Want one irresistible reason to tune into "Heat Seekers," Food Network's travelogue/food challenge that pairs up chef/musician/TV personality Roger Mooking with "Chopped" jurist Aaron Sanchez in a tongue-torching odyssey to smoke out the spiciest eats in the nation?
Try this: Mooking's laugh.
It's genuine, infectious and ever-present -- even as he's attempting to best his cohort in gulping down gumbo laced with XXXX Voodoo sauce on the bayou or pecking through a pile of inferno-infused chicken wings in Seattle.
And if you're not hooked by then, you're probably no food TV fan at all.
Mooking says the show was the brainchild of Scripps executives who want to explore different culinary cultures through heat and spice. "They said, 'Let's put these guys together and see what happens.' (Aaron and I) went out for lunch and just started kicking it, and they saw right away that the chemistry is good."
So good that "Seekers" will launch its second season Monday, Jan. 16, with a trip to Dallas for some "hotter than hell" sliders.
"Aaron comes from a very sophisticated chef background via Mexico and his mother who is a renowned chef and cookbook author," Mooking explains of what sets "Seekers" apart from other extreme-eating programming. "I come as a third-generation food and beverage freak via the Caribbean and Trinidad -- and I'm trained in French cuisine. We're going from that kind of fulcrum. There's a worldliness about both us as hosts for the show and the network."
As to whether anything will change for Season 2 now that he and Sanchez are a bit more seasoned, seared and schooled in what to expect, Mooking laughs his fabulous laugh and offers that the producers have broadened some concepts and the range of cultures.
"We've also added a couple layers to the challenges between me and Aaron at the end of the show," he says. "You'll have to tune in and see -- but there's some pretty good jokes in there this year!"
What are you currently reading?"I've been reading a bunch of lyrics from my iPad! I'm working on a new album right now, so I'm really deep in writing the songs. Not to be a narcissist, but I'm reading my own work!"
What did you have for dinner last night?"Last night I made a Vietnamese pho-inspired soup -- but using leftover turkey."
What is your next project?"Right now my focus has been firing out this batch of episodes for the 'Heat Seekers.' My downtime is spent working on this album."
When was the last vacation you took -- where and why?"Two weeks ago I went to Jamaica. I took the fams, and we kicked it and sat on the beach. Eating jerk chicken and curried goat and all the stupid tourist stuff. Just a week of bliss."