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Marc Murphy doesn’t mess around. There’s a directness to him that screams “New York City chef.” It’s no doubt worked well in the kitchen and has served to propel him to become the best judge on Chopped. (It also led us last year to enlist him as guest editor for Marc Murphy Week). And, no surprises here, the food that has made him famous—served at his Landmarc and Ditch Plains restaurants—is similarly no-frills, no fuss. What Murphy does is deliver.

We spoke with Murphy at the recent Beaver Creek Food & Wine weekend in Colorado, where he was looking forward to making a roasted lamb chop dinner for guests. He wasn’t sure if he’d be hitting the slopes, but he was damn sure he’d be eating burgers made by his pal, Tim Love.

Murphy got his start as a line cook at Prix Fixe in New York City, and moved his way up to become executive chef at Cellar in the Sky at the top of The World Trade Center. In 2004, he opened up Landmarc, which served bistro food at its best, in Tribeca, and a couple years later, he went big time with a second Landmarc in the Time Warner Center. His two Ditch Plains restaurants, with a beach shack seafood menu, opened more recently.

All the hoopla about being star chef on TV doesn’t get a rise out of him—“Being on TV helps business,” he says plainly—but no longer working the line does; “I try to be around,” he says. “I miss it.”

How’d you get into the cooking?
I never wanted to be hungry, so I started cooking early. My mom and grandma were good cooks. I’m half American and half French and we used to visit my grandmother in the south of France every summer and eat really well. I always made pasta. It was the easiest thing to make. I remember always being in the kitchen, helping. And I remember my grandmother picking beans in the yard.

And how did you get started professionally?
I went to Peter Kump’s [now known as the Institute of Culinary Education] for three months. It was a really good experience. It was a professional course in which they showed you everything once, and then kicked you out and said, “do it.” I wasn’t good in school. I learned more from repetition. I’m just a dumb cook, what can I tell you?

Your restaurants seem to be doing well. Are you hoping to expand?
Right now, we are trying to hone the businesses that we have and to maximize profitability. That will allow us to make future growth less painful. You have to have all of your shit together before you move on to another venture.

Where do you learn new dishes?
I learn every time I walk out the door, or look at a menu, or even sometimes when I walk into a deli.

What do you like to make at home?
What’s my go-to meal at home? Well, my wife loves roast chicken and a good Dijon mustard. I have it easy.

So, which is more Marc Murphy—Ditch Plains or Landmarc?
You know, it’s funny, I think they are both me. I love surfing in the summer and I love a comfortable bistro place that I can go to every day.

Read much more about Marc Murphy in the Food Republic archives