Mo Rocca with a number of his cooking partners on the new season of “My Grandmother’s Ravioli” on the Cooking Channel.
Mo Rocca wears a number of professional “hats” — including working as a correspondent on “CBS Sunday Morning” and as a panelist on NPR’s popular weekly quiz show “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!”
However, during a recent Chicago visit, the broadcaster happily waxed poetic about his Cooking Channel program, “My Grandmother’s Ravioli,” launching its second season at 7 p.m. Wednesday on the foodie-oriented cable network.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for ‘My Grandmother’s Ravioli’?
A: It really had a lot to do with my father’s mother. She worked full time until she was 87 at the Woodward & Lothrop department store in D.C. But every Sunday she’d make these big meals. Like a lot of kids, I thought the food just appeared out of nowhere. … I wish I had shown up a bit early and hung out in the kitchen and learned something from her.
Now I get to do that with other people’s grandparents.
Q: Have you become a better cook, since you’ve spent all this time with the older generation who have shared their favorite recipes with you?
A: No, I really can’t say I have. I was thinking the other day, Bart Simpson has remained 10 years old for 20 years. I’m going to remain at the same level of cooking expertise — or lack thereof! — for a couple of reasons.
First, there’s the letdown. Once you make the recipes with the grandparents — to make them without the grandparents wouldn’t be as much fun. Secondly, I want the series to go on and on. We have a long way to go. We have an aging population. Lots of grandparents to discover.
Q: Why do you think this show works?
A: One criteria is we look for people who are not desperate to be on TV. Most of them, like Clara [Corrado] that wonderfully feisty 94-year-old lady from Philadelphia who is on the season premiere, have never been on television. Also it’s nice to tell stories about people who are not famous. I’m proud we’ve done an unscripted show where the people are not freaks of nature. Where they don’t behave in terrible ways. The women are not harridans or shrews clawing out each others’ eyes. We go into the kitchens of people you would actually like to be related to.
Q: You also are well-known for you’re the stories you do on ‘CBS Sunday Morning.’ What’s the best part of being on that show?
A: It’s like going to college and only taking electives. The stories I’ve got to do this season — both those that have already aired and are still coming — often are about things I don’t know anything about. ‘I want to learn about hockey thins week. Okay! I’ll do a story about Bobby Orr.’
Things like that happen all the time. I love the constant joy of discovery.