For Chef Andy Murray, cooking provides good food and great humor
Bill Murray’s brother from Wilmette, who has just published a cookbook, shares his recipe for French toast, ‘a special-occasion kind of treat for us when we were kids.’
For Andy Murray, brother of actors-comedians Bill, Joel, Brian-Doyle Murray and John, success does not happen on a comedy club stage or the big screen.
Andy Murray’s recipe for success happens in a kitchen, with an assist by knives, whisks, pots, pans, appliances and farm-fresh ingredients. (OK, the golf clubs are also always at the ready, too, for the avid player and one-time caddy.)
Murray, 66, is a professional chef by trade — and from the heart — crediting his mom and the kitchen of his family home in Wilmette with igniting the cooking spark within him at a ridiculously young age.
He began his professional culinary career in earnest after graduating with a management degree from the New York Restaurant School nearly 35 years ago. His first big-time gig was as sous-chef at the iconic Mortimer’s in Manhattan, cooking for celebrity ranks that included Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Frank Sinatra, and eventually becoming manager of the tony eatery.
Closer to home, he’s the chef and also co-owner of the Murray Bros. Caddyshack chain of restaurants with all of his brothers, who opened a Rosemont location in 2018. The menu boasts his creations.
Now he’s published his first cookbook, “Eat, Drink and Be Murray: A Feast of Family Fun and Favorites,” a collection of family recipes and heartwarming, humorous tales about life as a Murray.
Myriad anecdotes reveal a close-knit family and a house filled with nine kids, humor, and simply great food. He writes of his childhood years in an Irish-Catholic Wilmette home, where 11 people gathered round the table — “a Duncan Phyfe dropleaf dining room table with five removable leaves, 4 ½ inches wide and 127 inches long,” where nobody could eat until their mom, Lucille, had taken her seat, and their father Edward would commence the serving. Meals were accompanied by a flurry of one-liners from all gathered, but foremost they were served with hearty dose of love.
As Bill Murray writes in the forward, “In a large family, someone always stood by the cook, my mother, collecting reflected love directed at the pots and pans. … And by the stove, in the shadow of my mother, is where little Andy learned to love.”
All six of the Murray brothers (including the late Edward, an avid golfer and entrepreneur who became the inspiration for Michael O’Keefe’s character in the film “Caddyshack”) share an almost obsessive love of golf. (Working as caddies at the nearby Indian Hill Country Club was a rite of passage).
Murray, who lives on Chicago’s North Side for much of the year, recently chatted with the Sun-Times about his love for cooking, family, and a book he hopes will inspire others to appreciate the happiness that making food for others brings.
Q. The book is all about comfort food and family. Why did food become a passion for you?
A. Food has always made me feel better. Whenever there was a problem — I mean we’re Irish but it felt sometimes like an Italian family, because someone would always say, here, have some food. You’ll feel better. It works! When the Cubs lost game three of the World Series at home we were all a wreck. So [we turned to food]. We went to Gibsons to eat. Billy and I went and we had a few Gibsons (martinis) and steak and we felt so much better.
Q. When did you first show an interest in cooking?
A. At the age of 4 I realized I could cook something. It was bacon, which we only had on Saturdays and Sundays with breakfast. [Laughing] If I was cooking it, I knew I could get a few extra pieces.
Q. What was the best advice did your mom give you about cooking?
A. When there’s bacon on the stove, don’t leave the room. And she was right. Because the minute you leave the room to check a basketball game score on TV, it burns!
[Laughs] She always said clean up as you go along. She was right. With our family we always had so many dishes. … And we all had to take turns doing them.. At one point our dishwasher broke and my father finally said, ‘I’ve got nine children, why am I fixing the dishwasher?’ We washed dishes for a long time by hand.
Q. Did you have those big Sunday family meals growing up?
A. I have five brothers and three sisters so the Sunday meal was a big deal. But Sunday through Thursday we all had dinner together every night. Fridays and Saturdays, everybody did their own thing because we were all going out, going to dances. People don’t go to dances anymore, I guess. [Laughs]
Q. What’s your favorite comfort food recipe in the book?
A. Peanut butter, lettuce and mayonnaise sandwiches. With nine kids to feed, sometimes my mom would be running late with dinner so she’d say, ‘Dinner’s not ready; have a sandwich.’ And that’s what we kids would have.
Q. Most people dislike the prep work when it comes to a recipe and cooking. What’s the hardest part about cooking for you?
A. I don’t mind the prep work because for years and years I worked for chefs who would have me chop this and chop that and dice this or that. So I got used to it and my knife skills are pretty good. Cleanup has always been my least favorite thing. I don’t do dishes.
Q. What’s the weirdest thing you ever cooked?
A. Tripe or sweetbreads, served at Mortimer’s [in New York]. It’s like chewing on a ball of phlegm.
Q. Are you a big believer in the power of leftovers?
A. Oh yes, We grew up on leftovers. If there’s leftovers, we’re gonna eat them. Roast beef is [great for leftovers]. Think hash or stroganoff. If I cook a roast, in the middle of dinner I’m already thinking about making the hash the next day.
Q. What’s your dream meal?
A. It would have to be something French, some kind of beef stew bourguignon. That’s my real comfort food. That’s when I get happy.
Q. What do you hope people will take away from the book?
A. The family supper is important and we need to get back to it. Comfort food is one of the ways to get back to it. There’s not a lot of people sitting down to have dinner all together anymore.
Here’s one of Chef Andy’s favorite recipes from his book.
Murray French Toast
Serves: 6 to 8
Cook time: 10 minutes
French toast was a special-occasion kind of treat for us when we were kids. We never had it during the week, just for the holidays or on the occasional weekend. We used to make this with a loaf of Wonder Bread or Butternut, and I’ll still use that from time to time. For the most part, though, I’ve upgraded my bread to challah or brioche, and I recommend that you do too — it really boosts the flavor and adds texture. If you’re hosting brunch, you can make this dish ahead of time and then just keep the toast warm in the oven. The two key ingredients for good French toast are vanilla extract and cinnamon. This dish is easy to make, but I will say that even as an adult, it can make any morning feel special. All the best parts of being a kid again!
- 6 large eggs
- 2 cups whole or 2% milk
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- dash of ground nutmeg
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 8 slices challah, thick white, or brioche bread
- Softened butter, for serving
- 1 cup warm pure maple syrup, for serving
1. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the milk, orange juice, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and whisk to combine. Set aside.
2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter.
3. Dip 1 slice of the bread into the egg mixture and place in the skillet. Repeat with a second slice. Fry each side for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown. Remove to a plate and lightly cover with foil to keep warm while you continue panfrying the remaining slices of bread. You can also keep the slices warm in a 200°F oven.
4. Serve with softened butter and warm syrup.
From “Eat, Drink and Be Murray,” copyright 2022 by Andrew Murray. Reprinted with permission of Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.