In the midst of oversized refrigerators, towering shelves of spices and trays of raw ingredients, the edible creations of University catering chef Larry Frazer are born.
An accomplished artist in his field, Frazer oversees food production for the Graduate College, designs his culinary masterpieces and paints his plates with exotic sauces while following one basic rule: no blue-colored foods.
"People don't like blue food," he noted, adding that he is not sure of the reason for this peculiar color bias. "Every other color works and the more the better."
Frazer himself is indeed a colorful character who has always been interested in cooking, yet has never attended a culinary institute and is mostly self-educated.
Growing up in a family of mixed Polish, German and Scottish descent, he remembers helping his mother prepare traditional dishes such as pierogi, which he describes as the Polish version of ravioli.
"I was a young culinarian," he said, adding that his father used to take him as a child to fancy restaurants in Manhattan.
Frazer also gained early experience in his art from the summers he spent working at his neighbor's restaurant during high school and college. "It wasn't glamorous," he said, recalling that much of his work included preparing and cutting 50-pound batches of carrots and onions.
Frazer first became affiliated with the University community in 1977, cooking for Terrace Club and later Campus Club and the now-defunct DEC before assuming his current position as a University chef.
With a special passion for preparing ethnic dishes, Frazer has added a unique twist to the University's dining services by introducing the Show-Thyme multi-ethnic specialties served in the residential colleges. He also meets with the University's other chefs to discuss new dishes and recipe ideas.
"[It] keeps us on the cutting edge," he said. "No pun intended."
These days, Frazer shares his artistic talents not only with Princeton students and faculty, but also with those outside the University. The father of an autistic 15-year-old son, Frazer volunteers at the Eden Institute, which serves autistic children. He cooks for the institute's major fundraisers and also helps out at its summer camp.
Frazer has won extensive recognition in his field. A long-time member of the American Culinary Federation, he will be inducted this July into the organization's honor society — the American Academy of Chefs.
With only 700 members worldwide, the academy has strict guidelines for admission. Applicants must have worked in food preparation for a minimum of 15 years, five of which must be as a Certified Executive Chef. They also must have participated in culinary demonstrations, published at least five culinary related articles and won at least one ACF national culinary medal.
"I've been on cloud nine ever since I found out," he said with a beaming smile befitting the accomplishment that he likens to being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Even though Frazer has reached a level in his profession that only a select few attain, he emphasized that he intends to keep striving to reach new culinary heights.
"It's just another level," he said. "Now it's time to go to another level and do something else."