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179 West Broadway (Broadway between Leonard St. & Worth St.),
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As Murphy tells it, he started cooking because he didn’t have the funds to become a professional racecar driver. Thus, he followed his brother to Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School, now known as the Institute of Culinary Education. After a brief stint in Europe where he apprenticed in restaurants in France and Italy, he returned to New York and landed a job as a line cook at Terrance Brennan’s Prix Fixe. He stayed 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 bought a plane ticket and a copy of the Michelin Guide, and upon landing, began knocking on the doors of some of Paris’ most notable restaurants. He finally got 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 U.S. 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.
After Le Cirque, Fortunato tapped him to work as a sous chef at Layla, Drew Nieporent’s Middle Eastern fantasy in TriBeCa, where Georges Masraff acted as consultant. Then, when Masraff was invited by Joe Baum to help 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 and back to French cuisine as Executive Chef of La Fourchette. There, 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.”
At landmarc, which Murphy opened with his wife, Pamela Schein Murphy, he has transformed food – turning casual rustic French and Italian dishes, accompanied by great wines, into memorable occasions. He’s applying the same mentality to the fish shack concept with ditch plains, where he hopes guests will view the restaurant as “as an extension of their living rooms,” offering diners meals that evoke feelings of comfort and home.
Frank Proto grew up in an Italian family were food was always the central focus. “We ate only fresh food, nothing frozen, and as soon as we’d finish lunch, we’d start talking about what we’d have for dinner,” Proto recalls. He made his chef debut at age six, preparing the family meal with his sister. While there is still debate about the success of that fledgling effort, one thing for certain was that Proto was hooked on cooking. “From childhood, I knew that I wanted to be a chef. As a kid, the appeal was of working your hands, and now, it’s the rush of having blazed through two hundred covers in one night, and the great camaraderie in the kitchen. It’s an unbelievable high.”
A graduate of Nassau Community College with a degree in Restaurant Management, Proto then went on to get his degree in Culinary Artys from the CIA in Hyde Park. After stints at Tribeca Grill and Layla, he landed his first sous chef position at Scarabee, where he met Joseph Fortunato, who would later be a mentor to both him and Marc Murphy. After Scarabee, Fortunato opened his own restaurant, Quantum 56, and took Proto with him to serve as opening sous chef. From Fortunato, Proto learned about patience in the kitchen, and about the art of going beyond what you thought was the limit of your talents. Fortunato’s level-headed approach with his staff and his constant striving for complete perfection were inspiring.
Proto then went on to work as chef de cuisine at Chinoiserie, and served as sous chef at The Tonic, which earned two stars from The New York Times. His last post before coming to landmarc was at Layla, where as executive chef, he reopened the restaurant after it had been closed for seven months, setting and meeting new standards for quality.
It was between work at Scarabee and Quantum 56, during a two-month stint at La Fourchette, that Proto met Marc Murphy, and two years later worked with him again at Chinoiserie. Proto describes their working relationship as “seamless,” particularly when the two were talking about food, as they have such a complimentary collaborative style. And of course both appreciate a modern dining experience where good wines are affordable, classic dishes get interesting twists, and rules are respected but very often broken… basically just what landmarc is all about.
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