Marc Murphy doesn’t settle for singles. The prominent New York City chef has two locations of Landmarc and three branches of seafood-centric Ditch Plains, including a pared down Drop-In across the East River in Brooklyn Bridge Park. I spoke with Murphy on April 12 at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival, and he shared insights that hint at how he’s cultivated culinary success.
Was it a given that you’d become a chef, or did you consider other careers?
I was just looking for a job. I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I started cooking. It wasn’t a conscious effort that I was going to be a chef. I just needed a job and I guess I got addicted to it. I love cooking, and I love being a chef. I love being in the kitchen, and I love the ambiance it all comes with.
What’s your top selling dish at Landmarc and Ditch Plains, and why do you think that’s the case?
One of the most popular dishes, we serve in different styles – the mussels – at Landmarc. We serve a lot of mussels, and we serve them different ways. We do curried mussels. We make Provencal with ratatouille in it. We switch it around a lot, and obviously classic style with shallots, parsley. It’s just one of those things that people love. We have a lot of different cuts of steak on the menu, so we serve a lot of steak.
Ditch Plains, what’s the highest selling thing there? Probably the lobster roll. We sell a lot of it. We’re so close to Maine, we get that beautiful lobster from up north, hack it up and make a nice little lobster roll. It’s fantastic.
Did you play any sports in high school?
No, not really.
How do you stay active these days?
I try to get to the gym every once in awhile, but running four restaurants, one wife, two kids, a catering company, I’m pretty active.
Is there anything you don’t enjoy eating?
I don’t think so. Well, food that’s not cooked right. Some people are like, “I don’t like liver.” You’ll like liver if it’s cooked correctly. When you overcook it, it tastes like chalk.
What was your very first night like working in a professional restaurant kitchen, and where was that at?
My first professional kitchen, I worked at Prix Fixe with Terrance Brennan on 18th Street. I was about 20 years old, and that had to be the scariest and most exciting moment of my life, with all the screaming, the yelling, the pots and pans banging around, and I was just so excited about it. I was like, “Wow, this is the place for me.”
What do you look for when you’re hiring somebody to work in one of your kitchens these days?
You look at their resume, see where they’ve been. You like to talk to them about philosophy, about food, what they think about it, and where they want to go in the industry. I think there’s a lot to that, understanding the person and seeing what kind of person they are. Then we can teach them to cook, but you’ve really got to hire nice people, teach them how to cook. It’s harder to find somebody who knows how to cook and teach them how to be nice. So I guess I like to hire nice people.
What kind of music do you like to listen to while cooking, if any?
I’m very eclectic. I like the opera. I like the ballet. I like a lot of classical music, but then again, I like hip-hop. I went to a Lil Wayne concert recently. I went to a Drake concert. I like to go to the old school. I like everything. I love to be entertained.
Is there a person you’ve never cooked with before that you’d most like to cook with?
Yeah, he’s dead though, Escoffier.