Marc Murphy Tell Us How He Really Feels Being Back In The Kitchen At His New Restaurant - Exclusive Interview

One of the main draws of living in a city like New York is its incredible food scene. From Japanese street snacks at Kenka to stately prime rib dinners at Keens Steakhouse, you'll find everything you need across the five boroughs, night or day. But for many New Yorkers, there's something extra alluring about a restaurant that isn't quite as readily accessible. Securing a reservation at Rao's, for example, is about as easy as winning the city's housing lottery.

But Marc Murphy's new Tribeca restaurant, Marc179, may have many neighbors beat in terms of its exclusivity. Unlike Murphy's previous eatery, Landmarc, Marc179 is only open three days out of each month — and its rotating four-course menu makes every meal extraordinary. Beyond cocktails like the burnt orange Negroni, Marc179's prix fixe offerings for March included arugula salad with pan-roasted artichokes, roasted chicken, and bucatini cacio e pepe.

The "Tournament of Champions" chef didn't intend to drum up hype through Marc179's limited hours of operation. Instead, he simply needed to accommodate his hectic work schedule around his newly-established eatery. After all, the Food Network star makes it a point to chat with his guests during the restaurant's opening hours. In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, Murphy gave us details on the latest menu at Marc179 — plus, his best tips for creating champion-level meals at home.

Marc179's spring menu draws from Umbrian cuisine

Your new restaurant, Marc179, will be switching things up soon. What can you tell us about April's menu?

We're starting off with a salad, a butter lettuce salad with the radishes and tarragon, and then I'm going into a pasta dish that is actually an inspiration from a little town in Umbria where I hang out sometimes. And it's a rendition of a carbonara, in the springtime. They usually do it with wild asparagus. So we're going to use the smallest asparagus I can find.

It's basically shallots, caramelized with the asparagus. Then, in the same way of a carbonara, I take the fat from the olive oil that I've cooked that in, dump it into a bowl with the pasta that's cooked, get that all mixed in, and then dump it into a bowl with egg, black pepper, and Parmesan. Then, I stir it really quickly so the egg cooks slowly, but it's very loose, and it's just sort of creamy. And that's the dish. We're calling it the Spring Umbricelli Spaghetti, because it's an Umbrian dish, umbricelli, and it's with asparagus.

And the next course we're doing is actually a choice this time. We're not always going to do that, but I really wanted to do a fish, and I think a lot of people might be averse to having fish all the time. There's just that one choice. So we're doing a pan-roasted tilefish with braised fennel and black olives, or you can choose a tomato-braised pork shoulder with a Parmesan polenta and rosemary. And then dessert, which is one of the things I'm most excited about — I'm excited about everything — we're doing a mille-feuille, a real classic, old school French mille-feuille with a pastry cream and raspberries, which we just tested that out the other day, and I was so excited to eat it.

Murphy's new menu makes fine dining more accessible than ever

We noticed you said that the umbricelli's asparagus was the smallest you could find. Where do you source some of the restaurant's fresh ingredients?

We do many different things. I have some relationship with farmers from the farmer's market, and we have our major distributors that we always use. And it depends on the ingredients. Aaron, my chef that works with me, worked for a fish importer for a long time. So, we're definitely going to be working with them, as well, to get some local stuff in.

We're only charging — and people tell me I'm crazy — $75 [per meal.] It's a challenge to make money at $75 in four courses, as you know, in this day and age. This is going to force us, and force our hand, to really use ingredients that are more in-season, more accessible, and actually not as expensive. I'm not going to be using filet mignon, truffles, foie gras, and lobster because it wouldn't make any sense. It's kind of fun to be able to come and work with really good ingredients, but we have to keep in mind I'm making them taste really good. It's a little bit of a challenge, and we kind of like that.

The burnt orange Negroni is an ode to his former restaurant, Landmarc

In March, Marc179 offered a burnt orange Negroni cocktail. Why do you think the burnt orange works so well in that drink?

Well, the burnt orange Negroni is actually a cocktail that's been leftover from my Landmarc days, and it was one of our best-sellers. People loved it. We use Aperol and we do burn the actual rind of the orange and put it in there. It's just another twist on the Negroni. I think it's kind of fun. Because I had restaurants for so long, between Landmarc, Ditch Plains, and Kingside, I'm getting old fans coming back and eating with us. We're bringing a couple little elements back. With the check presenter, we give out our wrapped caramels that we used to give out at Landmarc; our honey vanilla caramels. And when people saw that, my old regulars, they were like, "Oh, my god, they're back!"

