By Emily Tannenhauser
Marc Murphy said it’s going to be “tricky” cooking for his family of four when he returns home. “I’m used to making stews for 1,500 people,” he laughed.
Murphy is in Poland, cooking for Ukrainian refugees; he’s been there a month and plans to stay another. A well-known New York City chef (Windows on the World), restaurateur (Landmarc), TV personality (Chopped), and Upper West Sider, he’s taking time off from a very full life to work for World Central Kitchen (WCK).
WCK is a nonprofit that goes to emergencies, disasters, and crises and cooks for those who need to be fed. It was started by Chef José Andrés, known as much for his philanthropy as his cuisine, in 2010, after an earthquake devastated Haiti.
Murphy knows Andrés through the restaurant industry. “We were together at an event in South Beach in February,” he recalls, “and José gathered all the chefs together and told us what WCK was doing. In March, I had another gig in Tallahassee, and on the plane home, I was reading the news and the war was just starting up. I called my wife and said, “I think I need to go. I have a skill and maybe I can help.”
In addition to his wife in New York City, Murphy has two children — two freshmen — one in high school, one in college. Talking about telling them his plan was the only time he choked up.
“I said to them, I know how to run kitchens. I know how to cook food, and having what I have, I should use it for good. As a parent, I think showing my kids that this is what humans do for humanity, helping people, is probably one of the best lessons for them, that this is what you do.”
Murphy arrived in Poland on March 9th and went straight to WCK. “They have this big space and, in five days, they built a makeshift kitchen,” he said. “I just jumped in and started cooking. I was on the original team. Lots of different volunteers, different chefs, have come through. This is our charity. WCK also hires local people to help run things, so we have local drivers and dispatchers, things like that.”
Does he feel safe?
“Let’s face it, I live in New York City and I still read the Post,” he answered. “We’re not doing that great ourselves, right? [It was shortly after the Brooklyn subway shooting.] And I’m in Poland, not Ukraine. It’s about an hour away. I mean, I don’t know how they launch those fricking rockets. Do they miss a lot? Maybe they do.”
He doesn’t spend time wondering; he returns to the subject about which he is passionate. “You know, we can’t just make anything. We’re trying to please a palette that’s used to a certain type of cuisine. We’re trying to make the food taste good and get the right amount. We’re always trying to do it better. Yesterday, for example, we heard there was a two-and-a-half kilometer line of cars to get back into Ukraine. So we loaded up the van with sandwiches, sweets, and water, and we just drove along the line handing them out.”
Maybe it was the thought of sandwiches that prompted him to add, “I can’t wait to get back to New York and have, you know, bacon, egg, and cheese!”