorance of the medium is actually a plus, I obediently signed the waiver allowing agents of the Cooking Channel to shoot and broadcast any images they fancied on our property. “Yikes!” I thought, “What about that metal pile? Would that get on national TV?”
Oddly enough, it turned out to be silly to obsess about crazy stuff like that. All I really had to do was supply the FIRE (well, maybe six or seven fires) and the FOOD, and they brought in the MAN. From there, the magic just happened between him and the cameras. It was pretty wondrous to behold. Roger Mooking, the insouciant eponym of Man Fire Food, fears nothing from TV. The camera is his creature. He has deep knowledge of its ways and habits, its lusts and loathes. He anticipates its every whim and humors its insatiable need for repetition. He feeds it richly from a seemingly bottomless sack of showmanship, one moment declaring to his macho audience that he has never split wood before, and the next wailing on a chunk like Charles Bronson in The Magnificent Seven.
I enjoyed this unflappable, ambitious Man. I was awed by his facility at obscuring considerable expertise beneath a semi-gloss layer of averageness, applied for the camera and as important to his TV persona as hair and makeup are to a news anchor. But I was pleased to find him, when not working, a discerning eater, a skilled cook, and just a knowledgeable dude when it comes to the global kitchen.
The crew, too, was impressive. Punctual, professional and respectful — from taking care to not trample my garden beds (even if it cost them the best camera angle in our tricky yard), to properly admiring — worshiping, even — our elderly kitty, Minkie, when we broke for lunch. By the time the sun was setting over the closing shot, every one of us crowded like refugees with expensive equipment onto two rickety docks and a super-tippy canoe. I had to admit I felt at home among this klatch of crypto-geeky problem-solvers eager for each creative challenge. No, perhaps I’m not in a big hurry to do it again, but I’m not in the least regretful for the experience.