If someone wanted to make their own burnt orange cocktail garnish at home, how should they go about it?

I would say you want to just take the rind off, and then with a pair of tongs, just literally over a flame, and scorch it a little bit. It'll give a nice flavor to the cocktail.

According to Murphy, there's 'specific pasta for specific sauces'

You served a bucatini cacio e pepe on Marc179's March menu. What are some other ways that you like to use that particular type of pasta?

Well, bucatini — to me, having grown up in Italy and been born there — is a specific pasta for specific sauces. Bucatini for the cacio e pepe just works so well because it's got that heft to it that holds up a nice heavy sauce like that. And my other choice is the obviously classic bucatini all'amatriciana, which is one of my other all-time favorite dishes. We'll be seeing at some point on the menu at Marc179, I'm sure.

And once again, that's just a sauce that just pairs so well with that pasta. People ask me a lot of the times, "Well, would you make carbonara with fresh pasta?" I'm like, "No way. That doesn't work at all. You need a dry pasta for that." So there's certain things, since I did live there so long, where it's a bit of a religion. You can't be f***ing around with that, man. Don't be doing anything wrong with those pasta dishes.

Right, you don't want to break your spaghetti in half and whatnot.

What did you say? Don't say that. Don't put that out in the world. There are jails for people like that in Italy.

There's more to Tournament of Champions than meets the eye

On the subject of pasta, we were just watching Season 5 of Food Network's "Tournament of Champions," where you narrowly lost to Chef Britt Rescigno with pumpkin and black truffle bucatini. If you could do it over again, what would you change?

It's interesting. When I compete, I make what I like to eat. I make what I want to have. I basically usually make extra for myself because I'm just cooking, and that's what I love to do. And it's interesting because with that competition, I feel like a lot of the play is very different. Now that I've finally watched some of them — because I don't really watch any — it seems to me a lot of people just cook all the ingredients properly and then put them together; doing something that's interesting [in the end.] But to me, it's about weaving the ingredients and making the actual dish that presents.

If I go back, I'm going to have to think differently. I guess I can't, because this is just who I am — but I needed to make all those ingredients sing in one dish. I think my competitor probably cooked the ingredients a little bit better in certain aspects, but to me, that wasn't a dish. I don't know if I'm making sense, but I needed to make something that really sings and harmonizes together. And I felt I did that, and well, but the judges felt differently by a couple points.

We liked your use of toasted walnuts — that episode was really interesting to watch.

I thought it went well. There's one thing I maybe should have done. And I think it's one of the things that Jonathan Waxman said to me while he was judging, which is really weird because they don't know who they're judging as I'm watching the whole thing. It's really sort of frustrating because he's one of my best friends. I probably should have taken more of the halibut cheek and flaked it throughout the pasta, and also probably served it in a smaller portion — because I think that might've overwhelmed him, as well.

It's funny because a friend of mine who's also a chef said she watched the episode, and because I wasn't in the country, I didn't watch it. But they did not edit me struggling with that pumpkin, as much as I did struggle with it, because I couldn't get through that f****ing thing if it would save my life. I was like, "Ahh." Yeah, that was tough, it was a tough ingredient.

Chef Britt did say how hard that pumpkin was to cut.

Yeah, I needed a cleaver to get through that thing.

The chef doesn't break a sweat when cooking competitively

It's funny that you mentioned the pumpkin. We were actually wondering what it's like to compete in the "Tournament of Champions" kitchen versus what the viewers see on the show.

Well, first of all, it's kind of fun because there's an audience, and they cheer, and there's a lot of energy in the room. I know these competitions are stressful and everything like that, but they're game shows and I always have a good time. So it's just fun. And I feel bad because Britt was, at the beginning, before we went on, so nervous.

I'm like, "Relax, it's just a game show. We're having fun. Don't be so nervous about this. We're just going to cook. That's what we do. Have fun with it." And everybody always picks on me a bit because they're like, "Oh, well, you don't care. You just cook and you have fun. We're stressed out over here. Look at Murphy over there just having fun." I'm like, "Yeah, well, that's what I do."

On his friendship with fellow Food Network star Guy Fieri

And your host on "Tournament of Champions" is also your friend, Guy Fieri. What's something about him that people may not know?

His whole life is pretty much out there, but I think that one thing people might not know about him is the deep friendships that he has with all the people that he works with and the people that work around him. He is truly probably one of the most caring people that I know, about our industry as a whole, but also about his friends and his friends that he works with — I mean right down to the cameramen, to the grips, to everybody. He's a true friend and takes care of a lot of people.

