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.”