Food Network Obsessed

Marc Murphy on the Most Bizarre Chopped Bites & His Multicultural Childhood

Episode Summary

Marc Murphy, Chopped judge and esteemed chef, shares his interesting childhood and who his royal babysitter was in the late seventies. He talks about his early days in New York City and how couch surfing and cooking dinners for his rent inspired him to pursue culinary school. Marc talks about the differences in European and American kitchens, how his cooking style has evolved over the years and what region of the world has influenced him the most. He talks about his experiences opening restaurants in New York and how the tragedy of September 11th changed his life since he worked in the World Trade Center. Marc dives into Chopped, how he was approached to be on the show, and how it has evolved over the past decade with his fellow judges. He shares his favorite Chopped memories, including working with Martha Stewart, and the strangest things he’s ever eaten on the show. Finally, Marc shares the best pieces of advice he ever got as a young cook.

Episode Notes

Marc Murphy, Chopped judge and esteemed chef, shares his interesting childhood and who his royal babysitter was in the late seventies. He talks about his early days in New York City and how couch surfing and cooking dinners for his rent inspired him to pursue culinary school. Marc talks about the differences in European and American kitchens, how his cooking style has evolved over the years and what region of the world has influenced him the most. He talks about his experiences opening restaurants in New York and how the tragedy of September 11th changed his life since he worked in the World Trade Center. Marc dives into Chopped, how he was approached to be on the show, and how it has evolved over the past decade with his fellow judges. He shares his favorite Chopped memories, including working with Martha Stewart, and the strangest things he’s ever eaten on the show. Finally, Marc shares the best pieces of advice he ever got as a young cook.


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Episode Transcription

[MUSIC PLAYING] JAYMEE SIRE: Hello and welcome to Food Network Obsessed. This is the podcast where we dish on all things Food Network with your favorite Food Network stars. I'm your host Jaymee Sire. And today we have a familiar Food Network face, or I guess I should say voice on the podcast, to talk about his multicultural world travels and how Chopped has evolved since that first episode over a decade ago. He's a respected chef, restaurateur, fixture of the New York food scene, and an OG judge on Chopped. It's Marc Murphy.




Marc, welcome to the podcast. I read that you have at least 6 cups of tea day, as well as at least one espresso. So safe to say that caffeine is a crucial food group. What number are we on right now?


MARC MURPHY: I'm only at four teas so far. But it doesn't affect me. And it's interesting because I did one of those genetic tests at my doctor. And he actually looked at me and he goes, you don't really like coffee, do you? I go, it's-- I have and espresso every once in a while, but no, not really. And he goes, I can tell because people have a genetic disposition to having caffeine affect them.


Caffeine doesn't really affect me. So I can have an espresso at 10 o'clock at night and go to sleep. It doesn't affect me at all. People are like, well, how can you do that? I said, well it's a genetic thing. Some people it affects people and some people it doesn't.


JAYMEE SIRE: Oh, wow. I did not know that. So, so you drink the caffeine just for the taste, not necessarily the heightened stimulation or anything like that?


MARC MURPHY: Exactly. Just I like the flavor. At the end of each meal, either it be lunch or dinner actually, I stepped it up. I have one square of dark chocolate and an espresso, and I do that at dinner as well. It's either a square of dark chocolate or else I-- there's a great chocolate star here in New York called Chocolat Moderne that I love to go to.


And I buy a box of chocolates there. And they do one with yuzu in it, another one with pistachio, shiso. There's a great amount of chocolates that they make there and I like to go there. And I just picked up a box yesterday.


JAYMEE SIRE: Oh, all right. I'll have to check it out. Well, the fun facts section of your website is wildly interesting and honestly, it sounds sort of made up at times. Was Prince Albert of Monaco really your babysitter in the late 70s?


MARC MURPHY: Yeah. Well, my parents were friendly with his parents. And my father was stationed in Washington, DC. And he was going to-- I think he was at Georgetown then. And I was young, and sometimes he didn't want to fly home for his holidays because they had school breaks.


He's like, I'm not going all the way home. So he would just come and stay with us in Virginia. And then my parents were like, oh, well, great. Somebody's here. We're going to go out to dinner. There's somebody here to take care of the kids. Yeah, it's sort of a funny thing. Yeah.


JAYMEE SIRE: Just happened to be the Prince of Monaco. No big deal.


MARC MURPHY: Yeah. Well, my parents still live in Monte Carlo now because they were friends with Rainier and Grace and they gave him, I guess, citizenship or whatever so you can live there. And so that's where they live. And they're still friendly with Albert.


JAYMEE SIRE: That's amazing. I mean, you kind of alluded to all of this. Your background is so cultured, so complex. Your childhood was spent in cities across the world, from Paris to Rome, as you mentioned, Washington, DC-- all before you were 12 years old. What do you think is the most significant impact that these early experiences really had on your relationship with the world?


MARC MURPHY: I think, for me, it was really more about where I ended up going with my career. The relationship to my career was the most important thing I think. People are like, oh, you went to cooking school. You learned stuff. I go, no, I just ate really well as a kid.


And I was worried when I finally got out of high school that I was going to be hungry and have bad foods. So I thought, well, if I learn how to cook, I'll at least be able to eat. I might be homeless, but at least I'll be able to eat. I can get a job in a restaurant. I'll be able to do stuff.


