What can you tell me about judge Brian Malarkey from “The Taste”?
—Harry Kraus, Wilmington, Del.
Malarkey, 40, was born and raised on a ranch in Bend, Ore. Early on, he was inspired to pursue a culinary career by his grandmother’s cooking and the fresh seafood harvested from the nearby Pacific Ocean.
He attended Western Culinary Institute’s Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Portland, Ore., and after traveling the globe went to work as the sous chef at the Oceanaire’s Seafood Room in Minneapolis, Minn. After proving himself, he relocated to San Diego, where he opened the California version of the restaurant as executive chef and operating partner, winning more than 60 industry awards during his tenure.
In the past two years, he has opened up five restaurants in the San Diego area—all named for fabrics—Searsucker, Burlap, Gingham, Gabardine, and Herringbone.
“They are all different styles of cuisine,” he says. “I am not pigeonholed. I am not a French chef or an English chef.”
In 2007, Malarkey competed on “Top Chef,” finishing in fourth place, following which he went on to host a couple of shows for TLC. So when “The Taste” was looking for the fourth mentor/judge for the series, the producers invited Malarkey to interview.
“I guess they wanted a diverse group of chefs and mentors,” he says. “You have Ludo Lefebvre, who is very well accomplished—and French. Then you have the other queen of England, Nigella Lawson, who is very proper and wonderful. Then you have the hardcore East Coaster and world traveler Anthony Bourdain, so I think they needed a little light, West Coast humor. They needed some apple pie.”
Malarkey continues to expand his culinary empire with the recent release of his first cookbook “Come Early, Stay Late,” and next up will be the expansion of Searsucker from a single restaurant into a chain.
“We are in Scottsdale, Ariz., and we are going to Austin, Texas, in a couple of months,” he says. “Then we are going to be opening a Herringbone in L.A. in early 2014.”