Making Each Restaurant Part of the Community

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Marc Murphy is the successful owner of Benchmarc Restaurants, with six restaurant and catering locations across the city, a board member of the nonprofit charity City Harvest, and has been a judge and competitor on cooking competition TV shows like Chopped and Iron Chef America. But despite a well-earned place among New York gourmet culinary masters, Murphy says that he is, and has always been, a believer in family-friendly community restaurants. "My restaurants are based around neighborhoods," said Murphy. "I want Mary down the street to know Joe the bartender." At each of Murphy's restaurant locations-Landmarc in Tribeca and the Time Warner Center, and Ditch Plains in the West Village, Brooklyn Bridge Pier and the Upper West Side-community members have the option to call for takeout. Murphy's staff also keeps kids' menus and high chairs on hand, which is something that not many gourmet chefs are willing to do, he said. "People always thank me for allowing them to go out to dinner with their children," said Murphy. "We're a very busy city, and it's nice to be able to have families sit around the table." Murphy also tries to keep a neighborhood-friendly atmosphere in his restaurants by catering to his regulars. He recalled one incident at his Tribeca restaurant location when he and his staff gifted a onesie, patterned with the Landmarc logo, to a pregnant regular customer. After graduating from the Institute of Culinary Education, Murphy worked as a chef at the famed Windows on the World and La Forchette. In 2004, he opened his first solo project, the French-Italian restaurant Landmarc. As with all of his culinary projects, Murphy focused on "approachable cuisine" for everyday occasions. In 2006, he started Ditch Plains, which serves up beach-style dishes, and now has three locations. These days, Murphy is most successful with Benchmarc, his catering company in Tribeca. Murphy also serves on the board of City Harvest, a nonprofit charity that collects food from the city's restaurants and grocery stores, and redistributes it to the city's homeless and hungry population. In September, the Ditch Plains Upper West Side location participated in Dine Out Week, and for every kids' meal bought, one dollar was donated to Share Our Strength, a nationally recognized organization that raises awareness of childhood hunger. "I just can't stand that people go hungry in this city," said Murphy. Most recently in 2011, Murphy opened up a Ditch Plains on West 82nd Street. Each restaurant location, he said, has its own personality based on the surrounding neighborhood. But all of his restaurants have at least one common factor: great service. The secret to being a great restaurateur is in the attention to every detail, he said, and taking the time to train his employees to run things smoothly when he is away. "I would tell my managers, we hire nice people first, and then we can teach them how to wait tables later," said Murphy. "It's about getting the staff to care as much as I do."

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