And when I started cooking, and I was working-- I would work with some American cooks in New York. And the chef would explain something. And they were like, make it taste like. And I knew what that flavor was already. And they were like, I don't know. I grew up in Jamaica, Queens. My mom only made steak well done. I have no idea what you're talking about. So I felt like I had a little bit of a leg up in that sense. My palate had already been trained.


Besides that, I mean, I didn't have a choice. People were like, oh, you're so smart. You speak three languages. I'm like, I wouldn't have been able to play with the kids in the playground if I didn't speak those languages. I mean, my grandparents spoke French to me. I mean, I didn't have a choice. So I was just sort of-- that's where I lived, there where people grow up.


JAYMEE SIRE: And do you think-- so you think traveling so much, eating all these different foods, that is specifically what inspired you to become a chef or was it something else?


MARC MURPHY: I'm extremely dyslexic, so I was very bad at school. And when I decided I should probably-- well, but my college counselor told me to just go get a job because I would never get into a college. And I ended up moving to New York City. And I literally lived on my brother's couch and didn't know what to do with myself. I was sort of a handyman helping out my sister-in-law's friends do things and projects. And I was living there for free.


So I felt bad, so I would cook dinner every night. And after a couple of months, my brother looks at me and goes, well, why don't you go to cooking school? You seem to like to do this. I mean, we've been eating-- you know, you're on a souffle kick.


I literally, like-- I remember once there was a whole week I was making-- every night, I was trying to perfect the souffles, and making cheese souffles, and chocolate souffle, and doing all these things. And so finally, I was like, oh, cooking school-- is that something you can do for a living? And I was like, huh, let me go check that out.


So I went to a cooking school for three months and then went out. And well, there's a lot of roads to get me there. But I finally got into a kitchen. And I remember I was working for Terrence Brennan at a prix fixe on 18th Street. And after the first week, I was like, this is the hardest thing I've ever done and I love it. And it was the first time I was actually accomplishing something that people said I was doing something right.


And having that moment of, oh, wow. I can do this. Because my whole life, being dyslexic and going through the normal school where nobody knew how to deal with dyslexia back then, I was just always-- hey, I got one D this semester. All the other ones are F's. But I got one passed class. But I think D's passing in this school.


So yeah, when I finally got to a point where I felt good about something, well, I jumped on the bandwagon. I got basically addicted to the business. I love the camaraderie. I love the spirit. I love the work. I love the people. I realized I would never have to wear a tie. I was so excited.


JAYMEE SIRE: And also your race car driving career didn't pan out exactly. So this was a good second job to go after.


MARC MURPHY: Yeah, I realized the race car driving thing, when I really looked into it and that every race it was like $5,000 worth of tires you would go through, I thought, yeah, I don't have that kind of money. And I didn't really want to go work in the pits and fix cars my whole life. I thought, I don't want to hang out with those people all the time.


I mean, they're probably very nice, but I love big cities. And I was in New York, and I like being entertained. I like the opera. I like ballet. I like concerts. I was like, if I'm going to be in the pits of whatever they call the cars-- I'm not going to see any of that.


JAYMEE SIRE: All right. Well, let's go back to prix fixe, as you mentioned, your first job as a line cook. What do you remember kind of learning in that first job that kind of moved you through this career that we are now all looking at many years later?


MARC MURPHY: I mean, the first thing was-- it was shocking to me. Because I was working [INAUDIBLE], and there was this guy, who is a Spanish kid, who was working with me. He was teaching me my station. This guy spoke six languages. He had studied in Mexico and learned all these languages. But he was making more money as a line cook in New York than he was back in his country.


So that was the first thing that shocked me culturally. I was like, oh, my God. You think of immigration. You think of all these things that people are here. And the guy was fantastic. I think we used to just speak in French or something all the time. It was kind of drove everybody crazy.


But, for me, it was-- I worked there for almost two years. And David Pasternack was one of my sous chefs. And after, I'd say after about a year, almost two years, he looked at me and he goes, you're done here. You've learned everything you need to learn. You need to go learn in another kitchen, so get out.


And I was like, oh, OK. And it was, to me, that was the moment where I realized I have to go learn from different chefs, absorb everything I can, move on to another kitchen, and do the same thing over again. And I have to keep doing that to get better at what I'm doing here.


Kitchens are not very complimentary. They don't say, oh, good job. There wasn't that sense. You had to understand you were doing a good job, because that's when you weren't getting yelled at. You're like, oh, wait. I must have done it right. I didn't get yelled at. So you learn how to maneuver in a kitchen as well. And it was my first job. So you kind of have to-- stuff's getting thrown at you. And it's like, oh, I did that wrong, I guess.




JAYMEE SIRE: How would you describe or maybe compare the kitchens here in New York or in the US to some of the kitchens that you worked in overseas, in France, and Italy, and that kind of thing?


MARC MURPHY: The biggest shock, to me, is when I worked at prix fixe, there was a butcher. He came in, butchered all the fish, all the meat. There was a prep guy doing axe, doing this. And then there was the dishwashers doing their job. And there was porters doing their jobs.


And so as a line cook, I would go in and get my station ready, maybe make the sauces, get all the meat out of the walk-in. And we were really busy. It was a very busy restaurant. And you would go, and I would stand on the line for hours and just keep cooking my whatever, six dishes.


It was like-- it's kind of like playing the drums for six hours straight. You're just cooking and cooking. And when you needed something, you would holler and they would bring you more racks of lamb for your station or whatever it was.


