TAMPA — The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa announced Monday it will partner with New York celebrity chef Marc Murphy to debut a new as-yet-unnamed Mediterranean restaurant to take the place of the Green Room, with a target opening date in November.
Murphy has been a regular judge on Food Network's Chopped, with frequent appearances on other hit series such as Guy's Grocery Games, Beat Bobby Flay and Worst Cooks in America. His debut cookbook, Season With Authority, was released in April. But it is his work as the head of Benchmarc Restaurants by Marc Murphy, with hot New York destinations such as Landmarc in Tribeca, Landmarc at the Time Warner Center and Kingside at the Viceroy New York, that excited the Hard Rock team.
What drew Murphy to Florida?
"Tampa is a great location for my Mediterranean-inspired grill because of the close proximity to the gulf and its amazing seafood," he said. "The climate is also very similar to the climate in the Mediterranean where I grew up spending time in Italy and France."
The 250-seat restaurant will be designed by TBD Design with a restrained palette of warm, neutral materials accented by rosemary planters, preserved lemons, spice jars, olive oil, wine and firewood for the grills. Murphy's menu, overseen by executive chef Chris Hine, will showcase sunny Mediterranean dishes such as grilled gulf shrimp spiedini with charred lemon and scallion or spicy lamb and tzatziki grilled flatbread, supported by an international selection of wines focusing on the Mediterranean region served by the quartino, half and full bottles.
Celebrity chefs have swarmed cities like Las Vegas and New York and even set up shop in some second-tier cities such as Cleveland, Portland, Ore., and Minneapolis-St. Paul. For the Tampa Bay area, not so much, although some tentative toes have been dipped in the water.
In 2008, television chef Robert Irvine set his sights on St. Petersburg with two restaurants, but then withdrew after a scandal involving resume fabrications. Near the end of 2013, a big handful of celebrity chefs visited the area for the HSN-backed Enjoy Arts and Tastes St. Pete festival and heavy-hitter Iron Chef America, and Next Iron Chef judge Donatella Arpaia was said to have been considering the area.
Names like Emeril Lagasse, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and New York chef Geoffrey Zakarian have swirled in rumors from time to time, but it wasn't until Michael Mina and Don Pintabona debuted Locale Market in St. Petersburg in January that the area had bona fide celebrity chefs in its midst. Then, last month, it was revealed that Pintabona has returned to New York and both chefs will visit the market only sporadically and leave day-to-day operations in local hands.
There is no word yet on whether Murphy will spend much time on Orient Road in Tampa. But for now, this New York chef is excited about the culinary company he will keep.
"Tampa has a fantastic community of restaurants, and I am excited to be a part of it."
Contact Laura Reiley at email@example.com or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.