Although Tamara Murphy trained in the high-pressure kitchens of the Big Apple as a young chef, Murphy opted for the wider (if grayer) skies and bountiful fresh, local product of Seattle. New York’s loss was Chef Murphy’s fortune. Not long after starting at Dominique’s as a sous chef, Murphy was selected to participate in the Bocuse d’Or. And after two years at the restaurant, Murphy was tapped to take the executive chef helm of Campagne near the famous, fish-flinging Pike Place Market. Not surprisingly, Murphy was nominated for the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of the Year Award, one of four finalists under thirty. In 1995 she was named Best Chef of the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii—all while accolades poured in from the likes of Food and Wine Magazine (who dubbed her one of the Ten Best New Chefs in America), Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Food Arts, and The New York Times.
And while some chefs might be content to rest on their laurels—especially when they have so very many at such a young age—Murphy jumped at the chance to oversee two operations, and in 1993 helped open Peter Lewis’s Café Campagne--which soon became the darling of Seattle foodies. With so much success under her belt, Murphy knew it was time to open her own restaurant. Partnering with Bryan Hill of Campagne, Murphy opened Brasa in 1999, one of the first Seattle restaurants to prioritize sourcing seasonal ingredients from local producers. Murphy has remained a champion of locavore cuisine, in both a culinary and cultural sense. When she took the helm of Elliott Bay Café in 2008, Murphy centered its menu on sustainable and organic products and made the restaurant a kind of community meeting space where local artists and authors could showcase their works. And with just about twenty years advancing the Seattle dining scene, Murphy isn’t done. She’s spearheaded several events aimed at bridging the gap between farmer and chef, and with her first book, Tender: Farmers, Cooks, Eaters, Murphy brings the tenets of farm-to-table to a wider audience than ever before.
Murphy prioritizes the experience overall, from the food to the wine to the sheer pleasure of good company. Seattleites love the creative food and sensual ambiance and both Food and Wine and Gourmet magazines have recognized Brasa as one of Seattle’s top tables. Zagat named it as Seattle’s Top Food in Mediterranean Cuisine in 2003.
Never one to be exhausted by so much success, Murphy makes time outside the kitchen. She’s been an ardent supporter of FareStart and Share Our Strength / Taste of the Nation. With a focus on children’s causes, she has been a featured chef at the Auction of Washington Wines, the second largest charity wine auction in the country, benefiting Children’s Hospital. She has also been featured at the March of Dimes annual Star Chef’s Gala for the last several years. Tamara makes it a point to be extremely supportive of school children, both through her many donations to school fundraisers and by hosting groups at Brasa, where she invites them into her kitchen and actively involves them in the culinary experience.