Shooting for Top Chef

Oceanaire’s young executive chef and operating partner Brian Malarkey has already cooked up a winning career


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CAN LIFE GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS?

“You know,” says Brian Malarkey, whose culinary creations helped win Oceanaire Seafood Room top honors from San Diego Magazine this year for best seafood, “I keep thinking of that Talking Heads song from Down and Out in Beverly Hills: ‘And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife. And you may ask yourself: “Well . . . How did I get here?” ’ ”

Malarkey got here with lots of talent and hard work. A native of Oregon, he took his culinary inspiration from his grandmother, whose beach-house kitchen was often frequented by her old friend, the legendary chef James Beard.

Although he took a stab at acting in school —he was a theater arts major for one year at Santa Barbara City College—Malarkey says he soon discovered “You can always eat in a restaurant.” And so he enrolled in the Western Culinary Institute’s Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and, on completion, set his sights on California. After working under French chef Michael Richard at Citrus in Los Angeles, Malarkey ate his way through a tour of Europe and North Africa before returning to the States and joining the Oceanaire restaurant group.

His long list of awards includes the California Restaurant Association local chapter’s citation as chef of the year and the San Diego Magazine readers’ polls and critic’s picks in 2006 and 2007 for best seafood restaurant. This summer, Malarkey is stirring some show biz into the mix. He’s in the thick of the competition with 15 of the country’s best chefs in a series of Top Chef cook-offs on the Bravo network. We won’t know until the final show airs in September if he won. But Malarkey does seem to have the recipe for success.

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