Celebrity Chef Marc Murphy takes his lessons from life to educate Edmontonians on real food and the dangers of convenience
Marc Murphy thinks Canadians can do better. That’s not to say he doesn’t like Canadians. In fact, he thinks we are better (but not much) than his fellow U.S. citizens when it comes to his biggest pet peeves: processed foods and the absence of balanced, healthy diets in North America. And now he is on a crusade to fix that.
As a regular judge on the Food Network’s Chopped, guest on Iron Chef America, Martha Stewart and more, this executive chef, restaurateur and television personality knows a few things about food and what we should is or should not be eating. But his desire for healthier masses comes from a love of food, good health, and general well-being: he aims to educate, not berate.
Murphy, the son of a globetrotting diplomat, has lived all over the world as a boy in cities such as Milan, Paris, Rome, Genoa and Washington DC, all before the age of 12, which he says served as an excellent education in French and Italian cooking. Murphy has also attributed his cooking influences to his mother and grandparents, as he has recounted experiences of enjoying leg of lamb and ratatouille in the south of France. He has also credited renowned French chef Jean-Louis Palladin’s first cookbook for having the biggest impact on him.
While Murphy always loved eating and preparing food at home with his family, he never really desired to become a chef like his older brother, who had enrolled in culinary school. After a few odd jobs, such as residential and commercial painting, Murphy finally saw the light and worked towards a career in culinary arts. Shortly after, he attended school at The Institute of Culinary Education and started as a line cook at Prix Fixe in New York.
But his love and talent for food grew and by the mid 1990s, he was a sous-chef at Layla in New York and in 1996 became the executive chef at Cellar in the Sky, also in New York. After reaching executive status, Murphy began to set his sights on more personal entrepreneurial ventures.
From 1997 to 2000, he was the co-owner and executive chef of La Fourchette. In 2000, he also became the executive chef at Chinoiserie as well as the partner and co-owner of Le Couteau, both of which are in New York.
THE RISE OF BENCHMARC
Word of Murphy’s talents reached far and wide in New York very quickly and in March 2004, he opened Landmarc Restaurant to great success with his wife Pamela Schein in TriBeCa, New York, where he is also the executive chef. In 2005, he also helped open another restaurant, Ditch Plains. By 2006, he opened his second Landmarc restaurant at the Time Warner Center in New York City, with almost three times the seating capacity of his original Landmarc, with 280 seats.
TRANSITION TO TV
For those who have never watched the Food Network, Chopped is an American reality based cooking television series hosted by Ted Allen that pits four chefs against each other competing for a chance to win $10,000. In each episode, four chefs are challenged to take a mystery basket of ingredients and turn them into a dish that is judged on their creativity, presentation, and taste with minimal time to plan and execute. Murphy was part of the original season in 2006 and has continued to be a regular judge on the popular show, which has also spun-off into a northern version with Chopped Canada. The popularity of the reality show has helped launch Murphy from a restaurateur into a bona fide celebrity chef, easily recognizable to droves of fans.
During the show, the chefs must cook their dishes and complete four platings (one for each judge plus one “beauty plate”) before time runs out. After each round, the judges critique the dishes based on presentation, taste, and creativity. The judges then decide which chef is “chopped,” that is, eliminated from the competition. Thus, by the dessert round, only two chefs remain. When deciding the winner, the judges consider not only the dessert course, but the entire meal presented by each chef as a whole. Murphy says the biggest mistakes he routinely sees on the show is when chefs panic and change directions too often. His success on Chopped has made him a regular or guest on many other popular shows, including Iron Chef America, another popular reality show.
And while he may seem incredibly busy with running several restaurants, numerous television appearances and more, Murphy is also on a crusade to bring healthier eating to the plates of everyone he meets.
In May, Edmontonians were treated to Murphy’s wisdom as one of the key note speakers at Host Edmonton, an event aimed at the hospitality industry in Edmonton. Murphy spoke about the dangers of processed foods, especially sugar, and how poor government policies and convenient meals full of chemicals are slowing ruining the health of the masses and he warned about the health risks and costs associated with those choices. He also spoke about the growing problem of childhood obesity and how children are bombarded with junk food commercials on TV and lamented the fact that there is twice as many junk food ads on TV as there was six years ago. Murphy also spoke about how we are all responsible for our individual food choices, but decried the lack of support by U.S. and Canadian government and their move towards larger industrial farming as opposed to smaller, organic farming. But rather than complain, he suggested that North American governments could look to other European countries, such as Switzerland, where there is a big push to promote local farming.
As he spoke at length about the dangers of convenient foods, junk food, the lack of grass-fed beef and the dangers of corn-syrup and its encroachment into many foods, you could tell that he was passionate about his crusade for a healthier population. “If I change the minds of a few people here today to change the way they look at food, or change what they give their children, then I consider that a victory,” said Murphy.