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Chef Brian Malarkey Interview

One of San Diego's star chefs

July 2010 Q&A with Brian Malarkey, executive chef of Searsucker, and as seen on TV as a contestant on Bravo’s Emmy-nominated series, Top Chef 3 Miami or hosting TLC’s Mega Bites and Kick Off Cook Off.

One of San Diego’s Busiest and Most Recognizable Chefs

Maybe you’ve seen Brian Malarkey on TV as a contestant on Bravo’s Emmy-nominated series, Top Chef 3 Miami or hosting TLC’s Mega Bites and Kick Off Cook Off. In July 2010, Brian opened Searsucker in the heart of San Diego’s bustling Gaslamp Quarter to rave reviews for both his new American cuisine and the hot downtown “scene” he created. His empire continues to grow with new restaurant ventures throughout San Diego and beyond, including Herringbone, Herb & Wood, Herb & Eatery, Farmer & The Seahorse and Green Acre, the chef’s take on fast and casual—a farm-to-table oasis nestled among corporate offices providing delicious respite for busy North County workers.

A native of Bend, Oregon, Brian grew up on a horse ranch and spent his summers in the kitchen at his grandmother’s beach house where James Beard, her old friend and one of America’s most famous foodies, often joined them in the kitchen. After graduating from Western Culinary Institute’s Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Portland, Brian worked with Chef Michael Richard of Citrus in Los Angeles before moving to Minneapolis and The Oceanaire Seafood Room. In 2001, he returned to the West Coast to open Oceanaire’s new Seattle location. SanDiego.org caught up with him to get the scoop on how he ended up in San Diego and how the city stole his heart.

SanDiego.org: What drew you to San Diego? How did you find yourself here?

Brian Malarkey: I moved down here to open up San Diego’s Oceanaire Seafood Room as executive chef and operating partner. I had previously lived in the LA and Santa Barbara areas and fell in love with California from day one. While I’m originally from Oregon, the sun, sand, beaches, and of course, great restaurant opportunities captivated me.

SanDiego.org: What has made you stay in San Diego? Why do you choose to live, and cook, here?

BM: The strong sense of community down here is great. San Diego has a small city, big town feel to it. I especially enjoy the relationships formed between chefs and clientele. After competing on Top Chef, I realized that I had a whole city rooting for me and that I was representing the San Diego community as a whole. My support base multiplied and the love that I felt from the people of San Diego was overwhelming. San Diego is now my home and I will never go anyplace else.

SanDiego.org: What are your favorite San Diego ingredients and what are your favorite ways to prepare or showcase those local items?

BM: I love the ocean and many of the items on my Searsucker menu definitely reflect that. I love to get my oysters, mussels and clams from Carlsbad and Baja. I’m crazy about local lobsters when I can afford them. Some of my favorite local fishes include white sea bass and albacore tuna. I’m lucky to have easy access to local abalone. The way that I prepare these items is simple: clean, fresh and easy with butter, lemon and garlic.

SanDiego.org: Where do you eat on your day off? If you had friends or family visiting, where would you take them to eat?

BM: My favorite neighborhood spot is Bay Park Fish Company. My wife gets agitated if we don’t have brunch at Café Chloe at least once a month. Craft & Commerce and Neighborhood are definitely my go-to spots, and you can always find my family and I eating crepes at the Hillcrest Farmers Market on the weekends.

When friends and family come to town, I like to take them to Cucina Urbana—the menu is delicious and the atmosphere is fun and relaxing. I also take out-of-towners to Cowboy Star for great steak prepared by Jon Weber who is a wonderful man. I always have to take my guests to the Marine Room to experience the creations of Chef Bernard Guillas—both him and his food are so...pretty! And last of all, Island Prime - C Level for lunch. C-level displays all that San Diego has to offer—a beautiful bay, beautiful views and delicious food.

SanDiego.org: Finally, when you're not in the kitchen, what's your favorite way to enjoy San Diego?

BM: I’m always at the beach. My two-and-a-half-year-old son Hunter would spend every day at the beach if we let him. I recently went lobster diving and I have a friend who is teaching me how to spear fish. I also like to help out my good friend Izzy Paskowitz with Autism Family Surf Camps in July. And of course, you’ll find me (clad in a seersucker suit) at Opening Day at the Del Mar Racetrack every summer. I’m also very excited to be attending Polo Opening Day this weekend.


Experience Brian's amazing cuisine for yourself. Make a reservation at Searsucker or one of his other restaurants today!

For other amazing San Diego dining experiences, see our Official Guide to San Diego Restaurants.

If beer & wine is your thing, explore San Diego's award-winning craft beer breweries and some of California's most southern wineries.

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