Ten Years Into a Restaurant Empire, Marc Murphy Is Still Just Looking to Have Fun
In the 20 years that the Food Network has existed, it's propelled dozens of chefs to stardom before they've proved themselves in their own kitchens. Despite his prolific career on television, Marc Murphy is not one of those chefs. The Chopped judge has risen steadily within New York's restaurants for two decades -- even while, he insists, his only goal was to have a good time -- and he now sits atop a restaurant empire, an outgrowth of Tribeca's Landmarc (179 West Broadway, 212-343-3883), which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.
Courtesy Marc Murphy
Murphy's father was an American diplomat and his mother was French. Born in Milan, he spent his childhood summers in the south of France, where he was instilled with a deep appreciation for food. After high school, he moved onto his brother's couch in New York City, and he realized he needed a job. So he went to cooking school and then landed at Prix Fixe, where he got hooked on the energy of the kitchen. "I didn't choose my career, it chose me," he says. "I'm dyslexic, and I was terrible at school. Working in the kitchen, and actually being good at it, was the first time I really felt like I belonged somewhere."
After awhile, his sous chef David Pasternak told him to go get experience elsewhere, so Murphy took the money he'd been saving in the cut-out center of an old book and bought a ticket to Paris. There, he picked up a Michelin guide and knocked on all of the doors of the three-star restaurants, begging for a job. He didn't land one, but one chef pointed him toward a one-star place, Le Miraville, where Murphy spent a year and a half, landing a three-month apprenticeship with Alain Ducasse as a reward.
He returned to New York after that, and he began a whirlwind tour of some of the most exalted kitchens of the '90s: A job at Le Cirque gave way to a sous chef position at Drew Nieorpont's Layla, where he met Georges Masraff. Masraff tapped him to helm Cellar in the Sky at Windows on the World, and then he picked up the executive chef role at La Fourchette, which became a celebrated Upper West Side French restaurant under Murphy's command.
When 9/11 happened, Murphy laid plans to leave town for San Diego, but a friend asked him to help reopen Battery Park's Southwest. The chef met his now-wife soon after, and he put off his decision to flee the Big Apple indefinitely. In 2004, the couple opened the first Landmarc in Tribeca, which they'd initially described as a casual spot they were going to close on holidays so they could spend time with family. Instead, they worked relentlessly, and a decade on, Murphy has five restaurants, a demanding schedule of public appearances, and a leadership role in a number of anti-hunger campaigns. He's also the president of the Manhattan chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association.
In this interview, he talks about how TV has changed the industry, his original vision behind Landmarc, and what's plaguing restaurant owners and keeping them from succeeding.