And when I went to France, I worked in a much smaller restaurant. It was only a 45 or 50-seat restaurant, one star Michelin. And we did everything from wash our own pots, clean the stoves after each service. We would literally scrub them down. Once a month, we would get on the ladders and wash the ceiling.


And if I got-- say there was a dish, a wild hare dish, wild rabbit. I would get the rabbit whole, with the fur on it.




MARC MURPHY: And you had to start from scratch-- taking the fur off, breaking it down, break the bones. You make your own sauce. You do your own prep. I mean, you did everything from start to finish in this kitchen where I worked in in Paris. And it was interesting to me because it was like-- I was loving it because I got to learn how to break down the rabbits. Because there was no butcher. If it was on your station, you butchered it.


I remember getting a tuna in one day and it was this big tuna on my cutting board. I'm looking at it going, I've never butchered a tuna. So I call the sous chef over. I'm like, can you give you a little hint? And he goes, yeah. The bone structure's this way. OK, go at it. You basically needed to know a lot more.


And also you had to be much more interchangeable between stations. For example, I remember the pastry chef, the pastry guy who worked-- he was the pastry cook-- worked downstairs and he broke his ankle. And I was working the fish station, and the chef goes, (IN FRENCH ACCENT) hey, American, it's your turn. Go downstairs. You're going to work pastry for the next couple of months till this guy gets better.


I'm like, ah, man. I hate pastry. I suck at pastry. I mean, the first time I went down there, I had to try to figure-- I remember I made 12 kilos of puff pastry that didn't rise. I'm like, oh, boy, this isn't going to work out very well. But you know, you have to figure it out. And we made our own bread there. We made all our ice cream. So I got a real good education. I found I got a better education in sort of the spectrum of what happened in the kitchen when I worked in Paris.


JAYMEE SIRE: Working in all these different kitchens and different countries, cities, how has your cooking style evolved over all these experiences, and how would you describe it today?


MARC MURPHY: I always shot for high end. I mean, I went from prix fixe. I went to a one star Michelin restaurant. I worked at Ducasse at Monte Carlo, a three star Michelin restaurant, for a little bit. I worked at Le Cirque, which was a very fancy restaurant back in the day. I was the chef at Cellar in the Sky on top of the World Trade Center. So I always shot very high.


And I always thought to myself, if I know how to do it really well and perfect, and really know technique and know all that, I'll be able to do anything that's maybe-- I don't want to say below that, but on parallel, different styles of cooking. And I guess by that point in my career when I opened my first restaurant, Landmark down in Tribeca, I kind of was like, OK, I'm sick of the high end.


Not that I'm sick of it like I don't want to do it or eat it, I was just sick of producing it that way. I wanted to do something where I wouldn't see my friends once a year, twice a year in my restaurants. I wanted to see my friends or my customers three times a week. I wanted to do something that was accessible, understandable.


So I opened a restaurant was very reasonably priced. We did really reasonably priced wines. And I opened a restaurant where we were doing 300, 350 covers a night in a 110-seat restaurant over and over. And it was banging. I loved it.


And my cooking style had to vary. I couldn't do the little tiny things. And that's sort of-- it's the way, now, it's more the way I eat, more the way I cook now. I let the ingredients speak for themselves a little bit more. Simplicity is more for me, at least when I cook. I try to not mess up the ingredients in a sense. I don't want to stuff things and wrap them up in whatever. Let's just roast a chicken, man. I got it in the oven right now actually.


JAYMEE SIRE: Oh, that sounds great. That's the style you feel most connected to. What region of the world would you say you feel most connected to in terms of your cooking?


MARC MURPHY: In terms of my cooking, I have a very heavy foot in France, a very heavy foot in Italy. And I would say those are my bases. And, of course, from that, you can pretty much go a lot of directions. I mean, I love traveling in the Middle East. I love Moroccan food.


I've been to Israel. I've been to Jordan. So basically, I kind of I hugged the whole Mediterranean in that sense, and of course, being in New York now for the last 25, 30 years, regional American food or whatever. And we live in New York City. It's like you got everything here. It's great.


But I did dabble a little bit during COVID. I was at home cooking for my family every night. They kind of looked at me at a certain point and go, man, it'd be really nice to have Chinese food. I'm like, OK, well, let's get some books. Let's start messing around, get some ginger in here and some soy sauce.


So I have been dibbling and dabbling in sort of Japan-- I have a friend of mine, who I cook with a lot, who's a very-- he loves Japanese food, and he cooks a lot of Japanese food. So I've been messing around with getting balances between mirin and soy sauce and saki and things like that. So I've been playing with it.


But I would never, let's say, open a restaurant with those flavors. That's sort of like a little playground on the side. And I like to keep it that way. Because I love to go to, let's say, a beautiful omakase. I'm like, I don't have to know everything. I just want to taste it and feel it. It's kind of fun.


JAYMEE SIRE: You just want to go do that and have somebody else do it for you.




JAYMEE SIRE: But the French and Italian, those are your bases. If you were to draw a Venn diagram of French and Italian cooking, what would they have in common and what really sets them apart from each other?


MARC MURPHY: Well, I think I love the flavors. I love the techniques the French do. Sometimes they're a little overdone. I love the Ital-- and I think the Italian food, for me, is where it just makes it-- really keeps it really simple. But I like to pull from both. I mean, if you're in Italy, a lot of the times they definitely overcook their meat. In France, they don't.


