Drag Racing: Malcolm in the middle of organized chaos
In 13 minutes, Malcolm Clark sliced through about 20 chicken breasts while answering a bombardment of questions inside his kitchen trailer.
No fingers were cut during the process giving the perception Clark has done this before.
And if he hasn’t done exactly that before, he’s battled stressful situations as the executive chef of the Don Schumacher Racing team, which is in town this weekend at Brainerd International Raceway for the NHRA Lucas Oil Nationals.
Clark feeds the teams that fall beneath the Schumacher racing umbrella. One of those teams is the U.S. Army Dragster driven by Tony Schumacher. So to say Clark feeds an army isn’t as crazy as one would think.
The recently married Clark has about two more years left of this jet-set lifestyle according to his wife. But cooking for high-profile celebrities and athletes is nothing new for the Mitchell, Ind., native. Before joining Schumacher racing, Clark worked for Centerplate Catering for the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. He worked at the Verizon Wireless Music Center doing all the backstage catering and VIP catering for concerts. Clark met Dustin Gagna, executive chef for Al Anabi Racing during Clark’s stint at Lucas Oil Raceway Park, site of the next NHRA stop — the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. That’s how Clark got his foot into racing.
But working at the same location compared to a moving one has its drawbacks and benefits.
“It’s definitely a lot harder,” said Clark. “It’s not as big as most kitchens and for the number of people we serve it’s small. On a busy weekend, we’ll normally serve about 2,500 people. When you don’t have the crew — it’s just me and my sous chef (Eric Oliver) and a couple of girls that do the salads — it’s hard to keep everything organized. When you’re on the road everything is moving around and you can’t keep a whole lot of equipment or have everything with you.”
The benefit: “I try to tailor one of the days at the track to local cuisine,” said Clark. “Seattle we did a lot of seafood because we kept going to the market. Seattle is definitely one of the better races.”
Clark meant from a culinary standpoint because he rarely sees a race. About the only time he sees a race is if one of his drivers is in the finals. Being a team member for Schumacher racing, however, that’s usually every event.
Clark’s week for the Lucas Oil Nationals consisted of showing in Brainerd Tuesday night. Setting up his kitchen and the three hospitality tents Wednesday followed by grocery shopping. On Thursday, he finished setting up and placed his food orders followed by organizing. From there it’s prepping the food for the meals.
“This weekend is a slower weekend,” Clark said. “We’re doing 900 to 1,000 people this weekend. It’s a lot slower than usual. We let the drivers pick a menu if they win a race. We didn’t do any of that over the (Western) Swing because the menu was already set, so (Friday) we’re doing a hamburger bar, which is what Antron (Brown) picked. Tomorrow we’re doing beef and chicken stir fry with egg rolls. Jack (Beckman) picked that. Sunday we’re doing grilled steak, loaded mashed potatoes or chicken marsala. Johnny Gray picked that. The number of people Clark has met, the different culinary influences he’s picked up because of his travels and the ability to think on his feet — should an oven fail to work at a track — have prepared him for whatever is next in his career.
“You learn a lot about regional cuisine and different techniques from all over the country,” Clark said. “It gives you a broader spectrum on how to cook.”