Inside the Malarkey Chef Dynasty


Using the wisdom of nightclub mogul James Brennan and the money belts of investors, seafood-chef-turned-showbiz-chef Brian Malarkey will have cranked out five (come May) restaurants in two years.

I think it’s safe to call Malarkey a San Diego sultan.

His territory and power have grown that much since he made the “Top Chef: Miami” finals.

“Pretty b-a-n-a-n-a-s,” is what Eater called his race to make restaurants: He recently co-parented Gingham and Gabardine, and Herringbone’s on the way. Of course, his Searsucker and Burlap restos just got huge national kudos from OpenTable.

But it’s distorted to give Malarkey all the credit for your long, San Diego night of “social dining.” (Defined here as going out on the town with your people, lounging around one of Malarkey’s hot spots, partying at a big onsite bar, then getting a table and eating something.)

Malarkey is great at acquiring ambitious young chefs. Up-and-coming guys, he called them in a quick phone chat. They execute the dishes while he’s “floating around as the face and the heart” of the restaurants. (Translation: While he’s on the Today Show.)

For you industry nerds and time wasters out there, let’s work our way down from the Social Dining Sultan and acknowledge the people looking after his provinces. (Best read while listening to Kanye West’s “Power.”)


SEARSUCKER (Opened summer 2010) - Shane McIntyre is the chef de cuisine. (McIntyre worked at Island Prime/C Level Lounge in executive chef Deborah Scott’s domain.) Situated in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter, Searsucker empties out the neighboring bars and clubs and restaurants. It’s a popular draw. “Though overpriced, people ate up everything in the rustic warehouse,” ExecDigital summed up Searsucker’s “simply seasoned dishes from unusual ingredients.”

BURLAP (Opened summer 2011) - Anthony Sinsay (top photo, center) is the brand new chef de cuisine here. Recently Sinsay left his executive chef job at Harney Sushi’s two locations and started looking for a new gig - that’s the order of events. “I’m not a poacher at all,” Malarkey assured me. “Right now people are coming to me (asking) ‘What else you got?’ A lot of big name chefs have come to me.” It was no secret Sinsay was frustrated with cooking his hot menu in the shadows at Harney, where raw was the star. (It wasn’t a secret because I spilled that news a year ago.) At this “Asian cowboy” shopping-mall restaurant with Vegas nightclub scope, Sinsay will do a “little spicing up” to the menu, Malarkey said. McIntyre, from Searsucker, temporarily oversaw Burlap after the previous chef, Ben Lieberman, got axed.

GINGHAM (Opened February 2012) - Ryan Studebaker is the executive chef and a partner in this “Urban Cowboy Diner.” He came from a smaller kingdom called WhisknLadle/PrepKitchen. Gayot named him a Rising Chef in 2011 for his work there. (He joined Malarkey sometime after his Del Mar PrepKitchen had an early morning electrical fire.) Gingham is cozy by Burlap and Searsucker standards, and specializes in barbecue. There’s been a consistent line here, so a lot of La Mesa’s surrounding businesses benefit.

GABARDINE (Opened March 2012) - Chad White (top photo, far left) is the executive chef and a partner here. White abdicated his exec chef post at Sea Rocket Bistro, but kept his stake in the North Park seafood spot. “We still honor him as an owner at Sea Rocket,” said Malarkey. “I’m not out to try and hurt anyone’s business.” Both White and Studebaker, over at Gingham, get to be the exec sovereigns of their Malarkey spots, while the chefs at the bigger restaurants get different bonuses, I was told.

HERRINGBONE (Expected May 2012) - Amanda Baumgarten will be chef de cuisine. Like Malarkey, she was a hip “Top Chef” cheftestant. She left her executive chef post at Water Grill, a Los Angeles seafood restaurant, and has been working in Malarkey’s kitchens and prepping for this giant La Jolla eatery.

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Pictured: (L to R) Chad White at Gabardine. Anthony Sinsay, the new chef at Burlap. And the man behind this new dining dynasty, chef Brian Malarkey. - handout and U-T file art

Source: DiscoverSD