While much of the country knows Marc Murphy as a judge on the popular Food Network show, Chopped, New Yorkers are lucky enough to sample his cooking at his restaurants.
There’s the accessible and lovable Landmarc (with two locations, one in Tribeca, the other in the Time Warner Center), a contemporary bistro with an awesomely affordable wine list and dishes, the likes of Goat Cheese Profiteroles, Filet Mignon with Béarnaise, Chicken Liver Cavatelli, and Frisee aux Lardons. There’s the infinitely more casual Ditch Plains, a slew of beachy seafood shacks (Murphy is an avid surfer), known for their Lobster Rolls and signature Ditch Dogs; all-beef frankfurters topped with gooey mac & cheese. And now, there’s the recently opened Kingside in Midtown’s Viceroy Hotel (our favorite yet), a snazzy, 104-seat brasserie, featuring black and white checkerboard floors, plush red swivel stools facing an open kitchen, and an extensive bar program curated by the Gerber Group. (If you haven’t sampled the Ricotta & Truffle Honey Toast, get yourself to Kingside asap!)
“I started my career doing super high-end French cuisine and have done pretty much everything since then,” said Murphy. “Kingside has so much of the neighborhood feel of my other restaurants, but the menu is a little more esoteric, and more refined than what I do even at Landmarc.” You’ll find dishes inspired by Murphy’s childhood as the son of a globetrotting diplomat, referencing France (Snails with Bone Marrow and classic Roasted Chicken), Italy (Chitarra with Tomato and Parmesan and Broccoli Rabe with Fregula), and of course, America, denoted by a Caesar Salad, a Cowboy Rib Eye, and a juicy Hamburger… which you can also order Kingside-style, topped with Giardiniera and Soppressata. “This menu is sort of the perfect combination of everything I’ve been doing over my career,” adds Murphy.
We also spoke with the celebrity chef about his work to end childhood hunger through Share Our Strength, his lifelong battle with dyslexia, and his admitted weakness (believe it or not!) for McDonald’s Egg McMuffins.
Were you always interested in food and cooking, growing up?
I grew up in Italy and France, so food was always an important factor in my life and I was extremely lucky to be surrounded by such amazing cuisine at a young age. I definitely think it exposed my palate to different flavors and cuisines and sparked my interest in food.
What do you think you would have become if you hadn’t become a chef?
A racecar driver or an architect.
On Chopped, do you find yourself ‘competing’ from the judge’s chair, imagining what you would do with each basket?
Yes, as a chef you are always thinking about ways you would use the ingredients and now we actually get to do that in Chopped After Hours. It’s been a blast shooting those webisodes — those ingredients are harder than they look.
Were there ever any dishes put forth that you just could not bring yourself to eat?
No, I try anything at least once.
You revealed on an episode of Chopped Champions that you were diagnosed with dyslexia. How has that shaped you as a chef and restaurateur?
I grew up speaking two languages at home and a third in school, and I think my parents chalked my inability to read or write in any of them as a result of too much information, so I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 18. Needless to say, school was excruciating for me and college was never an option for so many reasons. After high school, I realized that if I was going to be successful and happy, I was going to have to find something to be really passionate about. For me, that was cooking. I learned that the creativity it allowed me was really liberating for me and I think it’s part of why I’m successful today. I absolutely love what I do and to be in this business and have longevity in it you really have to work hard and if you love it, it doesn’t feel like work.
Your website bio lists “25 Things You Didn’t Know About Marc Murphy.” Name two more.
I prefer a table to a booth when dining. This puts me in the minority with almost everyone I’ve ever met.
I have a secret obsession with the Egg McMuffin. I actually look forward to early morning travel, so I can get one before I board the plane.
You opened a second outpost of Landmarc in the Time Warner Center in 2007. How have the two restaurants remained similar to each other, and what makes them completely unique?
We always refer to Time Warner as Tribeca’s big brother. It’s really just a larger version with the same menus and the same atmosphere. Both places are family friendly neighborhood staples, and that’s something that we really pride ourselves on, especially at the Time Warner Center where we see such massive volume. I guess the biggest differences are the hours — Time Warner is open earlier and has a robust breakfast scene during the week, which is unique. Tribeca on the other hand is cozier, with different hours. We’re able to offer a Monday night Wine + Dine special downtown whereas we couldn’t do that uptown.
The laidback Ditch Plains is on the opposite end of the dining spectrum to the refined Landmarc. What inspired the beachy, surfer concept?
We wanted another neighborhood concept that would take me a little bit out of my comfort zone. The concept is really the first time I’ve flexed the American comfort food muscles, and we wanted something fun and a little more casual yet ingredient-driven for the West Village location. It translated perfectly to the family-centric Upper West Side, and I have to say that I am totally in love with the concept.
Would you describe yourself as a serious surfer, or more of a hobbyist?
I’d love to say I’m a serious surfer, but sadly I don’t get the time to surf as much as I want to, so it is a hobby at best.
How did you get involved with the Gerber Group and the Viceroy for your newest project, Kingside, in Midtown?
My catering company, Benchmarc Events, provides all of the food for Gerber’s Stone Rose Lounge at the Time Warner Center, so we have had a relationship for a few years now. The next logical step for us was to open something together, and this opportunity was a great fit.
How would you best describe the food at Kingside?
Kingside is my first new restaurant in about five years, so I wanted to take this opportunity to create something totally different from what I’ve been doing at Landmarc and Ditch Plains. I wanted to curate a menu that would take guests on a trip around the world and bring them back to America with simple dishes and big flavors.
You’ve also said that the menu is inspired by your childhood. What are some dishes that best express that, and why?
I think it’s the Roast Chicken with Roasted Vegetables and Potatoes because it’s such a classic French dish, and I ate it a lot as a kid. Like most chefs, I added my own twist on it. I actually roast all the vegetables and potatoes together with the chicken, so they really soak up all the flavors. It’s simple and delicious.
We noticed an extensive “For Two” section of the menu. What was the impetus behind offering so many entrees for sharing, and do you ever think it’s too much of a commitment to get just one dish versus sharing two different plates to try?
In addition to the Roast Chicken, we do a Cowboy Rib Eye and a double Rib Veal Chop which are all dishes, that are in my opinion are better served for two. Our menu is a little non-traditional in that we offer small plates, large plates, some raw bar items, charcuterie and cheeses and then the items for two. It’s not your typical appetizer, entrée, dessert, so everything can be shared. I think it keeps things a little more convivial and opens the options up for everyone.
If you were to dine as a guest at each of your restaurants, what would you order and why?
That’s like asking me to pick which one of my kids I love more. Can’t do it.
You’ve traveled and worked in kitchens all over the world. What do you find particularly unique and exciting about New York’s dining scene?
I came here over 25 years ago for the kind of life I wanted to live; I’m a big extrovert, and energy brings me energy. This city has some of the most incredible energy and drive and I think you feel that in the restaurants here. When you go out to eat in New York you experience something that you just don’t get anywhere else.
What ingredients can you just not bring yourself to cook with (or eat)?
I’m not the biggest fan of okra and I don’t usually cook with it.
What do you consider to be the single greatest personal achievement in your career?
Last Spring, I received City Harvest’s Star of the City award for the work I do for them and next year I’m being honored by Share Our Strength for the work I do to end childhood hunger in this country. For me, these are far and away the greatest achievements of my career. To be able to turn what I am fortunate enough to do into something so incredibly meaningful for so many people in real need is more impactful for me than I can even put into words.
Any desires to host your own cooking show one day?
I would love it!