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It’s Our 200th Episode! We Celebrate with Chef Brian Malarkey

Tune in to Episode 200 of the Happy Half Hour Podcast

By Kayla Wong

Four years and 200 episodes later, we’re here sharing this landmark episode with a very special guest, Brian Malarkey. Over the past ten years, Brian has built a successful restaurant empire throughout the country, starting in San Diego. He was the founding chef and partner of Searsucker and Herringbone restaurants, which sold a majority stake to Hakkasan Group in 2014.

Since then, he’s opened Herb & Wood, Herb & Eatery, Herb & Sea, Animae, Nima Cafe, and Herb & Ranch. Brian was a finalist on season three of Top Chef, and was on Top Chef All-Stars last season. He’s also been on Guy’s Grocery Games, Today, and Good Morning America.

In the restaurant industry, you can either go small or you can go big, and Brian went colossal with his multimillion-dollar restaurants. Despite creating over 15 restaurant concepts, Brian cherishes his roots and shares that his favorite project had to be his first—Searsucker. Taking that plunge was huge for him, especially at a time when people weren’t opening restaurants. The next big step was Herb & Wood. While he and his business partner Chris Puffer are in no hurry to expand right now, he says they have new concepts warming up.

We covered a lot of ground during our interview about what’s happening at Brian’s company and in the industry. He has been able to rehire about 60 percent of his employees since March, but they have closed Herb & Eatery. With the need for outdoor dining, they were able to double the seating occupancy at Herb & Sea and Animae—where sales are actually up day-to-day from last year. He also started online cooking classes and donated the funds, and he’s now doing virtual classes for corporations. Brian shared his concerns about PPP loans running out for many local restaurants and how this will impact the community, and discussed steps that small-restaurant owners can take to try to get through this: from seeking out partnerships with other restaurants to negotiating with landlords.

In Hot Plates, Death by Tequila is opening a third location in Liberty Station. They recently signed to take over El Jardín Cantina, and are hoping to open by January 2021. Chef Andrew Bachelier, formerly at Jeune et Jolie, is now offering high-end meals for takeout twice a week, with only 20 tickets available per evening. His website has all the information. Rapper Wiz Khalifa started a new food delivery service and expanded it to San Diego. HotBox by Wiz is a roundup of his personal favorite snacks, and yes, of course it has an unapologetic stoner theme.

In Two People for Takeout/Two People for $50, Brian enjoys taking his family to Blue Water Seafood in OB to get fish tacos for a picnic on the beach. In his continuing search for the best ramen in San Diego, Troy said Yakyudori is still one of the best. David recommended the Chinese American dishes at the recently opened Fortunate Son, and Marie picked the spicy miso ramen at Santouka.


Thank you for listening! As always, we want to hear from our listeners. Do you have a question for Troy? Need a recommendation for takeout? Is there a guest you want us to book on the show? Let us know! You can call us at 619-744-0535 and leave a voicemail, or if you’re too shy, you can email us at [email protected].

Brian Malarkey

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