“We could use a byproduct to feed the world and solve world hunger” With Chef Brian Malarkey

If you wake up every day feeling happy, challenged, and excited, while also being surrounded by loved ones, you have found success. I had the pleasure to interview Chef Brian Malarkey. Chef Brian has created 15 successful restaurants across the United States. His latest venture, Herb & Wood, located in San Diego’s buzzing gastronomic neighborhood of […]

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If you wake up every day feeling happy, challenged, and excited, while also being surrounded by loved ones, you have found success.

I had the pleasure to interview Chef Brian Malarkey. Chef Brian has created 15 successful restaurants across the United States. His latest venture, Herb & Wood, located in San Diego’s buzzing gastronomic neighborhood of Little Italy, has been awarded with numerous accolades. Herb & Wood was named one of the country’s “Biggest Restaurant Openings of 2016” by Zagat, one of America’s “10 Best Restaurants” by USA Today, and “Restaurant of the Year” by Eater San Diego. Upon opening, the San Diego Union Tribune described Herb & Wood as, “the most thoughtful, exquisitely executed, stylish restaurant of the year.” Connected to Herb & Wood is Herb & Eatery, an artisan market and all-day cafe. Additionally, Malarkey is a partner and operator of three healthy fast- service restaurants in San Diego, Green Acre and Farmer & The Seahorse, with his business partner Christopher Puffer. Malarkey was the founding executive chef of Searsucker and Herringbone restaurants, which sold majority stake to Hakkasan Group in 2014. Under his guidance, the brands expanded both across the country and internationally to 10 locations. In 2018, Malarkey resigned from Searsucker and Herringbone to focus on the Puffer Malarkey Restaurants (Herb & Wood, Herb & Eatery, Green Acre, Farmer & The Seahorse) and two upcoming projects, Herb & Sea and Animae, set to open by 2019. Malarkey serves as a judge on Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games, makes regular appearances on the Today Show and Good Morning America, and was a Top Chef finalist and winning mentor on ABC’s The Taste, which he co-hosted alongside Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson and Ludo Lefebvre. Malarkey has also judged a variety of television cooking programs, including Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook Off, Chopped All-Stars, and Cutthroat Kitchen, and can be seen headlining food and wine festivals around the country. Growing up on a ranch in Oregon, and spending summers enjoying fresh seafood on the coast, helped Malarkey discover his love for food and cooking at a young age, prompting him to enroll in Le Cordon Bleu in Portland. Prior to opening his first restaurant, Malarkey held positions at several marquee restaurants in Los Angeles, including Chef Michel Richard’s Citrus. He and his wife of 15 years, Chantelle, have three beautiful children named Hunter (9) and twins, Sailor and Miles (7). He is active in his free time, surfing, paddle boarding, spear fishing and boating. He is also a racehorse owner and a past racetrack photographer. Always eager to give back to the community, Malarkey has supported dozens of organizations and nonprofits throughout the years, including Rady Children’s Hospital, the Berry Good Food Foundation, Chimps Inc., Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Surfer’s Healing and more.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What inspired you to become a chef & restauranteur?

It’s a funny story actually. I was a business major with an interest in theater arts and was participating in a local play in college. My dad watched my acting and told me that I was the worst actor he’d seen. He suggested I do something else that I had a true love of, which was and still is eating and drinking. At that moment, it occurred to me I could be a chef.

What has your journey been like since first stepping foot in a kitchen?

It’s a never ending adventure and an epic journey with highs and lows, laughters and tears.”

Do you have a specialty? If so, what drew you to that type of food?

Easily the answer is seafood. I love nothing more than shellfish after spending summers on the Oregon Coast where we had clams, oysters, and crab. The simpler and fresher the seafood, the better. Maybe I’m just lazy, but I like to do less. The less you do to it the better it is.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you became a chef?

It’s hard to think of only one story. When you are surrounded by and comfortable in the chaos of a room full of people celebrating and drinking, the stories are always entertaining. Every night is an adventure and an exciting story.

What is your definition of success?

If you wake up every day feeling happy, challenged, and excited, while also being surrounded by loved ones, you have found success.

What failures have you had along the way? How have they led you to success?

“Both my successes and failures have been very well documented. I have been to the top of the mountains and bottoms of the oceans. I opened a lot of restaurants and closed a few, but you learn from those experiences.”

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?

My partner and I will be opening an Asian concept called Animae and a seafood-focused restaurant called Herb & Sea in 2019. Both destinations will be located in San Diego, where my other restaurants are.”

What advice do you have for aspiring chefs?

“You need to know the job and know what the position is. A chef is not just a great cook. A chef is a great operator, a businessperson, definitely a mentor, and an inspirational leader. It’s a very broad job title. It doesn’t matter if you are the best cook in the kitchen. You must be very well rounded. Don’t rush into it. Learn as much as you can. Otherwise you won’t have the tools to succeed.”

What is the key to creating the perfect dish?

“There is no perfect dish. I like high notes and low notes. That’s why the Michelin star scares me. Perfection is boring; I like extremes. Food is not perfect, nor should it be. Exciting and invigorating tells a story.”

It is said that food is a common ground that brings people together. As someone who makes food for a living, what does this saying mean to you?

“That is exactly what I preach to every wannabe restaurateur and chef. Ambience, service, and food need to be amazing, but none of those are the most important aspect. It’s the fact that you are creating a moment together with your friends and family breaking bread, telling stories, making memories. That is the whole reason I do it — to bring people together.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a Chef” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. “It’s a fun addiction that I love every single day of my life. Time consuming and hard work, but I knew that. There’s a lot of sacrifice.
  2. Make sure you vet your partners very well. Never get in bed with a bad partner.
  3. Like I already mentioned, there is a lot more to being a chef than just being a great cook.
  4. California labor laws will try to destroy you at some point if you operate within the state.
  5. More isn’t always better, and that goes for butter, salt, restaurants, employees, and so on. It’s better to do one amazing restaurant than five average restaurants.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

“I would solve world hunger with an idea that I’ve thought about for a long time, and it has to do with bone marrow. Bone broth has protein and we could take the commodity bones from all over the world, pull all the marrow, collagen, and protein, and reduce it to a powder. The finished product could be sent around the world. We could use byproduct to feed the world.”

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to cook for and why?

Well there are several, though not all living unfortunately.

  1. Anthony Bourdain was most fascinating and culinarian human being. Thankfully I had the opportunity to hang out and work with him but could have appreciated the moments more.
  2. Bill Gates, so I could pitch my world hunger concept.
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