Brian Malarkey may have been booted as a mentor on ABC’s chef competition reality show The Taste, where he starred alongside Anthony Bourdain and Nigella Lawson. But he’s not done going Hollywood. The San Diego chef, known for Searsucker and Herringbone, recently announced that he’s opening an outpost of the latter at the Mondrian Los Angeles hotel on the Sunset Strip in the lobby space that long harbored Asia de Cuba. In his first interview since his TV sacking, Malarkey talks to The Hollywood Reporter about why he thinks he wasn’t asked back, and what L.A. diners can expect of Herringbone – which specializes in the new-school intersection of surf-and-turf – when it debuts in December.
So why do you think you weren’t asked back at The Taste?
No one really said why. It was depressing for a little while but I had a great time and I have other opportunities coming through. On the show, I was loud, I got into it with Ludo [Lefebvre, the fourth mentor], I dressed silly. My restaurants are called Herringbone and Searsucker because we like to laugh and have a good time. I wore a green jacket and bow tie. Some people loved me, some people hated me, but at the end of the day, The Taste wanted to get a bigger-name chef. I just found out who it is and I'm flattered who it is… I respect him immensely.
Did you leave on a good note with the producers?
The whole team came down for dinner at the restaurant and they were very sympathetic. They said the show needed some firepower. For a show like that, you're not going to replace Bourdain or Nigella because they're executive producers. So I got the boot but I licked my wounds and I'm happy where I'm at as I have some new TV projects happening. And I'll always be happy that I got an hour show on a primetime network.
What was the experience like working with the other chefs? Any drama we didn't see on the show?
Maybe I took it too seriously. I mean, I was in it to win it. Ludo was a fantastic competitor. The fact I got to kick it with the other hosts was great. Thankfully I wasn't as rebellious as Bourdain.
Do you think you’ll get much traction with Herringbone?
I'm fortunate enough that I was on TV, and people pay attention to that stuff. Whether they come to love or hate, they're still going to come. We'll do dinners with other local chefs and have some fun. I think what's going to be more important is treating it like a stand-alone restaurant in an iconic hotel and not just a hotel restaurant. It's a convenient location. It's stunningly beautiful. It's going to feel like you're in a great neighborhood restaurant in an iconic hotel.
What’s going to surprise us about this iteration of the restaurant?
I've actually never done a hotel restaurant. I've always opened stand-alone restaurants, and we normally have only done brunch at our restaurants. But now we're doing 24/7, all night. Room service, daily breakfast, banquets, pool service: It's a huge undertaking. At first I was like, "I f---ing hate room service." But then I eventually thought, "Wait, I love room service." I think I was scared of doing room service but all I want to do is make it fun and whimsical and make people want to stay in their rooms and eat. I think we'll have fun times with it. I'm so focused on this room service menu that it's going to be fantastic. The party needs to keep on going at Mondrian.