SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – Not unexpectedly, Food Network Chopped Sweets winner Joe Murphy of Scotch Plains says his phone has been constantly ringing since the conclusion of the show, which aired on Monday, Feb. 24. On the other end of the phone were friends calling to congratulate him and to ask about his experiences on the cooking reality show.
“The challenges were under the time constraints of 20, 30 and 45 minutes for each stage of the show, so the time pressure is real,” Murphy said. “If I forgot an ingredient or burned something, I would have been voted off. I’ve seen friends who are unbelievable pastry chefs compete and get voted off.”
“It happens so fast -- you open up the box and then you’re cooking,” the Scotch Plains resident explained. “I made sure to taste everything. For instance, you need to see how spicy the fish sauce was before cooking it. Each segment of the show went by faster than I ever thought.”
And while the challenges are done under the time constraints, that doesn’t mean the taping of the program was quick.
“I was there from 5:00 a.m. until about 10:30 at night,” Murphy said. “Once you are done competing, they interview you. If you win, you’re the last one to be interviewed, so I had to wait.”
Chopped Sweets requires chefs to create desserts by using an eclectic assembly of ingredients in a basket of food that is a surprise until each challenge begins.
The most unusual item? Quail eggs.
“I didn’t know that quail eggs came in a can. That definitely threw me off as to what to do with it,” Murphy said. “I know that in Asian cuisines, the yolks are salted or sugared. I crystallized the yolks with sugar and malt powder to give it a nutty flavor.”
The chef’s winning desserts were:
- Dark Chocolate Ganache with Spicy Current Jam (utilizing spicy fish spread, mini chocolate champagne bottles, currants, and avocado white chocolate bars),
- Passion Fruit "Golden Milk" Sorbet with Sweet & Sour Pineapple, Micro-Basil and Cotton Candy (using passion fruit, jelly beans, "golden milk powder" (turmeric and other spices) and mini wedding cakes),
- Profiterole (cream puff) with Sugared Quail Egg and Chocolate Pudding (incorporating mini ice cream cones, canned quail eggs, elderberries, and carbonated candy).
“Most people think of cotton candy as street food, and it really doesn’t have a taste because it’s essentially sugar and food coloring. I thought it would be interesting to use golden milk powder to give it some flavor by sprinkling it on top, ” Murphy said.
As a three Michelin star chef, did he think he had it won before it started?
“No at all. They edited it out of the show, but I said several times that it’s anybody’s game,” Murphy explained. “I’ve made pastries for years and have confidence in my knowledge and abilities, but this was my first competition. You don’t know who you are facing until you arrive. There could have been world renowned chefs.”
Murphy’s final round competitor was 26-year-old Claudia Martinez, a pastry chef at three restaurants in Atlanta.
“I thought she did such a phenomenal job. I was sweating, to be honest. I looked at her plate, and it was beautiful and perfect,” Murphy said. “She was a strong competitor. We have similar styles and palates.”
So what will Chef Joe Murphy do with his with new-found fame -- and $10,000 fortune – from the Food Network?
“That’s the interesting part of the story. Locally, among my friends, I love making donuts. They have been telling me that I should open a shop and call it ‘Joenuts’,” he explained. “I felt that couldn’t call it that because I’m a serious pastry chef, but I did a focus group, and they loved it.”
Murphy launched his website, Joenuts.com, in conjunction with the show’s airing.
“I’m still working with Jean-Georges, but I’m looking to do this. Right now, I’m looking for investors and possible locations. You never know where it might be,” Murphy told TAPintoSPF. “We are looking at places in New York and New Jersey, and the plan is to grow the business nationally.”
But is it odd for a pastry chef who has worked at some the country’s finest restaurants do something as common as donuts?
“I want to do something that’s approachable – an affordable luxury. When Starbucks first came here, no one thought people would pay $4 for a cup of coffee, but (upscale) coffee is a billion dollar industry,” Murphy said. “Why can’t donuts be fine dining. I want to put ‘gourmet’ into donuts.”