So I'm more on the-- I like to cook meat more the French way or these braising things. But I guess, I mean, they're interchangeable in a sense. But not-- I don't know. It's just regional stuff. If you make a hotatui, I mean, I'm in the South of France. If I'm making a cacciucco, I'm somewhere in Italy or something. But you can play with both of them.


JAYMEE SIRE: Yeah. I mean, you've lived so many places, traveled to so many different countries and experienced so many cultures. Why New York? Why have you picked New York to kind of settle down and put down roots?


MARC MURPHY: Well, I moved here when I was younger, and I started cooking. And I guess I just got-- I got hooked. I mean, it's like people-- New York's like-- they say it's like heroin. You get it in your veins, you can't stop. And I don't think I could go anywhere else. You got to be here. And I'm not sure another city would have put up with me in my younger years. I'm was a little bit nuts maybe. And nuts is OK in New York, which was good and--


JAYMEE SIRE: It's welcomed, I think.


MARC MURPHY: It's welcomed. And it's, I mean, there's that song, you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. And I feel that way. And then, of course, now I have a wife and two kids that we're raising here. So that's the other reason I'm here. And all my restaurants were here until before the pandemic. I closed them all now. But this was my epicenter. And it still is.


JAYMEE SIRE: Yeah. I mean, when you think back to owning those restaurants, what were the most challenging and rewarding parts about it?


MARC MURPHY: I always say the most challenging was just keeping all the balls in the air, just making sure everything was going the way it was supposed to go, and also understanding that it wasn't going to be that way. I had 650 employees. Was every one of those employees doing everything that they were supposed to 100% right, 100% of the time? No, never happens.


The most rewarding thing, for me, was when I would sit back and it was like I had a machine that was supporting 650 people's lives, and their girlfriends or boyfriends or their kids. To be somebody that employed that many people, that made that much of a difference in so many people's lives, I think that was one part of the rewarding part of it, thing.


The other thing was being on the Food Network and being whatever they wanted, this celebrity chef stuff. The greatest thing about that is the reward you get for being able to help people. I mean, you go do fundraisers, or you go cook a dinner. You auction off a dinner for 20 people and somebody buys it for $40,000. You're part of a catalyst that's helping out different charities.


I work a lot with Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry. And I know the Food Network does as well. I work-- I'm on the board of City Harvest helping feed hungry New Yorkers. And to me, that's something to get up for in the morning. That makes you feel good.


And then there's the obvious thing. When you had restaurants, you walked in the restaurant and you see bottles of wine on the table and people enjoying themselves and celebrating. And we as a restaurant are part of those celebrations and part of those good times.


And ever since they've been closed, I mean, I get texts. I get emails. I get people stopping me on the street like, oh, my gosh. I miss Landmark. When my kid graduated, we had a huge party with our family there. We remember that so much. And that's moving. That's moving to be part of people, to be part of people's lives like that. You can touch their lives, and it's great.


JAYMEE SIRE: Would you like to open another restaurant here again in the future?


MARC MURPHY: Right now, things are a little tough, I think, for the restaurant industry. I think it's going to take some time. I think there's some readjusting going on. I'm sort of sitting back and waiting and trying to figure out what I'm going to do when I grow up.


JAYMEE SIRE: Aren't we all, right? No, obviously New York is a special place for you, as it is for anybody who has lived here. I know you actually worked in the World Trade Center Cellar in the Sky at Windows on the World before the attack on September 11. It's crazy to think that it's been 20 years since that day. How did being so intimately close to that tragedy change you as a person and as a New Yorker?


MARC MURPHY: Well, it's a hard one to talk about. I was up there before Michael Lomonaco took over. So I was there probably-- I was about two years removed after when it actually happened. But I was living in Brooklyn and sitting on my fire escape by the water and watched everything happen.


And I was actually-- had been in charge of a restaurant, because I had left Windows and I went to work for somebody else. And I was in charge of a restaurant that was downstairs called Southwest New York, right in front of the boat bay, where they parked the boats. And my chef who had worked for me for years called me that day and said, what do I do? Do I lock up? I'm like, just go. Run.


And then of course-- I mean, I think it changed all of our lives. Yeah, it's difficult. It's still difficult for me to process. I mean, I went with my kids to the memorial and didn't last very long. I was so overcome with emotion about it all. So it's a-- you know, It's tough.


I mean, I went back up there because I was actually with another-- I had another partner and we were in the process of bidding to be able to do the food and beverage at One World Trade now. So I had the opportunity to go up there while it was under construction, when there was no windows. It was just nets around the building up to the 98th floor. And I went up there. That was the first time I'd been up there again. And I was like, I don't know if I want to work up here again.


JAYMEE SIRE: Yeah. No, I'm sure that--


MARC MURPHY: It was tough, yeah.


JAYMEE SIRE: --that would be really hard. I mean, just knowing what you saw during that and how resilient the city was, and still is, and then seeing basically everybody go through a different type of tragedy over the last two years with the pandemic, what does it just say about again the resiliency and of the people that live here?


MARC MURPHY: Well, we're still here. We're still doing it. I'm still here. I'm not going anywhere. I think there's tragedies. There's events in every civilization that goes through these things. And I think it's interesting to see. We're still here.


