7 Questions with Nicky Mores, the Racing Chef
There are plenty of channels on the dial these days where you can get tips on how to use a chef’s knife or recipes for chocolate covered macaroons. Of course there’s the Food Network and it’s kid sister the Cooking Channel, TLC, FOX, NBC and the SPEED Channel. Don’t reach for your bifocals, you read that right – the SPEED Channel. Racing’s premiere cable channel has it’s own cooking show, the Racing Chef starring award winning chef Nicky Morse.
Morse travels the NASCAR circuit cooking and teaching with the sport’s best drivers, pit crew members and even fans. The Racing Chef is part Iron Chef and part Talladega Nights. In his post as NASCAR’s culinary pit boss, Chef Nicky has seen everything from a crew member that makes the best authentic, old-school manicotti to a guy roasting a whole alligator in the infield of a super speedway. But just how did a gourmet chef well known among the country club set suddenly find himself rubbing elbows with blue collar stock car fans?
That is no short story. Morse was a very successful chef by the time he was 30 years old but that is when fate entered into his life in the form of the big “C.” Hodgkin’s lymphoma meant an end to the 70+ hour work week of a professional kitchen. Something had to change. A chance meeting with Jeg’s Drag Racing Team of the NHRA was just the ticket. After eight years as the crew chef for the championship team, the Racing Chef just kind of fell into his lap.
A few critics have described the show as campy. Really? It’s a show about cooking and tailgating at stock car races, what were they expecting, Mad Men? The reality is that the Racing Chef is wildly popular with it’s target audience. That’s all you can ask for from any TV show. Recently I spoke with Chef Nicky Morse and he agreed to answer 7 Questions:
Professionally 18. Of course when I was in diapers I said I was going to be a chef.
2. Is that really when you decided that you could make food your career, when you were in diapers?
You know what? To be honest with you, yeah. I didn’t ever want to do anything else. That’s it. That’s all I was going to do. You know it’s funny, the other day my mom pulled some stuff out from when I was in grade school and read me some of the stuff where I had said I was going to be a chef.
3. Which chefs have influenced you the most?
I’ve had a lot of chefs influence me. There’s a guy named Harmut Handke, he’s kind of given me a lot of inspiration in the culinary world. I looked at his work and I studied his work and I looked at a lot of his recipes. He was the international chef of the year. He was the manager for the United States for the Culinary Olympics.
I worked for a guy named Ziggy (Allespach). Ziggy trained me and gave me the base for my education. He had a French restaurant , well Continental cuisine but mainly French, and this was when I was just starting out. He influenced me a lot. He was top notch. There was no other 4 star restaurant in Columbus, Ohio at that time to work at so I worked for him.
Your asking me for one I’m giving you two. They kind of set my path for me. I didn’t ever work for Hartmut but Ziggy I was probably with him four and a half years.
4. If you hadn’t followed this career path, what other career could you see yourself in?
You know what? This is crazy and it’s going to sound nuts. You’re going to be like, “What?” I would love to do, like, somewhere between street magic and Candid Camera. I love messing with, I mean I love messing with people. I could mess with people 24 hours a day. I love it. And I’d love to do card tricks.
5. What’s the highlight of your career so far?
I’d have to give you a couple of highlights. When I started and I was working for Ziggy and I became his sous chef. I mean I was the sous chef at the only four star restaurant around here.
And then what I’m doing now I would have to say is the highlight of my career. It’s almost like two different careers. Working on television and working in a restaurant are two different things.
6. What aspect of your professional life do you enjoy the most?
I like working with my family. Mitzi, my wife, she takes care of the web site. I like my wife working with me. My brother, Matt, wrote the theme song for the show. My nephew, Martin, made my chef hat. It’s an amazing hat! He had one day to make it. My sister wrote and produced the show for years and her husband is still a producer. I have a brother that helps me with graphics and a sister that helps me write things, checks my grammar. I have a niece that created the logo. Getting to work with my family and have everybody work and influence the show, that is the best part of my professional career.
7. What’s next for Chef Nicky?
I’m going to open an online store. Since I started this TV show I’ve had so many people e-mail me. They want to buy a cookbook. They want to buy a T-shirt. They want to buy something. So I guess the fans, hopefully, are going to dictate to me what I’m going to do nest. I’m at a point right now where I have to open a store. There’s too much demand for me not to open a store.
The Racing Chef with Nicky Morse airs Mondays at 9PM (ET) on SPEED.