"Top Chef" Brian Malarkey Leaving Oceanaire

The reality TV icon is one of San Diego’s best-known restaurateurs

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    Chef Brian Malarkey demonstrates his cooking skills on Bravo's 'Top Chef: The Tour'.

    Brian Malarkey was dressed in his Oceanaire chef’s coat for what was likely the last time last night. During a Chocolat & Vino Affair fundraiser event at Stingaree, Malarkey disclosed he is leaving the seafood eatery where he became an iconic image.

    “I’m taking an extended family leave of absence,” Malarkey said. He wouldn’t say what his next place of employment might be, or if he is planning on opening his own restaurant.

    Malarkey helped open San Diego’s downtown Oceanaire chain restaurant in 2004. He’s won numerous local awards for seafood and has been named best local chef. He competed on the “Top Chef” reality TV show on the Bravo Network, and finished in the top four during the program’s third season.

    The Oregon native has done a slew of television and promotional appearances since his “Top Chef” stint.

    Recently, Oceanaire management declared bankruptcy, and closed several of its eateries around the country. San Diego’s was not among the restaurants that were shuttered. Malarkey says the downtown Oceanaire is not about to close.

    “I’m proud to leave the kitchen to executive sous chef Sean Langlais,” said Malarkey. “He deserves to run the kitchen—he’s been doing it for so long.”

    Malarkey said he plans to spend the next six weeks on California’s paid daddy maternity leave. His son Huntington O’Neil is 10 months old. “I’m looking forward to spending time with my son,” he said. “You’re going to have to tie a string to my toe so I don’t float away—because I’m looking forward to a time of much less stress.”

    Ron Donoho is a regular contributor to NBCSandiego.com and a contributing editor to sandiego.com. His Web site (sandiegoDTOWN.com) is dedicated to news, sports, culture, happy hours and all things downtown.

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