That's good to hear. You recently went to Rao's for dinner with him. Could you share any details on the meal for those of us who haven't had a chance to visit?

First of all, we went with this guy, Beau, who's an ex-retired detective. Somehow, Guy Fieri seems to know everybody, and he knew him, and he invited us to dinner. Being there with him was the first time somebody else was upstaged from Guy at the table, I felt like. He was the guy because it was his table, and he knew everybody there, the retired judge over here. It was dinner and a show. I can't even explain it. It was just fantastic.

I didn't order; the person whose table it is does the ordering.  There were six or seven of us, and we ate very well and we ate a lot of stuff. We had pork chops; we had all these different pastas. It was just a real treat to be there. The whole experience was great.

Would you say that it lives up to the hype?

Absolutely. It was the first time I'd ever been, and I had never experienced it before, and it definitely lived up to the hype. It was a lot of fun.

Murphy offers tips for making perfect porchetta at home

What's the key to making a great porchetta, and why do some places get it wrong?

The funny thing is — because, once again, I'm mentioning that I grew up in Italy — when you get a porchetta sandwich off of one of those trucks in Italy, they'll take a rosetta, which is a type of bread. And they'll sit there, and they'll slice it really thin. They'll put the porchetta in the [roll,] and then they'll sprinkle some salt on it. It's super, super simple, but the most important thing is slicing it thin.

And I noticed a lot of people in the States, when they make a porchetta sandwich, they cut it thick. It should be sliced thin in there. The one I did at Citi Field [at Chef Marc Murphy's Porchetta Sandwich Shop] was sliced thin, but I also did a salsa verde in there. I thought was just a great complement to the actual porchetta flavors, as well. It enhanced them, really.

What are some fun sandwich toppings to try with porchetta?

Well, I would definitely try out a giardiniera on that. I've tasted that before. That's good. And my friend, Jeff Mauro, in Chicago makes a really good giardiniera, a little spicy one with a little bit of heat to it. Another one that I love is chili flake and broccoli rabe with porchetta. That's a match made in heaven right there. And then another would be probably a rendition of a Cuban sandwich, but using porchetta, pickles, a melted provolone, and some mustard on there. I think that would be a really Italian-Cuban sandwich kind of way. That would be really good, too.

That sounds awesome. Do you have any good tips for those cooking porchetta at home?

Well, there's two tips. One is try it; do it. If you mess it up, don't worry. It's just a porchetta. You can make another one. The other tip I have is from Pat LaFrieda, my good friend. If you go on his website, they sell one that is Cryovac'd and frozen. And they ship it to you, and you thaw it out and put it in the oven and cook it. It's a really great product. He uses high-end pork. The seasoning is spot on. If you don't have the time, or you don't really feel like it, I've got to tell you, order one from Pat. He does a great job.

The ambitious chef has a busy year ahead of him

What else are you looking forward to in 2024?

The pop-up is just something we're really concentrating on now. Of course, we also do private events here the rest of the month, which is great because we're getting people that are coming to the pop-up that are realizing the space is here. And they either want to throw their birthday party here, or whatever. It's just more of the same, feeding people, making them happy, keeping them interested in what we're doing, and obviously still doing, whenever I can, some TV stuff.

And that's the real thing, opening it up three days a month, friends of mine make fun of me. They're like, "Oh, you're going to work three days a month?" But I really wanted to be here. I want to be here. I didn't want to open a restaurant and not be here. So, this is what I can do because I'm doing so many other things. I just got back two days ago from Miami. I was working on a cruise with a bunch of other chefs, with a bunch of fans, and we did big dinners on the cruise ship. I'm going out next week to shoot some more "Guy's Grocery Games" up at Guy's place.

I'm doing so many other things that I also love to do, being able to come back here, and at least guaranteeing that I will be here for the three days a month that we're going to do this little popup. And bringing in old friends, new friends, and customers that knew Landmarc who are coming in and just being blown away. They're like, "Oh, you're back. We want to do it more." And I'm like, "I can't be here all the time," and I love doing everything else in my life, too. It's all about me, really. And it's making it work for me, the fan base, our customers' fans, and stuff like that. It's a lot of fun. Me with my staff here get to be creative, to play around, make fun food, and I still do what I love to do.

Hopefully we can take a trip soon and check it out, as well.

That'd be awesome.

Reservations for Marc179 are available through OpenTable, though walk-ins are encouraged while seats last. Please visit Chef Marc Murphy's website for details on upcoming menus and dates.