Marc Murphy Explains How He Prepares Food For Thousands Of Refugees In So Little Time - Exclusive

Under a week ago, Marc Murphy — who, as you may well have noticed, has been absent as a judge on "Chopped" for a month now — was packing pasta salad into containers in Przemysl, Poland. No, not Tupperware. He was filling up large plastic storage bins — the kind you might have in your attic, packed with winter sweaters or toys your kids have grown out of. Before that, as Murphy's Instagram documents, it was chicken salad for sandwiches, which Murphy prepared out of massive paella pans that are capable of making stew for 1,500 people.

On March 10, Murphy announced via social media his decision to volunteer with World Central Kitchen. Since then, he and other volunteers have been working together to make — as of April 4 — nearly 300,000 meals a day for Ukrainian refugees. Over 2.6 million have crossed into Poland since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February 2022, according to UNHCR's latest statistics

"There's a lot of different situations, and it's a learning curve, it's a moving target," Murphy told Mashed in an exclusive interview. "The numbers are changing all the time. Sometimes, the borders are busy [and] we need 1,500 meals. [Or if] the border's not very busy today, we only need 400 meals." They need to be ready for anything — and this is how World Central Kitchen does it.

Murphy describes the 'moving target' of preparing a meal for refugees

Cooking for refugees is dramatically different because of how quickly World Central Kitchen has to respond and adapt to volatile situations. "Everything's pretty much prepped the night before," Marc Murphy explained. "We get everything ready so they all [have] to be reheated. Sometimes we need to have broths made because if it's cold, they want hot broth at the border because it's cold and they want to keep warm. [Refugees are] standing in line for hours." 

What's on the line isn't just a meal. Food, for refugees on the move, is much more than that. "We're doing everything we can to try to give these poor refugees some sustenance, some dignity, by having a meal and [making] them feel welcome," Murphy explained. 

Soon after starting operations in Ukraine, World Central Kitchen started making sandwiches, which are better suited to bus travel. "Some people don't have time to get one of these hot meals," Murphy told Mashed. It's not just what is made — World Central Kitchen and its volunteer chefs quickly learned that how they make and serve food needs to be optimized to when and where refugees need a meal. 

Murphy and his fellow volunteers have learned some tricks along the way. For example, potatoes cook slowly when you add them raw to a stew. But if you steam them beforehand, and then add them to a stew, Murphy says, it speeds the process up. As it turns out, bulgur wheat can also be steamed before adding it to stew, for efficiency. "We want to be able to be ready at a moment's notice. Even boiling water for 1,500 people, there's no moment's notice for that. It takes a while."

To support Marc Murphy and World Central Kitchen, head to Chef's Instagram page to donate to his fundraiser. You can also help fundraise by setting up your own fundraiser via Facebook or Instagram. It's a powerful tool and an easy way to encourage friends and family to donate to organizations like World Central Kitchen. To date, people have raised more than $50 million using Meta's apps for relief efforts for the people of Ukraine.