Brian Malarkey

Fabulous People: Brian Malarkey

Brian Malarkey is the founder of San Diego-based Chefs Life, a line of cooking oils created for the home chef to suit specific culinary techniques, including cooking, blending and finishing. The chef and restaurateur has created 15 successful restaurants across the United States and was a finalist on Bravo’s “Top Chef: All Stars.” Learn about Brian Malarkey…

Hometown: Bend, OR

First job: My first job was being a cowboy. I grew up on a ranch riding and training horses, roping animals and shooting guns. When I was 9 or 10, I got paid 11 cents for every irrigation pipe I changed, and a quarter for every gopher I shot, unless it was a big one – those were $5.

Favorite ways to spend your free time in CA: California is so diverse. I love everything about the ocean – from surfing, to fishing to relaxing on the beach – and I also love going up to the beautiful mountains of Big Bear or Mammoth. I love exploring California’s food scene and finding new restaurants in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. I believe the cultural diversity in California is the perfect representation of the “melting pot.”

Your biggest accomplishment and why: My biggest accomplishment is my three children, Huntington O’Neil, Sailor Elizabeth and Miles “Smiles” James, because family is the most important thing there is. Seeing life through my children’s eyes is the most precious thing. My kids are also the reason I’ve worked so hard because I love being able to give them opportunities, experiences, adventure and travel.

The biggest obstacle you overcame: The biggest obstacle I have overcome was uncertainty of youth. When I graduated high school, I thought I knew everything. For four years, I lived with an uncomfortable uncertainty about what I wanted to do, and I was so scared of life. Figuring out what I wanted to do and finding something I love and adore–hospitality, hosting, cooking and entertaining people–has brought me so much joy and is one of my greatest accomplishments. 

Someone who inspires you and why: My mom inspires me because she got me and my brother out of a tough situation as children and brought us to a ranch where she put us to work and showed us the true meaning of life. She’s full of passion, humor and laughter. My mom has also been an ass kicker her whole life; she started a sanctuary for chimpanzees called Freedom for Great Apes and she still rides and shows horses at the age of 75.

Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: If you think you like to cook and you think it looks fun on TV, spend some time in the “saddle.” It’s not as glorious as it looks; it’s backbreaking, sweating, passionate work that’s not for everyone, so don’t sign up for culinary school without first spending some time working in the industry. You can expect to work at nights and on holidays for long 12-hour days, but if you love it, there’s nothing else in the world you’d rather do, and it won’t feel like work.

Favorite quote: “Don’t count the pennies you’re saving, count the dollars you’re making.” Don’t skimp on quality and quantity. Give people the amazing experience they deserve. Be generous with staff, with your joy, in your ambience, and bring happiness to the world – don’t be a curmudgeon.

Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: That I was a cowboy! I was the high school state champion for cutting horses three years in a row. I wore Wranglers on the weekend, and Levi’s during the week.

What makes someone fabulous: Humor, kindness, passion and understanding.

Photo credit: MadPics

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