Marc Murphy has surely felt a lot of heat in the kitchen of his restaurants, Landmarc and Ditch Plains, but his latest venture has him facing a different kind of heat -- that of the Wild West. Murphy, along with chefs Amanda Freitag and Aaron Sanchez, is a judge on Food Networks's "Chopped: Grill Masters," which kicks off its five-episode arc this Sunday at 10 p.m. He spoke with us about what viewers can expect and what he's serving up this summer.
Tell us about this new "Chopped" competition.
We went down to Old Tucson, Arizona. It's where a lot of Westerns have been filmed and it's kind of like a museum now. You can rent it out and shoot a movie there, or you can go shoot a cooking show there, which is really funny. So literally we're sitting down in the middle of Main Street, they set up four grills, four smokers, four tables and our judges table, and it was exactly "Chopped" in the studio but we just plunked it down in the middle of the desert in Arizona. It was hilarious. The producers did such a great job of really transforming this place but still keeping the exact same show.
What impressed you when evaluating the contestants?
It's the same criteria: taste, creativity and presentation. I do care about people, but it's not about their story or anything else; it's about what's on my plate and what I'm eating.
Are you yourself a big griller?
I love grilling and it's very funny because I ended up buying the grill and the smoker that they used [on the show]. I have them at my house on Long Island. I'm basically smoking everything this summer. I'm talking about food. [Laughs]
What's the most unique food you've smoked so far?
I made a smoked shallot vinaigrette the other day. I had smoked these racks of pork, and so the smoker was still going, and I wanted to make a smoked shallot vinaigrette the next day, so I put my shallots in there took them out after about two hours, put them in the fridge and the next day I made a vinaigrette with them. Now that I'm talking about this, I want to smoke some scallops this weekend.
What's more pressure for you: cooking at your restaurants, or judging cooking on TV?
If I do something it's for fun, and it's always fun. Cooks are like junkies, we're just junkies for adrenaline. I had like 20 people over to my house the other day, and all of a sudden it came time to put everything together, and I'm running around like an idiot and somebody was like, "Jesus, this doesn't really look relaxing." I'm like, "This is fun, this is what I do -- here, hold that." [Laughs]