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Chef Marc Murphy discusses commitment to the restaurant industry

This is part of Restaurant Hospitality’s special coverage of the 2013 South Beach Wine & Food Festival held in Miami Beach, Fla., Feb. 21-24. • See more from South Beach

If you’re a fan of the Food Network cooking competition show Chopped, then you’re well aware of chef Marc Murphy, who frequently serves as a judge. But he’s not just another pretty television face. Murphy is the chef/owner of two Landmarc restaurants and three Ditch Plains restaurants in New York City. Bullfrog & Baum’s Jennifer Baum moderated a 30-minute discussion with the popular chef at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

Marc, you trained as a high-end chef.

I've worked at a lot of high-end places, but I wanted to eventually open casual restaurants where you can come in three or four times a week, and not three or four times a year.

You're also known for having a good kids' menu.

Yes, kids are welcome in my restaurants and there are things on the menu that taste great and are good for them.

You also cater to adventurous eaters.

Yeah, we have a box on the menu where I'll put menu items that contain blood sausage, chicken livers, beef heart and stuff like that. I heard one of my waiters describe that box to customers as "our advanced eaters box."

You've demonstrated a real commitment to the restaurant industry.

I want to have places where waiters, busboys and other people in the industry can eat. At my restaurant in the Time Warner Building, we are open until 2 a.m. so everyone in the industry can eat there.

You're very involved with the New York State Restaurant Association. You want to be more than a TV star chef.

As the owner of four restaurants, I have more than 500 employees. But in this industry, too many of us simply open restaurants and worry about filling those seats. We need to be better advocates for the people who work in this industry.

It's a complicated dance you must do.

It is because you have to be careful when you speak up. We feed everyone: Democrats, Republicans and the rest. That's why we need a restaurant association that speaks for us.

You've worked with [New York] Governor [Andrew] Cuomo to make changes.

Yes, there were so many laws on the books that were impeding how we do business. Cuomo was great because he cut through a lot of red tape and took some of those laws off the books.

Like what?

For example, in Italy businesses that make wine also use the leftovers to make grappa. In New York there was a law that says you can only have a license to distill one item. Cuomo got rid of that law after we talked to him. He was amazing.

You also do a lot of charitable work.

I focus on two charities: City Harvest, where we help feed the hungry and also teach them how to shop for food and cook it at home. I also work with Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry program. Making sure our kids stay healthy is important to me. The fame I've gotten from being a chef on Chopped has allowed me to help others.

On a lighter note, you've been a constant presence as a judge on the Food Network's Chopped. What is the most disgusting thing someone ever made for you on the show?

One guy was making something that included lamb heart he put in a blender. It was awful.

The best thing you ever ate?

One contestant made a sauce of bacon and mango that would never have crossed my mind. It worked very well together. Another put tarragon and leeks together. Another combination that never occurred to me, but it worked, too.

Restaurant Hospitality editor Michael Sanson reported live from the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami Beach, Fla., Feb. 21-24. The event, now in its 12th year, attracted more than 60,000 attendees, 150 celebrated chefs, and 250 wineries and spirits producers. A component of the festival is several trade talks designed specifically for restaurant operators. Sanson’s reports from South Beach focus on those talks and interviews with top chefs attending the event.

TAGS: Chefs
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