Tre Sanderson and Roger Mooking on Being Black in Hospitality

On a cold winter morning, Chef Roger Mooking and Chef Tre Sanderson came together to share a warm conversation about their upbringing, their roots and working in the hospitality industry as a person of colour. Chef Roger Mooking is a Trinidadian-born, Canadian-raised, celebrated chef and longstanding Food Network Canada personality and Chef Tre Sanderson is the Season 10 champion of Food Network Canada’s Top Chef Canada, becoming the series’ first Black winner. Since winning Top Chef Canada, Tre has been focused on working towards his goal of opening his own restaurant and building a culinary empire. 

Watch the full conversation with Roger Mooking and Tre Sanderson above, and read more about why the conversation was so impactful to Roger, in his own words, below.

Food as the great connector

Food is the great connector, it is what nourishes us physiologically, feeds our spirit and enriches our communities. I’ve dedicated my life’s work to exploring all the ways that food and the arts become fulcrums in our lives. Emotional and sensory triggers, historical context, familial connections, and cultural and social impact drive all my curiosities. 

The hospitality industry is filled with incredibly generous, kind and gracious people. Paradoxically, the industry itself can be very inhospitable to the same people who share their kindness with the public. As a member of this industry for over three decades I have seen many dynamic shifts in the game, some more heartwarming than others. As a person of colour, my experiences have been particularly colourful. 

Representation matters

When I saw that the latest winner of Top Chef Canada was someone who looked like me, I was both overjoyed and dejected to realize that he was the first Black person to win this challenge. Overjoyed because well…representation matters. My single hope is that I shouldn’t need to qualify why representation matters at this point. Dejected, because as the food media landscape has exploded over the last two decades in new and exciting ways, this “first ever” landmark has only just landed. It is a reminder of how far both the hospitality industry and the media landscape that feeds the public has yet to change. My commitment is to a more loving hospitable world. 

Sharing the conversation

My curiosity with Tre Sanderson comes from an earnest combination of pride, joy, frustration, and deep resolve to get some insight into his journey. Firstly, as a Food Network OG, I wanted to meet this new food personality now thrust into the public eye. Secondly, I needed to better understand the life that built this person the life beyond what we’ve seen to date on Top Chef Canada. More significantly, I wanted to understand if and how the hurdles I experienced had changed significantly in any way, and speculate on the future. 

As I explored these three driving forces, it became obvious that this conversation needed to be a shareable moment. The opportunity for meaningful impact in this moment could not be wasted. So we sat, we shared, we listened, we vented and we dreamt while the cameras rolled.