According to his bio, Marc Murphy "started cooking because he didn't have the funds to become a professional racecar driver." NASCAR's loss is New York's gain—since opening Landmarc in 2004, Murphy has created restaurants that have become fixtures in the city, and will be bringing his wares to Brooklyn Bridge Park by the end of the month.
What is your earliest memory of how food and cooking had an impact on your life? When I was eight years old, I would visit my grandparents in the south of France every summer, and my grandfather would take me to this little restaurant that served the most amazing foie gras terrine with gelée around the edge. It was the first time I really understood food as an art form. My mother was also an incredible cook and all of our meals were something of an event. Professionally, it was when I took my first job at Prix Fixe on 18th Street with Terrance Brennan, and I realized I could make a living doing something I loved.
Who/what were your greatest culinary influences along your journey to becoming a chef? My grandmother probably had the greatest influence on me. She was French and we spent most of our time together cooking. I watched everything she did and learned more in her kitchen than I have anywhere else. Her ratatouille recipe is the same recipe I use at Landmarc.
Sylvan Portay also taught me a lot about being a Chef. He taught me that you don't have to dress food up too much—he kept things simple and believed that ingredients should speak for themselves.
What was the hardest part for you from making the transition from a one-restaurant chef to running several restaurants? Relinquishing control and being able to trust other people to keep things consistent when you're not there. It was hard at first, but I've learned to delegate well and I am confident in the teams we have at each restaurant as well as in our "corporate" office.
And speaking of expansion, you're taking Ditch Plains to the great outdoors with the addition of Ditch Plains Drop in Brooklyn Bridge Park. What can Serious Eaters look forward to tasting there? Of course we'll have some favorites from the original Ditch Plains menu—Ditch Dogs, Lobster Rolls, Mac & Cheese—plus some fantastic new additions: a great take on a Crab Roll, a variety of wraps and kids lunch boxes that will come with a surfer surprise. We couldn't be more excited to be joining the Brooklyn community and I really think Drop In is a perfect complement to the park.
You are one of the judges on the Food Network's Chopped. How do you think you'd fare on the other side of the judging block? It is a very difficult competition and most of the time I don't envy them when we see what's in the basket. I would love to think I would make it to Chopped champion, but ultimately it would probably depend on the ingredients and the skill of the other contestants.
If you could put together a three course meal with dishes from three different NYC restaurants, what would you include? Mezze at Ilili; Pork Shank from Crispo; and any dessert from Francois Payard at any restaurant he ends up opening.
What NYC foods do you crave the most often when you're not in town? I really miss the variety. It's hard to believe how much really good food there is in New York and I tend to lose sight of how lucky I am to be living here. I can go to Chinatown for congee in the morning, have lunch at Shake Shack and end my day at any of Daniel Boulud's restaurants. That's what I miss most when I leave town—the amazing breadth of food we have right outside our doors.
What is in your fridge that you'd be embarrassed to tell us about? We buy Fresh Direct 4-minute meals. I make them for my kids' lunch when I'm in a rush and I also eat them when I'm on the run. I feel guilty not cooking them myself but they are really, really good.
What's your favorite hidden gem in NYC? The Polish meat shops in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.