One place you probably don’t expect to find fabulous gourmet food is at a drag racing track. You think motorsports, you think corn dogs, burgers, and nachos, right?
Well, if you’re a member of the Jegs Racing Team, the defending world champion Pro Stock drag racing team, you’re eating a whole lot better than that, thanks to â€˜The Racing Chef,â€™ Nicky Morse.
We caught up with Chef Nicky (pictured left) as he was preparing to head for the NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta, the next event in the premiere POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Now in his seventh season as chef for the Jegs team, Nicky creates meals for the crew that rivals cuisine served in fancy white tablecloth restaurants. On race weekends, he flies in from his home in Delaware, Ohio, and arrives at the track on Friday morning and immediately begins to prepare lunch for the team. (Qualifying trials are run on Friday and Saturday, and the races are contested on Sunday.)
Tied for First in Pro Stock Standings
Cooking in a â€˜gourmet kitchen facility on wheelsâ€™ at each race site, Chef Nicky cooks up lunch and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays for the full team (usually 12 to 15 people) and prepares breakfast on Sunday for driver Jeg Coughlin, who’s currently tied for first place in the POWERade Series point standings in the Pro Stock class. â€˜I know they’re always going to want me to fix pizzas for one meal,â€™ Nicky says, â€˜and everyone wants their pizza to be different in some special wayâ€”including one crew member who’s on the Atkins diet. I made a sausage crust for him.â€™
“Nicky is fantastic,” Jeg Coughlin (pictured left) says. “His culinary skills are second to none, but his personality and enthusiasm are important to our team, too. He’s quite a talent. He puts so much passion into what he does. He uses fresh herbs and vegetables from his own garden when he can, and he’ll go to two or three stores looking for just one special ingredient for one of his dishes.”
An NHRA drag racing event is a spectacle for the eyes and ears, with dragsters exploding down a quarter-mile track at over 200 mph in under 7 seconds. Races are decided by tiny fractions of seconds. Nicky has become quite a fan of the sport. â€˜I had never really heard much about it before I became involved with the team,” he says. “I’m now a huge fan. I love it.â€™
Trained in French Cuisine
Growing up in an Italian family, Nicky was trained initially in French cooking. â€˜Too many Italian food critics in the family,â€™ he explains. Prior to his experience on the drag racing circuit, he honed his craft in 4-star restaurants, private clubs, and hotels. A cancer survivor, Nicky has worked elbow to elbow with Wolfgang Puck to raise money for cancer research.
Nicky puts a lot of love into the culinary creations he serves to the Jegs team. â€˜These people deserve good food,â€™ he says. â€˜They’re away from home for much of a long 24-race season. You’re asking them to work really hard, and you’re asking them to win. It’s a lot of pressure. A good meal is the least I can do for them.â€™
For more on Nicky, Jeg and the entire Jegs Team, and more recipes, you can visit their website.