5@5 - Chef Brian Malarkey
July 19th, 2010
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

You may recognize the gentleman above as the the high-energy, fedora-sporting chef from Season 3 of Bravo’s ever-popular “Top Chef" series,  where Brian Malarkey ultimately advanced to the finale.

After holding several positions under French chef Michel Richard and earning more than 60 industry awards as Executive Chef at San Diego's The Oceanaire, Malarkey will open up his very first restaurant, Searsucker, in San Diego, California, this summer.

But before all this chef business, Malarkey was a boy on a horse ranch in Bend, Oregon, spending summers on the coast and time in the kitchen with his grandmother - where she was often joined by her old friend, James Beard (who, might we add, is a good friend to have).

In the spirit of this childhood, Malarkey shares what ingredients taught him to love food.

Top 5 Most Inspiring Foods: Brian Malarkey

1. Dungeness crab
"For as long as I can remember, Dungeness crab has been amongst my favorite meals. Grandma 'Teta,' who taught me how to cook and inspired me to be a chef, used to buy a bunch from the local fisherman near her beach house on the Oregon coast and would boil them in a huge pot of ocean water on burning driftwood. The smell of the salt, sea and all of the fresh food is something that’s so simple yet so perfect. Even today, Dungeness crab is a go-to protein for me. You will be seeing a Carb-Free Crab Cake on the menu at Searsucker, my first restaurant opening the end of July in downtown San Diego. No carbs, just crab ... you can’t go wrong."

2. Blackberries
"As a kid, my father owned a large ranch just outside of Portland, Oregon, and the driveway was, and still is, lined with wild blackberry bushes. I loved those hot summer afternoons when dad would drive his big, old suburban truck extra slow with the windows rolled down. My brother and I would hang out the windows, dodging the unforgiving spikes of the blackberry branches, hoping to grab as many as we could. With fingers stained and bellies full, I'll always remember the 'blackberry crawl.' During the 'Top Chef' finale I even reverted to using blackberries in my final dish: whiskey-braised elk shank topped with drunken port blackberries. The cowboys we were cooking for, and Padma, loved the dish."

3. Salmon
"The first time my dad took me fishing was a day that changed my life forever. On a gray Oregon day, we broke through the waves of the Pacific Ocean, just off the coast of Astoria, rolling with the swell with our fishing lines just behind. With a holler and a scream of excitement, I pulled in my first catch - a glistening Silver Spring Chinook. I thought the catch was the best thing to ever happen, until my dad showed me how to grill up my trophy with just a little butter and lemon. I was a king that day!"

4. "Rocky Mountain Oysters," also known as bull testicles
"On the other side of the mountains with my mom, we grew up on a ranch with cattle and horses. The coming of age tradition was branding the spring calves and making baby bulls [into] young steers. The searing of the flesh and the screaming of courage lost was a familiar sound on the ranch. The ranch hands made sure I was involved with the whole process and the evening was always celebrated with the 'testicle festival.' Crazy as it sounds, I love the taste to this day. At a time when chefs are bragging about cooking and eating everything from nose to tail, I like to prove it! Bitter greens with blackberry-rosemary syrup, duck fat, mustard vinaigrette and whiskey balls!"

5. Rice Krispies Treats
"Yes, you heard me right – the Rice Krispies Treat has been following me through life. It was probably the first thing I ever made with my mom, and probably one of the first things you ever made. Simple and easy, it was also what my wife craved throughout her first pregnancy. She had every kind of Rice Krispies Treat you can imagine: topped with chocolate, with peanut butter, you name it. I still love the childhood innocence of these treats so much that this summer I hosted a TLC Special called 'Mega Bites' where I set out to make the world’s largest Rice Krispies Treat as a fundraiser to save a children’s community arts center outside of Los Angeles, in La Canada. Weighing in at 10,000 pounds, we broke the Guinness Book World Record and saved the arts center for the kids ... one of the most insane challenges I ever faced, but the result was also one of the most amazing feelings of my life."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Television • Think • Top Chef

soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Cindy

    Brian Malarkey's food is great! He hasn't been chef at Oceanaire for 9 months. The food was much better when he was there. He's always nice to the customers and works HARD in the kitchen. He has one of the best personalities in the wild world of chefs. I can't wait for Searsucker to open!!

    July 20, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
  2. Maddog


    July 20, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
  3. Tom

    I am never guided by the people who make it as finalists on any TV reality show. Their success is based more on how they photograph, their appearance, and TV presence. Usually has nothing to do with skill! I mean, has anyone ever tasted Padma whats her name's cooking? Never even seen her pick up a knife on the show. Yet still she is a judge. He is probably an average chef who has got a break because of a dumb TV show.

    July 20, 2010 at 8:04 am |
  4. Billy

    Fine to see a young man who payed his dues gambl at success on his own terms

    July 20, 2010 at 3:33 am |
  5. Love to Eat

    Oceanaire had the best crab cakes I've ever had on both coast including Chesapeake Bay. Brian is really a great chef and very nice person. He always took the time out to say hello whenever I am at the restaurant. His booth at the SD Wine Festival was one of the best booth for food and fun. I can't wait to try Searsucker. ....especially the crab cakes.

    July 20, 2010 at 1:40 am |
  6. Natron

    I worked for Oceanaire for years, and always lopved the company and the food. The company culture is one of conservation and sustainable fishing. My experience with Chef Malarkey was one of annoyance, and self important cockiness....unwarranted..IMHO

    July 19, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
  7. Jay

    Oceanaire never won any major award... All the awards that chef got was paid for by the restaurant through advertisement.
    Overrated at best...

    July 19, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
  8. Janine

    Steph- A cooking class, huh? He was down to earth and hilarious because you were PAYING him to be that...but when he interacts with service people...he is himself...an arrogant ass.

    July 19, 2010 at 9:46 pm |
  9. Steph

    I can't wait to try his new restaurant. He used to teach cooking classes here in Pacific Beach, and the food he cooked in front of the class one night was one of the best meals I've ever had, in or out of a restaurant. Plus, the guy is hilarious and totally down to earth – I didn't find him to be arrogant at all. I wish him the best!

    July 19, 2010 at 8:45 pm |
  10. PE

    Oceannaire overated and overpriced. I've dined there on six occasions (mostly entertaining clients) and never had a meal that was above average. Finally turned my clients on to better (food) quality restaurants.

    July 19, 2010 at 8:40 pm |
  11. Bob Loblah

    Has anyone else had his Blumpkin pie?

    July 19, 2010 at 8:23 pm |
  12. Janine

    Not only is The Oceanaire overrated, but Brian himself is a bit of an arrogant ass...I went there twice, wasn't all that impressed...but after meeting and talking to him several times...I would never go again, nor will I go to Searsucker.

    July 19, 2010 at 8:17 pm |
  13. mycophagist

    I'd like to see Langdon Cook! FOTL

    July 19, 2010 at 7:59 pm |
  14. Mick

    He's extremely overrated!

    July 19, 2010 at 6:50 pm |
  15. Step on me

    Oceanaire was delish! Best crab cakes in San Diego. Really looking forward to Searsucker.

    July 19, 2010 at 6:33 pm |
  16. Mike Mansfield

    I was not impressed by Oceanaire in terms of the food but it is a decent restaurant. My favorite Myth in SF was shut down and now I am left with Guy Savoy in Las Vegas. I was really impressed with the chef who makes their desert (it is actually better than sex believe it or not. I found the person's name as Uyen Nguyen (I think he/she might be Vietnamese).

    July 19, 2010 at 6:18 pm |
  17. Bob Loblah

    His Blumpkin Pie is delicious.

    July 19, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
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