I mean, if you think about it and you go back to the Mayans to the Roman times and all these things, you kind of get a perspective. It's like, OK, is this civilization going to last? What's going to take us down? And I think the Romans were what, around, 600 or 700 years?


You thought-- if you were in the 300th year of the Roman times, you thought the world was always going to be like this, and as we do too. We think the world's always going to be like this. And so far, so good. We're all hanging in there. Hopefully, we don't kill each other along the way. But it seems to be that we're doing it.


And it's great to see. There's innovation that comes out of it. There's this redirection that happens, sometimes for the good. So we can just-- we're not here that long. Let's enjoy it.


JAYMEE SIRE (VOICEOVER): Coming up next, Marc tells us what it was like to film the very first season of Chopped over a decade ago.




JAYMEE SIRE: We certainly enjoy watching you on Food Network for over a decade now. We get to see your approach to kind of mentoring these up-and-coming cooks and chefs as your role as a judge on Chopped. You've been a fixture on the show since the beginning. How did you first get approached about being on Chopped by the network?


MARC MURPHY: The only thing I really remember is I had an assistant at the time. And she had a desk close to mine. And she handed me what they call a DVD. I don't know if anybody uses those anymore. They're these round discs.


JAYMEE SIRE: I have a box of them somewhere.


MARC MURPHY: And she said, I don't know, Food Network called, somebody from a production company. They want you to do this show. I put it in my computer. I watched the pilot. I'm like, OK. And I went to work. And we all knew each other.


But I think, at a point-- I think I said to everybody, I said, let's all have dinner together. I said, we're going to be able to do this better if we all get to know each other better. So I think we all had dinner together at of my restaurants. And we all got drunk.


JAYMEE SIRE: Who was there? Who was at that dinner?


MARC MURPHY: The original people were probably-- I think it was Aarón Sanchez, Marcus Samuelsson, Scott Conant, and Geoffrey Zakarian, Alex, Amanda. I think that was the core original-- and Chris Santos. We were all there.


We kind of did this season, and we all were like, well, that was cute. And we had no idea we would be called back to do another one. And then we kind of did another one. And sort of, it was one of those things that just had a very slow momentum climbing and climbing.


It was one of those roller coasters that's like ch-ch-ch-ch, going up slowly. And every season it just got a little bit more popular. It wasn't like a huge sensation, I think, in the beginning. But as time went on, it just kind of kept building and building. And it's still going


JAYMEE SIRE: Yeah, it is. It's still going strong. Had you done television prior to that?


MARC MURPHY: I mean, having been a chef in New York, when I was at Cellar in the Sky, for example, on top of the World Trade Center-- oh, you got to go do the Today Show. You got to go do this show. You've got to-- you have to go do all these promotional things. The PR people would send you to do television here and there.


And then when I had Time Warner, some production companies approached me. And they wanted to use my space for shooting some pilots, some very dumb ideas and some maybe good ideas. I don't know. But I would always end up in them somehow. They would want me to do something.


And I would always-- so yeah, I was always dibbling and dabbling. I never really thought of it as anything. It was just sort of, OK, great. People say if you get on television, more people will show up at your restaurant. I'm like, oh, well, let's do that then.


And then this show came along. And it's a wonderful show in the sense that it's a competition show. It's entertainment. But I feel as though every episode, people are actually, by happen-chance, are learning something-- either learning something about a contestant and their history, and their life, and their struggles, or their happiness, but also the ingredients.


We talk about ingredients. These four people are cooking with these ingredients. And I think a lot of people are like, oh, wait. I don't know what that is. And so they're watching an entertainment show, but they're learning about-- I don't know, oh, you can cook an artichoke that way or this way or this way. Huh, I didn't know that. So it's fun to know that that's happening.


JAYMEE SIRE: How do you think the show has evolved since that very first season to what we see now?


MARC MURPHY: I think Linda Lea, who owns the show, runs the show, or the producer, has kept it very much the same in the sense that we are the judges and our opinions are what people here. The three of us are sitting there. We are the ones-- there's no producing that. It's just heartfelt. We know what is correct, let's say, or we understand things that work.


So I don't think it's really-- I think the core of it is still very solid. Or it's there. I don't think it's changed at all since day one. Of course, we now have to-- sometimes the Food Network wants us to do other little things.


We never used to do-- I don't know what they call them, but like, non-professional moms cooking or this or that. It was always just cooks. But as time goes on, they need to find some other little hooks every once in a while. And sometimes they make us compete, which is always a real chore.




JAYMEE SIRE: Yeah, you've competed on "Beat the Judge." How did it feel to have the tables turned on you?


MARC MURPHY: Oh, it's-- you know what? I look at it this way. And I think anybody that goes on the show, it's entertainment. I mean, it's a 20-minute round, a 30-minute round, a 30-minute round. Nobody cooks like that at home, I mean, unless they're really in a hurry or whatever. But they're not being judged.


And so a lot of the times, it's like, yeah, it's not the be all and end all. We're entertaining. We're entertainers now. So I always have a really good time cooking on that show. Because, I mean, you like to win. But it's still-- it's just fun. It's a fun competition, and I love it. And some of my colleagues get a little bit more intense about it. And that's what's really funny as well.


JAYMEE SIRE: What is your biggest strength and weakness as a competitor?


