By Layla Khoury-Hanold
The CityEats food truck recently hit up the New York Wine and Food Festival, where celebrity chef Marc Murphy handed out his famous Ditch‘witch ice cream sandwiches in honor of his award-winning restaurants, Landmarc and Ditch Plains, going live on CityEats. In between slinging sandwiches and posing for photos with fans, the Food Network star and regular Chopped judge answered our burning food questions. Read on to find out what American food city he can’t get enough of, the best advice he ever received in the kitchen and his picks for NYC dining.
What’s your favorite food city to travel to and where do you like to go?
I love to travel to Paris, Rome and New Orleans. For me, dining is not just about great tasting food; it’s also the ambiance and the people who make the experience what it is. There’s no way to replicate having a steak tartare in a beautiful restaurant in Paris – you can have the exact same dish sitting in New York, but it won’t taste the same because you’re not in France, in a place with so much history and charm.
Two of my favorite spots in Paris are Les Gourmets des Ternes, a superb bistro with classic French fare, and Restaurant de Philippe & Jean-Pierre; early in my career I worked under Chef Jean Pierre Brault. He taught me so much of what I know and apply to my cooking now, so whenever I go back to Paris, I love to eat at his restaurant.
In Rome, Grotte del Teatro di Pompeo is outstanding – they serve beautiful pastas and fresh fish. If you’re looking for something a little more off the beaten path, about two hours from Rome there’s is a little town filled with great restaurants called Spoleto.
Food in New Orleans is a way of life; the people there have a love for food that translates into the cooking – everything’s so good down there, it’s ridiculous. At Jaques Imo’s Café they make a deep fried roast beef po’ boy – it sounds crazy but it’s delicious – and at Cochon I had this amazing bacon and fried oyster sandwich. An old school place that is great to go to at least once is Commander’s Palace.
Who has had the most influence on your cooking?
My French grandparents were such big lovers of food, so spending time with them in the south of France taught me a love and appreciation for food, which is important for cooking. Eating there was like a religious experience, especially lunch. One particularly memorable meal was a roasted leg of lamb. My grandmother prepared it by making precise incisions into the meat and shoving half heads of garlic in it; then my grandfather lit up the barbecue and roasted it on a spit for hours and hours. We ate it with perfectly diced, sautéed potatoes and haricots verts from the garden with smashed garlic and parsley.
What’s your favorite dish to make at home (besides takeout!)?
I love to make roasted chicken with potatoes and vegetables – it’s a simple but satisfying home-cooked dish that I can make at the end of a long day. I made it on Food Network for Best Thing I Ever Made and we serve a version of it at Landmarc.
What restaurant dish are you most proud of, and where can fans get it?
The Braised Lamb Shank at Landmarc. It’s a great winter dish and I love lamb; most people serve it with potatoes but at Landmarc we serve it with a celery root puree and Brussels sprouts with bacon, which is a fun way to do it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in the kitchen?
I had the honor to work with Sylvain Portay at Le Cirque. He’s the one who taught me that cold food should be served cold, hot food should be served hot and if you season it correctly, you’re already ahead of the game compared with most other restaurants.
What are your neighborhood standbys?
We live in Tribeca – for Vietnamese, I like Viet Café and their sweet sausage fried rice; for pizza it’s gotta be the white pizza with sausage at Dean’s; and of course, Landmarc [Tribeca] is like our second kitchen.
What is the best spot to grab a casual afternoon drink and bite?
The Standard Hotel downtown is great – it’s a casual spot to hang out and there are multiple outlets for dining. In midtown, there’s Stone Rose Lounge in the Time Warner Center – their cocktails are bar none the best in the city and they recently opened up for lunch and small bites. Plus they’ve got an incredibly beautiful view of Central Park by day.
What is your date spot?
My wife Pam and I love Crispo on 14th Street – so much so, that we got married there. It has special meaning for us and Chef Frank Crispo, who is an old friend of mine, always makes us feel at home.
What is the best special occasion restaurant?
ABC Kitchen. I am obsessed with Dan Kluger’s cooking, especially the squash toast.
Where is a place you like to go that would surprise your fans and what do you get there?
There’s this little place in the Chelsea Market that my daughter brought me to that does handmade Australian meat pies – they’re fantastic!
Bonus: What’s your all-time favorite meal?
First and foremost, it’s the company that makes the meal for me. As for the food? Surprise me – I love going to a restaurant and not having to make decisions.