Written by Chris Cutler
Photography by Chantelle Marie Photography
When I mentioned I watched him on Top Chef some years ago, Chef Brian Malarkey seemed to be a bit embarrassed. “That was so long ago,” he laughed. In the nine years since his fourth place finish, the chef has guest-starred on several shows (The Taste, Guy’s Grocery Games, Rachael vs. Guy’s Kids Cook Off, Chopped All-Stars, Cuttthroat Kitchen) as a participant or judge. More importantly, though, he has opened a number of very successful restaurants across the country. His newest, Herringbone, opened to rave reviews at Aria.
The Oregon-born chef recently took a few minutes to answer our questions about food and more.
How long have you been cooking professionally? Who influenced you?
My family influenced me, particularly my father. He came to watch me in a play and told me I was horrible and that I should figure something else to do. He said, “You have been cooking for all your friends for years. Why don’t you go to culinary school?” I went to culinary school as a teenager and have been cooking ever since.
Why did you decided to become a chef?
I love to entertain people. I also love that no day is the same and that every day is a new adventure and an opportunity to be creative. There is constant energy, dynamics and drama.
Where did you train to cook?
I went to Le Cordon Bleu in Portland, Oregon. That said, I am still learning and training every day. I learn from each restaurant I eat at. I am constantly reading cookbooks, magazines, newspapers, everything! I also have the pleasure of cooking with some amazing chefs such as Chef Geno Bernardo (chef at Herringbone Las Vegas) who teach me new things daily.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
My style of cooking is fresh, fun, and tongue-in-cheek. However my style is always evolving because that is the nature of the culinary business.
What about cooking motivates you?
As chefs, we all drive on the energy of a busy night. We find comfort in the orchestrated and chaotic ballet that is cooking. Of course, seeing people enjoying my food is some serious motivation right there.
What is your “signature dish”?
I love cooking shellfish!
What are you 5 favorite ingredients?
Citrus, olive oil, salt, herbs and butter.
What advice would you give someone wanting to become a chef?
I would tell anyone who wants to be a chef to work for free in a restaurant for a period of time before committing him/herself to culinary school or a culinary program. Really get into it and decide if that is what you want to do with your life. It’s not all the glory and fun that is shown on TV!
Your restaurants emphasize farm-fresh produce, line-caught seafood, and fresh meats. “ Do you source as much local produce as possible for each restaurant and does this have a big impact on the menu?
Definitely! Chef Geno has introduced the restaurant to some fabulous local farmers such as Desert Blooms Farm in Pahrump, NV. We’ll be using produce from them this spring.
What is the best meal you’ve eaten, and where was it?
Gjelina in Venice Beach. Every time I eat there—whether it’s a piece of chicken or a mushroom—everything tastes amazing even though it is so simple. Their ability to bring out such amazing flavors while doing so little is amazing.
Who would you like to have prepare a meal for you?
I would love to have Mario Batali prepare and eat the meal with me! I absolutely love his food and have been fortunate enough to meet him in person. His energy is infectious. You can feel his spirit in every restaurant. Huge props to him!