MARC MURPHY: It's that damn basket. It's the all out equalizer. It's interesting because if you have three ingredients that you have used before in a dish, 5 minutes ago or 10 years ago, you have a leg up from the person next to you who might never have made anything with those two ingredients, right? So it is the great equalizer in the sense that you have to be able to think quickly. You have to be able to pull from your resources.


People are like, oh, do you practice? I'm like, no, you can't. Your life's work is what you bring when you're standing in front of that thing. And sometimes, if you have no idea, just start peeling an onion. You might need one while you're thinking about something to pull this out. It's kind of funny.


JAYMEE SIRE: At least you're not totally wasting time. Let's talk about some of these basket ingredients that you've had the pleasure or, I guess, at times displeasure of tasting. What is the strangest thing you've ever eaten on the show as a judge?


MARC MURPHY: There's a long list of those types of things. I mean, I can go from buffalo spleen to eyeballs, to testicles, to pig anus. I guess we've had all sorts of stuff.


JAYMEE SIRE: Has anything ever made you sick?


MARC MURPHY: No. My stomach's been able to handle it. There was one time it might have hit me a little. A little raw chicken maybe got a little upset with me, but not that bad, no.


JAYMEE SIRE: Nothing you couldn't handle, especially with all your espresso and tea. Can you think of anything that has not been in a basket that you'd like to see somebody try to work with?


MARC MURPHY: I mean, I don't know where they're finding new ingredients. I mean, they're going to have to invent them. No, I don't think so. I mean, I honestly-- I would never be able to-- I'm sure if I said something, it's been in the basket maybe when I wasn't working. I'm sure.


JAYMEE SIRE: What do you think separates good contestants from the great ones on this show?


MARC MURPHY: Some people-- and it's interesting. In the beginning, the first time we did a $50,000 round, there was a guy named Madison Cowan. And you could just tell he was just good at the game. He was really good at weaving flavors together and pulling things out. And it was like some people are just better at it. They can-- I don't know. It's interesting.


I don't know why they're better. I think it's just because they can think on their feet or they can understand an ingredient and a flavor profile quicker than other people. Not that they're better at it, maybe you can just figure it out quicker than the next guy.


JAYMEE SIRE: Is there a judge that you like judging with the most?


MARC MURPHY: No. We're all family. We don't say things about that.


JAYMEE SIRE: It's like picking a favorite child.


MARC MURPHY: Yeah. I mean, we, the original crew-- it's like a fraternity. I mean, we've known each other for so long. Alex Guarnaschelli said we're like-- we've been together as long as the cast of Friends. I mean, it's ridiculous. But we've been doing this for so long, the original, I think, nine of us. It's quite fun.


It's interesting that we've been doing this for so long, yeah. No, I get along with all of them. And now, of course, somebody once in a while, they're bringing in some new people, which is always-- it's fun to meet them and see their experiences.


But it is a-- when I'm judging with a new person, a new person that comes in, it's funny. Because for me, it's like, we're just going to work. We're doing our thing. It's like, this is how it does. And sometimes you see new people and you kind of have to carry them along and be like, this is-- we need to make the show. We need just to describe what you're eating. Viewers can't taste it. We need to give them what the mouth feels like, and the acidity level, and maybe the spleen. How funky is that flavor?




JAYMEE SIRE: Speaking of some of these spin-offs and specials, I know you got to work with Martha Stewart for one of the latest seasons that you guys filmed up in Maine. Had you met Martha before that?


MARC MURPHY: I had. And actually, oddly enough, I was with her last night.


JAYMEE SIRE: I saw that on your Instagram.


MARC MURPHY: We went and saw the new Julia movie. Really, really beautiful. Yeah, one of the first times I remember working with her-- this was a long time ago. Because she did come on and do a couple of things before. And I was like, oh, wow, I get to work with Martha Stewart.


And I was just blown away at her-- one, her knowledge. She's just really friendly. Very open. Very open to teaching anybody anything or talking about experiences. The nicest person. And I was always like, wow, this is great. But the one thing I did say to myself that first time I was with her, I thought, I think I'm going to have to say it at least once. I've got to disagree with her.


JAYMEE SIRE: Just because.


MARC MURPHY: Then I squeezed it in. I disagreed about one little thing. And I brought it up. And it was very nice. But I got to tell you, when we shot that whole thing, we were up in Maine that whole episode, all of us up there together. It was Marcus and myself and Martha.


It was just such a pleasure to work with. I mean, there's nobody more professional. There's nobody that's more open. There's nobody more, I mean, friendly, and just a great person to work with. I respect her so much after now having worked with her now. And it's just-- it's a joy.


JAYMEE SIRE: Yeah. Did she give you any of her heirloom lemon seeds? We had Ted on and he has apparently a lemon tree growing in his basement.


MARC MURPHY: You can never believe that guy.




Heirloom lemon tree now? Oh, my goodness. No, I don't. I was asking her if she had any seeds left over from Snoop Dogg.


JAYMEE SIRE: Yeah, well.


MARC MURPHY: But, I mean, come on.




JAYMEE SIRE: And did she?


MARC MURPHY: We can't get into that.


JAYMEE SIRE: OK, we can't get into--


MARC MURPHY: I'm just kidding.


JAYMEE SIRE: By the way, how was it kind of going on location and filming up in Maine for that special?


MARC MURPHY: Well, it was during lockdown basically, or a little bit after a while. It was nice to get out of the house. I was like, you could have sent me anywhere. I would have been happy. But we were in gorgeous Maine. We were on this-- they took over this whole resort or property. We all had to stay there, and everybody was tested and goggled up and masked up and tested every day.


