10 questions with Chef Mitchell Murphree of Five Senses Restaurant

This is a part of our Q+A series. Know someone we should interview? Nominate them here.

With International Chefs Day coming up on Oct. 20, we wanted to shine a spotlight on local food + bev talent, of which Middle Tennessee has no shortage of. Today, we are sharing the stage with Chef Mitchell Murphree of Murfreesboro’s Five Senses Restaurant, Bar, and Catering. ?‍?

Q: What’s your name, title, and 3-5 things you want people to know about you?

A: Mitchell Murphree, President — M&M Restaurant Group, Inc. and Owner of Five Senses Restaurant, Bar and Catering and Steakhouse Five.

I am a big fan of all music, especially Phish, and a huge UT Vols fan. I am a graduate of UT Knoxville with a B.S. in Food Science, and received an A.O.S. in Culinary Arts from The Culinary Institute of America. I am known to eat too much fast food, and I always wish I had more time to golf and go to the lake. I enjoy traveling and eating new dishes during my travels.

Q: Tell us some background behind Five Senses. What are you most excited about?

A: I am most excited that Five Senses is still here. We are celebrating 18 years this fall. It’s not a secret that the last year and a half has been challenging for the restaurant industry, and I’m proud of our team for persevering. Many of our staff have been with us for a long time and honestly believe in what we’re doing. This passion has translated over to the Murfreesboro community. We are proud of our intertwinement in the community and excited for future opportunities that may come from that.

Q: Can you speak to the 5 senses + how they play a part in your cooking and guest experience?

A: Cooking is the only art that requires the use of all 5 senses! We prioritize the 5 senses every day at the restaurant, not only in the look and taste of the food but with the music we play, the visual appeal of the space and the sounds of the kitchen.

Q: What inspired the fresh, healthy, and local approach to your food?

A: I was blessed to have grown up around many family members who cooked, gardened, farmed, procured, etc. Both of my grandmothers were the best cooks. They always tried new recipes and were adventurous in what they served at home, and my mom carried that on. Cooking has always been at the center of our family. A fresh approach to food is what I have known. Now, I am carrying that over into a business.

Q: What are some of your favorite local products to create dishes from?

A: We work with some great local farmers and vendors for produce. A few of our favorites are:

  • Tennshootoe from The Hamery
  • Haskell Evans’ Heirloom tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and braising greens
  • Simply Pure Sweets’ sourdough bread
  • Locally grown figs

Q: What made you decide to choose the location that you did for the restaurant?

A: I opened Five Senses with my sister, who was living in Nashville at the time. I had been in Murfreesboro for about a year, and we both decided that Murfreesboro was about to go through a significant growth spurt, which it did. The specific location of the restaurant was chosen like many independent restaurant locations are chosen — a place we can afford! It has been a blessing because it is off the beaten path and people have to search us out.

Q: What has it been like running a business with your family?

A: Some days it’s tough, but my wife and 2 boys are wonderful supporters. They know how it works — my 2 boys also know they want nothing to do with this business. HA.

Q: What inspired your passion for cooking?

A: My grandmothers, grandfathers, mom, and dad inspired my passion for food. Food and family have always been the most important thing to all of us. Also, Mahasti Vafaie — owner of The Tomato Head in Knoxville — inspired my passion for running a restaurant.

Q: What local dish do you crave + rave about?

A: Pad Thai Cafe’s spring rolls and chicken red curry are delicious. This dish isn’t necessarily local, but I also love the pho at Vui’s.

Q: What is your favorite dish to cook for yourself?

A: I love a great sandwich. Nothing is better than toasted bread, roasted meats, and creative toppings.