Marc Murphy has his hands in many pots. Not only is he the chef at Landmarc and Ditch Plains, he’s also a judge on Chopped, where he critiques fellow cooks as they whip up dishes using unknown ingredients. He’s also the vice president of the Manhattan chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association, a board member of City Harvest, and on the Task Force for Share Our Strength’s Dine Out for No Kid Hungry campaign. Chefs — they do so much more than just cook these days! We called him up to learn about his many projects and how he juggles all of them.
Let’s talk about being a judge on Chopped. What do you look for when you’re critiquing food on television?
Look, there are a bunch of people coming in and it’s about enthusiasm and having fun, but at the end of the day, it’s not about character. It’s about what’s on the plate. That’s the name of the game. We always look for creativity and give high marks when we see people transform an ingredient into something new.
What are the qualities or characteristics that most Chopped winners have?
They’ve gotta get done by the time the time is up! Honestly, I’ve seen good chefs not make it. It’s a game, and they’ve got to be good at it. It takes a special person who can do it and do it well.
How does the experience of cooking on television compare to cooking in a restaurant kitchen?
The whole thing about cooking in a restaurant is that you keep producing constantly and have to make the food really good. On TV, you don’t even have to use salt and pepper since no one’s tasting it!
Do you feel more at home on television or in the restaurant kitchen?
I’m much more at home in the kitchen, but I don’t mind doing TV.
In light of the Paula Deen controversy, do you think food television is purely entertainment, or should it be educational?
I think everyone can get what they want out of food TV. It’s brought so much more awareness to food, and people have a greater understanding of ingredients. People who don’t have money or time to travel can learn about food through TV, and it’s inspiring people to get cooking. Speaking of travel, you grew up the son of a diplomat. How did that experience influence your culinary outlook?
It influenced me in the sense that it got me interested in food.
What are some of the best world cities for food?
All the big cities — Paris, Rome, Milan. I lived there and loved them. I went to New Orleans recently and loved it. We ate everything! We just ate like pigs, from the beignets to eating at Cochon. I had a fried oyster bacon sandwich at Cochon that was so good I went out and had it the following day.
Much of your training early in your career was at very fancy places, but your cooking now, especially at Ditch Plains, is more casual. What made you go for that type of food?
Yeah, I used to do the formal, more fancy stuff, but I’m more comfortable in being that neighborhood place where people can come in two or three times a week. You dress it up, dress it down, and it’s a good value.
Knowing all that you know now, what advice would you give to yourself just starting out?
I always tell people go work in a lot of different places and get different experiences. Find out where you want to be later.
Check back in tomorrow, when Marc reveals the first dish he ever made to woo someone.