Kelsey Murphy Talks The MasterChef Table Experience, Virtual Restaurants, And More - Exclusive Interview

For 11 seasons now, "MasterChef" has seen the likes of Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich, and other culinary legends ignite fear and determination in amateur chefs around the country, leading many of them to discover a level of skill and creativity they didn't even know they had. As fans, we get to watch these chefs grow, pick our favorites along the way, root for the underdog, judge the judging, and more, but there's one thing we've never gotten to do: taste the food. Until now, that is.

"MasterChef" has teamed up with Grubhub to bring some of your favorite TV chefs right to your table — except this time, all they'll be competing for is the love of your stomach. Starting June 1, "MasterChef" fans can order dishes created by several contestants of past seasons. The MasterChef Table experience will be available for delivery through Grubhub in over 20 cities around the country and will feature nearly a dozen different comfort foods, all expertly crafted by some of your favorite MasterChefs.

That includes season 11 winner Kelsey Murphy. Mashed got the chance to chat exclusively with Murphy for all the inside details about the MasterChef Table experience, including some of the mouthwatering dishes you'll be able to order. She also gave her take on this unique virtual restaurant concept and how it's helping her build a culinary career post-"MasterChef."

You can eat meals designed by MasterChefs through Grubhub

Let's talk about MasterChef Table. Tell me a little bit more about this experience through Grubhub.

It's been super exciting, such a long time coming. We started this about a year ago, and to have it finally launched is so exciting. I feel so honored to be able to be a part of it — especially being the most recent winner of "MasterChef" to get included — and get my food out to people nationally. It's such a cool thing that no one in "MasterChef" has been able to do before.

It's such a long time coming. So many viewers of "MasterChef" are always saying, "I wish I could taste that food." They watch us, they cheer us on, they see us do everything, and they never get to taste what we actually do. Now we get to actually prove to people that we can cook. It's fun because we literally, 100%, made these dishes on our own. They weren't curated by someone else. We made these recipes completely on our own, so the diners will actually get to be tasting our food.

How does this work? This is available to anyone who's interested through Grubhub?

It's initially going to launch on June 1 in a select number of markets, larger markets like New York [and] Chicago. They're going to launch there, and anybody can order it — delivery only. They can go to MasterChef Table, and there's 11 different dishes to choose from [among] four MasterChefs — myself, [Gerron Hurt], Dorian Hunter, and Michael Silverstein. There's 11 dishes to choose from, all at different price points, different kinds of food. It gets delivered straight to their door.

Are you guys working with restaurants in local areas to have them learn how to make these dishes?

Yes, exactly. We work with restaurants all over the country that will be staffed to make these dishes as orders come in, kind of as ghost kitchens, per se. But everything [is] coming straight from the MasterChef Table. It'll show who made each dish, so viewers will be able to [say], "Oh, I want to taste Kelsey's dish," [and] they'll be able to order mine. It's super exciting. Throughout the year, we're going to launch nationally, so it'll get rolled out slowly but surely throughout the entire country.

Expect elevated takes on your favorite classics on the MasterChef Table menu

Let's talk about this menu. Was there a theme or inspiration? How did you come up with how this menu came together?

The only direction we were given was to make it approachable for people all over the country — something that you would order at an Applebee's or a Cheesecake Factory-type restaurant — and then elevate it to show what you are as a chef [and] make it different than what we've had before.

I like to cook modern American cuisine — right up my alley. I was like, "Okay, what would I want to order?" Then I put my spin on it to elevate it a little bit more, so people can taste my flavors and things that I would be actually making out of my kitchen. It was super fun.

Tell me about these dishes that you made.

I have two dishes on the menu, and my first is a maple bacon chicken sandwich. It's the chicken sandwich of all chicken sandwiches, because of bacon. It has maple syrup and cayenne pepper on it. The fried chicken is fried, obviously. It comes out and we drizzle hot honey all over it. And there's a creamy jalapeno coleslaw with spicy mayo. I purposely told them the spicy mayo needs to be dripping off of it. It has to be soaked in the mayo.

My other one is elotes with skewered shrimp. Elotes, Mexican corn, is my favorite thing in the world, so it was immediately the first thing that I was like, "This has to be on the menu." It's a large bowl of elotes-style corn. [I] mixed that with creamy mayo, lime zest, cayenne pepper, red onion, cilantro, and then five nice, big, skewered shrimp over the top that, again, are spiced really nicely. It's fresh, but also really satisfying. Coming into the summer months, it's going to be the perfect dish to order.

Besides your own dishes, what other menu items would you be most excited to try?

Some of them sounded so over the top. There's one double burger with all the Italian meats and pastrami — it's a double-stacked burger. I'm a fajita lover. Michael Silverstein has these fajitas that are chicken and shrimp, and they have all this queso over it and stuff like that. I'm a sucker for all of those.

We are very flavor-forward people, so all these dishes pack a punch. They're all winners — especially with only 11 dishes, you had to pick and choose specifically what we wanted to feature. It's really nice because the menu crosses all price points. We have things as low as $5 all the way up to $22, but nothing is crazy expensive. [It's] pretty approachable for all diners to get their hands on, and [they] can pick and choose what they want.

Kelsey Murphy is looking forward in the new era of restaurants

It seems like ghost kitchens and virtual restaurant concepts are definitely getting more popular. What do you think of this trend from the perspective of a trained restaurant chef and also a foodie?

It's kind of the way of the world. As a restaurant owner — I also have a restaurant now — it's seeing both sides. A lot of restaurant owners don't love the ghost kitchen concept all the time, because it's taking people out of dining in their restaurants. But the only way forward is to adjust with the times and to recognize that this is the way of the future. If you can't get on board with it, you're going to sink. So I think it's great. It allows people to get our food to the masses without them having to leave their homes, so it's great.

You're also involved in this new world of restaurant innovation through Inspo at the Fishers Test Kitchen. Tell me a little bit more about this concept and what your inspiration for Inspo was.

It's amazing, the timing of everything, because now I have this pop-up where I can feed people here locally. Then I have MasterChef Table where I can feed people nationally. It's perfect timing. There's nothing better than these test kitchens that are opening up all over the country, because it's allowing me, and chefs like me, an opportunity we would never get otherwise to have the financial backing to try to open up a restaurant. We have other people helping us with that, teaching us restaurant operations, teaching us how to order things, how to staff, how to run a line — all these things that I didn't know.

It's such a great learning experience, but coming from "MasterChef," where I wasn't a trained chef, it's giving me a lot of street cred within the culinary world. That's one of the hardest things that not only I, but all the "MasterChef" winners or people from "MasterChef," struggle with; we're lacking that resumé of prior culinary experience when we try to shift our careers. I'm luckily getting a resumé builder and [can] get that experience, and hopefully [can] gain the respect of other people in the culinary world.

What's next for Kelsey Murphy after winning MasterChef

It's been almost a year since your win on "MasterChef." Other than Inspo, how has your life and career changed since then?

[It's been a] complete 180 in all the best ways. I'm writing a book currently. I'm writing a cookbook that's going to be coming out in 2023. I'm doing Inspo. I am doing a lot of brand partnerships, not only with MasterChef, but a lot of other brands. And [I'm] trying, again, to build my career and build my brand as Chef Kelsey Murphy. 

For me, the sky's the limit. I want to be that person that is able to touch everybody, that is a household name, that moms and foodies all over the world can relate with. That's where my head's at. Every day is a new adventure, and I take it as it comes. Hopefully, people will be seeing a lot more of me.

Follow along with the latest from "MasterChef" Season 11 winner Kelsey Murphy on Instagram.

This interview was edited for clarity.