It was extremely-- the COVID protocol was very, very strict. But it was great because we were basically-- it was like going to camp. And I'm at camp with Martha Stewart. We're having a drink after work. And that was great. Because we couldn't go anywhere else. We were in the middle of Maine. It was wonderful, yeah.


JAYMEE SIRE: I mean, that sounds like a dream.


MARC MURPHY: Yeah. So Marcus and I, and Martha and Ted were just hanging out, having a cocktail after work on this beautiful property in Maine. I was like, well, I couldn't ask for anything better than this.


JAYMEE SIRE: As you do when you're in Maine with Martha Stewart and everyone else. Well, this has been a dream as well, speaking with you and just hearing all of your stories. Like I said, wildly fascinating just to hear your upbringing and everything. We're going to finish things off with a little rapid fire round, and then we have one final question that we ask everybody here on Food Network Obsessed.




JAYMEE SIRE: All right. So how do you take your tea?


MARC MURPHY: Black. Nothing in it.


JAYMEE SIRE: OK. Biggest source of inspiration.


MARC MURPHY: I think my grandfather.


JAYMEE SIRE: And why is that?


MARC MURPHY: He just-- he was an engineer in the oil fields for a French oil company. And he taught me a lot as a child as far as ethics of working and how to work and how to work with your hands. And I think that was something that really-- it's helped me over the years.


Because as a cook, as a restaurant owner, you're not just cooking. You're also fixing things, and fixing plumbing, and doing things like that. And he was always doing stuff around the house. And he would always take time when I was a kid to show me these things. And I-- it was great just being there with him.


JAYMEE SIRE: Yeah. Personal motto?


MARC MURPHY: Enjoy life. I tell people I have a condition. I've figured it out after spending a lot of time with a therapist. It's called-- I have this condition called [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].


JAYMEE SIRE: You just enjoy life. I want to have that condition. I feel like I try to, but.




JAYMEE SIRE: That's a good one to have. Biggest culinary pet peeve?


MARC MURPHY: I just don't like raspberry vinaigrette. Please. I used to tell my sous chefs when I'd hire them and we'd get to know each other, and they would get to know the restaurant, and they could start running specials. I said, you can run specials. Normally, I want to see what you're doing before it goes out. But if you ever make a raspberry vinaigrette, you're gonna have to go find another job.


JAYMEE SIRE: I haven't seen a raspberry vinaigrette on a menu in a while. So I think you're like--


MARC MURPHY: I've taught a lot of people.


JAYMEE SIRE: The word is out, no raspberry vinaigrette. Favorite dinner spot in New York?


MARC MURPHY: Right now, I guess-- it had been such a long time, and he was closed for so long. A beautiful evening in Barbuto with my good friend Jonathan Waxman is something that I truly cherish. Although, I did do-- yesterday, before I went to that movie-- to see the Julia movie, I did something that I have not done in a long time, because they just reopened. And it's just a New York classic. It's the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station.


JAYMEE SIRE: Oh, yes, I love that spot.


MARC MURPHY: My friend and I had a bottle of Chablis and a couple of dozen oysters. It was like, oh, this is-- and it's funny because I sat there and I watched those guys as that are shucking in and making those oyster stews. And I was like, this has been happening for years and years and years in this place. There's been people sitting in this exact seat who are not alive anymore who got to enjoy this. And it's really wild. It's a New York classic.


JAYMEE SIRE: It certainly is. Another New York classic is pizza. So what are your go to pizza toppings?


MARC MURPHY: I'm a strict anchovy. I love--


JAYMEE SIRE: Strict anchovy? OK.


MARC MURPHY: I love anchovy on my pizza. It could be a Pizza Rosa or pizza margherita with anchovies. That's where I'm going every time.


JAYMEE SIRE: And where are you going for that pizza in New York?


MARC MURPHY: Well, it's a little upsetting. But I walked by Bleecker Street the other day and Keste is gone.




MARC MURPHY: And I think-- but I'm hoping the one that's downtown is still there.


JAYMEE SIRE: I think it is. I think it is.


MARC MURPHY: That's one of the best pies in New York. And I'm partial to the Neapolitan sort of pizza. Having been born in Italy, it's one of those things that-- I totally respect a New York slice though. I'm not gonna lie.


JAYMEE SIRE: What music do you listen to while you're in the kitchen?


MARC MURPHY: Recently, I've just been on the Spotify. I've been putting my old school reggae on a bit. But then I was also-- I'm a very big opera fan too. So I've been listening to some Wagner.


JAYMEE SIRE: All right. And what is your what is your go-to meal at home with the family, random Tuesday night, what are you guys cooking?


MARC MURPHY: I'll probably break down a chicken and throw some vegetables on a sheet tray, put the chicken on top of it. And then all those flavors come together, and maybe some roasted potatoes.


JAYMEE SIRE: Love it. Best. Same here.


MARC MURPHY: Absolutely.


JAYMEE SIRE: Best piece of advice you've ever received?


MARC MURPHY: Oh, it was for my career. It was a long time ago. David Pasternack-- I'd got to work late. I was maybe out too late the night before. And we used to have meetings where nobody else would want to hear anything, in the walk-in. So you'd have to go step into his office.


