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Jeff Houck’s Power Lunch: Marc Murphy’s new restaurant at Seminole Hard Rock

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Food News: Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino announced Tuesday that celebrity chef Marc Murphy will open an as-yet unnamed Mediterranean-themed restaurant at the Tampa gaming facility in November.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: If you’ve seen Murphy on Food Network shows like “Chopped” or “Iron Chef America,” you know him as an affable, likable chef. In food TV terms, he’s the cool, funny, 8 percent body fat uncle who plays weekend pickup basketball down at the Y.

It’s always cool when one of the gods from TV’s culinary Mount Olympus descends to create a restaurant for mortals beyond the area codes of Manhattan, Chicago or San Francisco. Not only do celebrity chefs school the locals on a higher standard of cooking when they come to town, they tend to attract talent from places outside the area the way that other restaurants like, say, Cracker Barrel do not. That is a good thing, because restaurants frequently jettison apprentice chefs the way snakes shed layers of skin. Those chefs tend to go make more restaurants in order to get back at the place that either dispatched them or became too small for their talents. Then they become celebrity chefs. And so on, and so on.

Having Murphy in the house also grows the culinary reputation at the Hard Rock, which in recent years has built on its outstanding Council Oak Steaks & Seafood to add Rise Kitchen & Bakery and Noodle Bar. Casinos have deeper pockets than most to attract famous chefs. It’s why Vegas is now as much a food destination as it is a gambling magnet. Not only does this indicate that the ever-expanding SHRH&C is financially healthy enough to attract this level of talent — celeb chef contracts do not come cheap — the casino is doing what it can to lure more affluent visitors to town instead of just KISS Army nerds checking out Gene Simmons‘ discarded codpiece and bussed-in slot junkies on day trips from Bradenton.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE LESS: If you haven’t seen Murphy on Food Network shows like “Chopped” or “Iron Chef America,” you’re not alone. Viewership has been in flux as the channel has evolved during the past five years into a de facto travel, reality and game show network. Show of hands for anyone who knows Murphy’s signature cuisine. Nobody? It’s OK. Although he’s worked at extraordinary restaurants in the United States and Europe and earned bon mots for his contemporary cuisine in New York City, he would be unknown in the red states if not for cable TV.

Hell, the link Murphy’s Twitter account used when sharing the news leads to the New York Post restaurant gossip column. And it was the third item — under info about a pizza and cocktail joint in Greenwich Village but above late-breaking Puerto Rican food festival news.

WHY YOU SHOULDN’T CARE AT ALL: There is plenty of other stuff in the news to think about. Such as robots are strolling through forests and a sinkhole has come back for seconds.

Good times.

Food writer Jeff Houck was the Tampa Tribune's food editor from 2002 to 2014, before becoming marketing and public relations director at Locale Market. He contributes to WUSF radio and He previously edited and wrote for, the Palm Beach Post, the Anchorage Times and the Pensacola News-Journal. Houck can be reached at [email protected]

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