Top Chef Insights

Ever wondered whether a Master Chef's guilty pleasure is simply peanut butter or mac 'n cheese? Want to find out what the latest menu trends will be for the coming season? Always wondered who inspires some of the leading chefs in the industry? We've asked these questions and have the answers for you here.

View archived Top Chef Insights interviews.

May's Featured Chef: Marc Murphy, Executive Chef of Benchmarc Restaurants by Marc Murphy and Benchmarc Events by Marc Murphy

Chef Marc Murphy most recently released a new cookbook, Season with Authority: Confident Home Cooking

What made you want to be a Chef?

As a kid growing up in Europe, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my grandmother. Food was at the center of almost everything we did and talked about, but I didn’t know I wanted to do it as  a profession until much later in life, and even then it was driven more by fear than anything else: I didn’t want to be hungry.  I was unsuccessful in school and jumped from job to job with no real purpose for a long time. My brother was the one who suggested cooking school, and it was then that the light bulb went off for me.

What is the newest trend you see emerging?
Cauliflower. Particularly this new creation of cauliflower fried rice. It’s really creative – take raw cauliflower florets and buzz them up in a food processor until it resembles couscous. The “rice” can then be sautéed or stir fried with any type of protein or vegetable. It’s a great gluten free way to eat “rice.”

What’s the strangest thing we would find in your refrigerator? 
Preserved lemons, trust me they will take your soups and stews to another level and they last a long time in the fridge. I love them so much I included them in my essential pantry items in my recently release cookbook, Season with Authority: Confident Home Cooking

If you could eat anywhere in the world, where would that be?
Japan. Specifically sushi master, Jiro Ono's three star Michelin restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo.

Is there one comfort food that you're secretly obsessed with having at home?
It’s not really a secret! Roasted Chicken with potatoes and vegetables - it’s my wife’s favorite meal and there’s something about the smell of a roast chicken that makes me really feel like I’m home.

Which talent would you most like to have that you don't possess?
A voice! I’ve done my fare share of karaoke but it would be really cool to go out and rock a stage and actually sound good.

What’s your favorite meal to cook for friends?
I love grilling whole fish or soft shell crabs. It’s easy, quick and great for sharing. You want to be able to actually spend time with your guests so make your menu simple but flavorful and easy to execute.

If you could cook for and dine with anyone, who would that be?
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. I’d love to have a chance to delve deep and discuss important topics not only for our country but for the culinary community and our kids. And what better way then to do it over a meal?

More about Chef Marc Murphy: 

Owner and Executive Chef of Benchmarc Restaurants by Marc Murphy and Benchmarc Events by Marc Murphy

Ask Chef Marc Murphy where he grew up and he’ll fire off a list of cosmopolitan destinations — Milan, Paris, Villefranche, Washington DC, Rome and Genoa — “and that’s before I turned 12,” he’ll explain. This dizzying list of hometowns served as an excellent education in French and Italian cuisine, though as a teenager this was not his first passion. When the reality hit that he didn’t have the funds to become a professional race car driver, Murphy followed his brother to the Institute of Culinary Education. Following graduation, he apprenticed at restaurants in France and Italy before returning to New York where he landed a job as a line cook at Terrance Brennan’s Prix Fixe. He stayed there for almost two years, working his way through every station in the kitchen and forging a professional bond with Brennan’s Sous Chefs Joseph Fortunato and David Pasternak.

Eager to return to Europe, Murphy flew to Paris and landed a position at the one-star Le Miraville, where he stayed for one and a half years. Afterwards, he staged at the famed Louis XV in Monte Carlo, where Executive Chef Alain Ducasse was so impressed with Murphy’s skills that he personally made arrangements for him to work with Sylvain Portay at Le Cirque once he returned to the States. Murphy still considers Portay to be his greatest teacher. “Sylvain was above all concerned with coaxing out the most vibrant, interesting flavors any ingredient had to offer, yet he insisted on minimal manipulation,” he recalls. Following Le Cirque, Fortunato tapped him to work as a Sous Chef at Layla, Drew Nieporent’s Middle Eastern fantasy in TriBeCa, where he met consultant Georges Masraff. When Masraff joined forces to open Cellar in the Sky at Windows on the World, he recruited Murphy to serve as Executive Chef. After receiving critical acclaim, including a two-star review from the New York Times, Murphy headed uptown to serve as Executive Chef of La Fourchette where the Times’ critic Ruth Reichl awarded him another glowing two-star review, citing his “open desire to transform food [so that] in his hands, even a simple green salad ... Looks like a ruffled hat in a painting by Renoir.”

In March 2004, Murphy opened his first solo enterprise with Landmarc [Tribeca], which won rave reviews both for its eclectic French and Italian menu as well as its highly untraditional wine list. Following its success, Murphy opened Ditch Plains in the West Village in 2006 serving casual, beach-style cuisine such as lobster rolls, fish tacos and the infamous ditch dog as well
as other comfort food favorites. In 2007, Murphy was given the opportunity to open another Landmarc restaurant in the prestigious Time Warner Center where he brought his bistro-style cuisine midtown. Ditch Plains has also expanded in the past few years with an outpost on the Upper West Side, which opened in 2011. In October 2013, Murphy opened Kingside at the Viceroy New York hotel on New York’s iconic West 57th streets serving his interpretation of New American cuisine. Murphy’s restaurants now fall under the Benchmarc Restaurants by Marc Murphy name, where he acts as Executive Chef and Owner. In addition to the restaurants, Murphy also heads up the company’s catering division, Benchmarc Events by Marc Murphy, where his signature style of accessible contemporary cuisine transcends the boundaries of what is offered in his restaurant locations.

Today, Murphy’s involvement in the industry moves beyond the restaurants as well, with a regular role as a judge on The Food Network’s highest rated hit, CHOPPED as well as appearances on IRON CHEF AMERICA, HOT CHEFS, THE MARTHA STEWART SHOW, MAKE MY DAY, UNIQUE EATS, THE BEST THING I EVER ATE, BEST THING I EVER MADE, THE RACHEL RAY SHOW and THE TODAY SHOW among others. He is the President of the Manhattan chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association, a board member of City Harvest, Culintro and Passport NYC at the 92nd Street Y Culinary Camp. As well as a member of the Food + Finance High School Industry Advisory Board, a member of the Leadership Council for Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign and the national spokesperson for Share Our Strength’s Dine Out For No Kid Hungry. In 2012, Marc joined the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Culinary Partnership, where he takes part in public diplomacy programs that engage foreign audiences abroad as well as those visiting the United States.


April Chef Insights - Megan Johnson, Casellula
March Chef Insights - Sara Moulton, Chef, Cookbook Author, TV Personality

February Chef Insights - Barret Beyer, Hell's Kitchen
January Chef Insights - Anton Testino, Mulberry Street Cafe
November Chef Insights - David Binkle, Los Angeles Unified School District
October Chef Insights - Alan Ogard, Lexington Hotel
September Chef Insights - Barbie Marshall, The Farming Chef
August Chef Insights - Cal DeMercurio, Corporate Executive Chef, Black Bear Diner
July Chef Insights - Johannes Bernau, Executive Chef, Who Song & Larry's
June Chef Insights - Ryan Vargas, Chef de Cuisine at Emeril's Tchoup Chop