And as a young cook, he looked at me one day, and he goes, Murphy, sometimes you got to go home and have milk and cookies. Enough of this partying. And then every once in a while, when things were-- because you're in your 20s in New York, and clubs are open all night. And maybe there's some people you want to meet and chase after, so to speak.


He'd walk out of the kitchen sometimes. We'd be breaking down. He goes, Murphy, milk and cookies tonight, right? Yes, sir, Chef. Want you back here early and ready to cook tomorrow.


JAYMEE SIRE: Milk and cookies, I like that. All right, person, dead or alive, that you would most like to have over for dinner?


MARC MURPHY: I always say Winston Churchill. I just find him to be a jolly guy. I would probably have enjoyed his food and a nice cognac and a cigar after a meal and have a nice conversation. I think that that's something that I truly enjoy.


I used to have a roommate who was-- a long time ago in the East Village, he was a philosophy professor. And one of the nicest things is sitting around after a meal, having conversation, and talking with somebody with a mind that thinks differently than yours and has different opinions. And it's nice to sit down with people and converse and have conversations. I feel like that's something that I-- I cherish that.


And it's not often you get that anymore. People think that you're supposed to think one way and that's it. And they don't even want to-- it's hard to have a conversation anymore about something that's important to the world without them already having formed an opinion and not even be able to have, what I would call, a tennis match over a cognac at end of a meal.


JAYMEE SIRE: So you and Winston over a cognac. All right, this has been a blast. Before we let you go, we do have one final question. And that is, what would be on the menu for your perfect food day? So we want to know what you're eating for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert. You can travel throughout the day.


MARC MURPHY: And I wasn't worried about my calorie intake?


JAYMEE SIRE: Yeah. No. Yeah, calories don't count on this day. There are no rules.


MARC MURPHY: One of the things I love for-- I used to have it on my restaurant menu at Ditch Plains and it was cheddar grits with Boudin noir and a fried egg on top of it. It was such a great sort of breakfast thing.


Lunch, I mean, let's work our way into a nice bowl of carbonara because it's a wonderful way to do things, and maybe a little-- a perfect tiramisu for dessert. And then maybe dinner-- dinner, maybe, I'm going to start off my dinner maybe with some type of caviar starter, because I like that. I like caviar, I think, just straight up with classic garnishes; work my way into a beautiful ribeye maybe with maybe some [INAUDIBLE], or [INAUDIBLE], or something like that.


Side dishes-- broccoli rabe is one of those things I just absolutely love. And then I'd love one of those fancy desserts, those fried-- like a gateau st-honore or--


JAYMEE SIRE: What's that?


MARC MURPHY: --something like that. Those fancy French desserts or those pastries, or a beautiful eclair. Oh, my God. I used to eat eclairs when I was a kid all the time. Maybe I'll finish it off with an eclair [NON-ENGLISH].


JAYMEE SIRE: Yeah. And then maybe some milk and cookies.


MARC MURPHY: Well, maybe milk and cookies. But I would probably, I would have to squeeze in a cheese course as well. I'm a bit of a--


JAYMEE SIRE: Oh, yes, please.


MARC MURPHY: I love a cheese course at the end of a meal.


JAYMEE SIRE: Same. I'll take a cheese plate over dessert and any day of the week.




JAYMEE SIRE: And you'll have to have some espresso and then go right to sleep, right?


MARC MURPHY: Square of dark chocolate.


JAYMEE SIRE: It's come full circle on this episode of Food Network Obsessed. Marc, thank you so much. It's been an absolute delight speaking with you, and look forward to watching you on Chopped for many more years.


MARC MURPHY: Well, thank you for having me. And I feel bad I didn't-- I feel like I don't like to have conversations without asking some questions of you as well. But I guess that's not the way it works.


JAYMEE SIRE: Go for it.


MARC MURPHY: Where do you live? What do you do? Where are you located?


JAYMEE SIRE: I live in Brooklyn.




JAYMEE SIRE: I live up here in Brooklyn. Yeah, fellow New Yorker for the last four years. Originally from Montana, but I've lived all over the place as well. Not in other countries as much, aside from Spain in college, but definitely a lot of different places all over the country.


MARC MURPHY: And how have you been finding doing this podcast with all these Food Network people? I mean, what's been your experience? How do you like it?


JAYMEE SIRE: I absolutely love it. My background is journalism. I was a sports broadcaster for many years, including ESPN. So it allows me to kind of tap into those interviewing skills that I honed for so many years. And throughout the years had to shorten all of our interviews because of time constraints on TV, so this lets us have a little bit more fun and let things breathe a little bit more.


MARC MURPHY: Well, it's been interesting and fun watching you grow in this space and, I guess, moving away from one sport to another. And eating can be a sport, right and, I think, much more interesting if I'm gonna be honest with you-- probably.


JAYMEE SIRE: I agree. I agree. That's why I'm here.




JAYMEE SIRE: Thank you so much again. We thoroughly enjoyed having you.


MARC MURPHY: Great to see you. Thank you very much.




JAYMEE SIRE: Love Marc and his dedication to the network and as a judge over the years, all of the behind the scenes stories of Chopped. You can catch Marc on Chopped streaming now on Discovery Plus.


Thanks so much for listening. Make sure to follow us wherever you're listening to podcasts so you don't miss a thing. And of course, if you enjoyed today's episode, please rate and review. We love it when you do that. That's all for now. We'll catch you foodies next Friday.