San Diego’s Brian Malarkey and Angelo Sosa returning to ‘Top Chef’ in 2020

The chefs rose to fame on the wildly popular chef competition show and will face off with other ‘all stars’ in L.A. in the next season, debuting in March


San Diego chefs Brian Malarkey and Angelo Sosa are returning to “Top Chef,” the wildly popular chef competition show that made them celebrities.

Bravo announced Thursday that the 17th season of the show will debut March 19 with “Top Chef: All Stars LA,” “featuring the fiercest group of competitors the show has seen with 15 finalists, front runners and fan favorites ... who have all returned to finish what they started.”

Among the so-called cheftestants will be Malarkey, who went from relative obscurity as a seafood chef at The Oceanaire in the Gaslamp to ubiquitous local phenom and arguably San Diego’s most famous celebrity chef, after coming in fourth in “Top Chef” Season 3. Today, he and partner Chris Puffer helm a growing empire of fine dining and casual eateries, including Animae in downtown San Diego, Herb & Wood in Little Italy and the just-opened Herb & Sea in Encinitas.

Sosa, who moved to Carlsbad from New York in 2016 after wowing the judges as a runner-up in Season 7 and appearing in Season 8’s all-star edition, is the executive chef of Death By Tequila in Encinitas. The critically-acclaimed restaurant serves modern Baja-inspired fare, accented with Sosa’s trademark use of Asian flavor profiles and ingredients.

In interviews on Thursday, both Malarkey and Sosa said they were returning to the series — along with host Padma Lakshmi and judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons — as different chefs than when they were on 10-plus years ago.

“I don’t think it changed me that much, but it gave me the confidence ... to feel I could cook at the same level as these amazing chefs,” Malarkey said. “I’m going to have the skill sets now from my restaurants (such as (Asian flavors, wood-fire grilling). I’m not going to be pigeonholed as just the seafood chef.”

Sosa said he was curious to see how his professional and personal evolution would play out on the show. “I’ve gone through literally so much transformation,” he said, noting his sobriety. “I wanted to see who I was, the new version of myself. I was humbled to be asked, to be invited back. What an honor; how can I not say yes to that?”

Malarkey called his return a “thank you to ‘Top Chef’ and what it did for my career and how it really launched me to celebrity (status) and got San Diego to embrace me.”

Both of the chefs said competing week to week against national chefs with diverse culinary backgrounds who are cooking at the top of their game offers an unparalleled opportunity to learn and be inspired. Sosa called it “an incubator of great chefs.” Other chefs competing will be Joe Sasto, Bryan Voltaggio, Lee Anne Wong and Gregory Gourdet, Sosa’s former co-worker at New York’s Jean-Georges in New York.

Malarkey described the experience with a typical Malarkey-ism: “It’s like a think tank of styles and techniques. It’s a deep, dark university of culinary adventure.”