Chef Brian Malarkey launched Puffer Malarkey Collective in 2016 with partner Christopher Puffer. Photo courtesy of Puffer Malarkey Collective

Chef Brian Malarkey launched Puffer Malarkey Collective in 2016 with partner Christopher Puffer. Photo courtesy of Puffer Malarkey Collective

Chef Brian Malarkey doesn’t shy away from the spotlight.

On any given day, you can find the San Diego-based, Oregon-raised restaurateur serving as a judge on Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games” and making regular appearances on nationally-televised programs like “The Today Show” and “Good Morning America.”

Malarkey welcomes his celebrity chef status not because he’s presumptuous — although seeing one’s name in bright lights can be exciting. But, because he understands how instrumental the reputation and on-camera-presence has been for the growth of his Puffer Malarkey Collective.

Launched in 2016 with partner Christopher Puffer, the restaurant group has five properties: Herb & Wood, Herb & Eatery, Green Acre Campus Pointe, Green Acre Nautilus and Farmer & The Seahorse. In 2018, Herb & Wood made north of $9 million alone. The group’s revenue growth from 2017 to 2018 was close to 10 percent. Two more concepts, Herb & Sea and Animae, are already in the works, each for a debut. To date, the Little Italy-headquartered company has approximately 250 employees.

It’s been huge,” Malarkey said about the impact that being a public figure has on his business. “Back in those days when I started, there weren’t all of these reality shows or YouTube, Netflix or anything like that that was hugely popular. Luckily, I’ve still been able to stay on TV with a lot of stuff on the Food Network, ABC’s “The Taste” and appearances on ‘The Today Show’, among others.” He adds that he also currently has a national commercial on NBC’s Bravo for a company called Monogram Appliances.

Although the air-time is an added bonus for Malarkey and his company, it isn’t all a business needs to succeed.

Here, he shares with the San Diego Business Journal readers what makes his group profitable, his thoughts on tip credits, why Uber is a gift to the restaurant industry and what else he’s got cooking up this year.

When did you realize you wanted to be a chef?

I grew up in Bend, Oregon, on a ranch, raising our own beef and with gardens. I was brought up by a single mom, and, so, to help, I started cooking for the family when I was young… I went to college for a little while, but I soon realized I wasn’t a nine-to-five type of guy… One day my dad said, ‘why don’t you go make a living doing what you enjoy?’ I said, ‘what is that?’ He said, ‘you’re a cook.’ So, I went to culinary school, then went to work at a restaurant in Los Angeles called Citrus, and fell in love with teamwork, passion, energy — the whole thing. That is where I got bugged.

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