'Chopped' chef Marc Murphy works to spread food love

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Chef Marc Murphy's passion for food and his chosen industry is so abiding that he calls to discuss it from a Utah ski resort during a family vacation. Turns out Murphy has a little time on his hands -- and he calls so he doesn't wind up with one in a cast.

"I have a broken bone in my wrist, and it's got to heal," Murphy tells Zap2it. "I can't mess it up because I kinda need this hand, and I don't want to end up having to go to surgery!"

As the proprietor of New York's popular Benchmarc restaurant group and Benchmarc Events catering company, and an empathetic judge on Food Network's much-loved Tuesday staple "Chopped," Murphy is a wizard at time management -- and making folks happy.

"Some of the best times of my life have been sitting around a table, eating good food, drinking good wine and laughing with friends," says Murphy, who adds a minimal markup on his restaurants' wine lists so that everyone can afford the good stuff. "I just love to be able to help other people have that in their lives."

In fact, the catalyst for Benchmarc Events was a love story that played out, from first date onward, in his Landmarc (TriBeCa) restaurant. "They called me up and said, 'We've fallen in love, and your restaurant is where it all happened. Now we're getting married. Could you come and cook for the wedding?' I mean, how can you turn that down?"

Murphy also cites the contestants' often-poignant back stories as a favorite part of his "Chopped" gig.

"The way they talk about food and how it is part of their life and what it's meant to them," he says, "it's really touching."

Next Sunday, "Chopped" fans can see Murphy take on fellow judges Chris Santos, Marcus Samuelsson and Alex Guarnaschelli in an episode of the series' all-star competition for charity.

"There's no way that I can get up in the morning and not give back to the city that I live in," says Murphy, a board member for New York's City Harvest who also serves the national nonprofit Share Our Strength. "But it's not just me. It's our industry as a whole. That's what we do. We love people, and we try to help them."

What are you currently reading?

"'Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking.' It's this huge, six-volume thing, and it's absolutely fascinating."

What did you have for dinner last night?

"Lamb chops."

What is your next project?

"I'm very adamant about not overdoing it with new projects. I have four restaurants, a catering company, one wife and two kids. That's a lot of work right there!"

When was the last vacation you took -- where and why?

"I'm on vacation right now. I'm in Utah at Deer Valley, and we're skiing. I'm a huge lover of skiing, but I can't ski this time. But my kids and my wife are having a good time."
Photo/Video credit: Food Network