Celeb chef Brian Malarkey leaves Searsucker, Herringbone restaurants


San Diego’s high-profile chef, Brian Malarkey, is parting ways with the Herringbone and Searsucker restaurants that he helped create as he turns his attention to new dining ventures.

On Wednesday, Malarkey submitted his resignation to the Hakkasan Group, a global hospitality firm that four years ago purchased a majority stake in the Herringbone and Searsucker restaurants, owned at the time by Malarkey and then partner James Brennan.

The Hakkasan investment was made with the intent of expanding the hip, upscale venues, which now are located in Austin, Las Vegas, Santa Monica, Los Cabos and Waikiki.

Most recently, Malarkey’s title with the Hakkasan Group was founding executive chef, and he was present for each of the new openings, he said. The restaurant expansion, though, was overseen entirely by Hakkasan.

What will not change with Malarkey’s resignation is his equity stake in the restaurants.

Malarkey says he simply wants to concentrate on his own restaurants, which he has developed with business partner Christopher Puffer. Their collaboration has led to five new eateries, including the successful Herb & Wood in Little Italy, which opened nearly two years ago, and they have two more ambitious projects they’re currently pursuing.

“I just really want to focus on the restaurants I control and the new projects,” said Malarkey, a judge on Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games and a former finalist on Bravo’s Top Chef series. “I’ve surrounded myself with an incredible team that gives us the confidence to take on two more amazing projects. After that, we are not looking any further down the line than what’s in front of us.”

First up will be Animae, a high-end Asian American restaurant that will be located on the ground floor of the luxury housing highrise that Bosa Development is close to completing on the downtown waterfront.

Malarkey said the restaurant is expected to cost $5.5 million to develop and should open by the end of the year. The partnership’s second project will be Herb & Sea in Encinitas, a sister restaurant to Herb & Wood. The restaurant, budgeted at $2.8 million, is scheduled to open early next year.

The latest ventures mark a notable turnaround from several years ago when Malarkey launched a quick succession of fabric-named restaurants — Gingham, Gabardine, Burlap and Herringbone. By 2013, two of the restaurants were shuttered and another was rebranded.

“Puffer and I learned invaluable lessons on the last expansion with the Burlaps, Gingham and Gabardines,” Malarkey said. “The lesson is just make sure you have a strong enough core and values and people and ideas before you expand. They were just too fast. It takes years to really define and build a brand.”


(619) 293-2251

Twitter: @loriweisberg