If you’re a fan of cooking shows- or just a fan of good food- you no doubt have Brian Malarkey on your radar. He’s a past Top Chef finalist (season 3, Miami), a mentor and judge on NBC’s hit show The Taste (which he won!!), and the author of a book filled to the brim with recipes we love. As if that wasn’t enough, Brian is a restaurant superstar- the driving force behind 5 popular San Diego spots (plus 1 in Scottsdale, and endeavors in Austin and LA on the horizon). Brian is basically as busy as they come- however, his zest and passion ensure that his personal life is never compromised by business.

A few weeks ago, Brian invited Rue to join his family at home, where we met his beautiful wife Chantelle and their adorable children Hunter O’neil (age 4), Sailor Elizabeth and Miles James (twins, age 2). Nestled in Point Loma, a small seaside fishing village in San Diego, Brian soaks up all that the community has to offer. He gets his produce from the farmers market, picks up fresh seafood from local fishermen, and spends time at the beach with his kids. On Sundays, you’ll find the Malarkey’s getting the freshest ingredients for a seafood feast. We tagged along, gathering entertaining tips and an exclusive recipe along the way.

When getting ready for Seafood Sunday, what are your must visit spots?
-Point Loma Seafoods: Great location, right on the harbor. It’s an unpretentious local spot that serves good food and doubles as a fish market. The best fish tacos in San Diego by far and a great selection of shellfish and fish.
-Point Loma Farmer’s Market: This is a weekly stop for us. We come down here every Sunday. After picking up the fresh catch and clams (or some local spiny lobster when it’s in season) at Point Loma Seafoods we head to the farmer’s market and do the same with the produce and herbs. That’s how our family Sunday Suppers come together, the menu is based on what looks and smells the best that day and what the kids are drawn to. Most kids won’t touch seafood, mine live for it. Sailor loves lobster and crab. They can’t get enough.

That is so cute! Speaking of the kiddos- you’re clearly busy between owning a flurry of popular restaurants and winning The Taste. How do you find a balance between work and family?
It’s a challenge for sure, and some weeks are better than others. I am constantly trying to improve the proportions of my pie. What percentage is being dedicated to family, the restaurants, to traveling for work, to sleep! I try to balance out the pie chart as much as I can. I am lucky enough to have an amazing wife that is supportive and somehow manages it all. While I was filming The Taste she moved us from our old house to our new home in Point Loma. Impressive.

I couldn’t do any of this without my restaurant team, they make it possible for me to spend as much time at home with the family as I do. Mornings are important in our house. That’s when we are all together. I make the kids breakfast before Hunter goes to preschool, play with the twins for awhile and then I head off to check on the restaurants. I come back home for a few hours and then it’s off again for the dinner rush. I bounce from one restaurant to the next. Sundays are spent at home and Chantelle and I do date night out as much as possible.

We love that you make sure to add a bit of romance to the mix- so important! When did you discover your passion for cooking and entertaining?
When I was a kid. I grew up on a ranch in Oregon with my brother and a single mom. I learned to cook from necessity. My mom was supermom, she ran the ranch, and so I did the cooking for the family. We spent summers on the coast with my grandmother and I learned a lot about food, cooking and entertaining from her. That’s where my love for seafood started.

When you’re creating a meal or entertaining, what is your mantra?
Keep it simple – relax and have fun, it’s just food. It’s not rocket science. Don’t be afraid of making a mistake, that fear will keep you from making a delicious meal. The less you do to it the better. Fresh ingredients will speak for themselves, so don’t mask them with fancy techniques and preparations. Salt, pepper, fresh herbs, lemon, garlic, olive oil, butter and more salt! Serve with a side of local vegetables. That’s how we do it at the Malarkey house.

Yum! That’s definitely a concept that a lot of home chefs could benefit from. So- if we wanted to host a soiree of our own, what advice could you give us?
1. Serve Family Style. It creates a relaxed vibe, makes everyone kick back and dig in. Plus it cuts down on the work for you.
2. Seafood – Keep it Simple. Salt, pepper, olive oil, butter, finished with a squeeze of fresh lemon and chopped herbs (whatever you have on hand).
3. Good Conversation. The conversation, and company you keep, is more important than how elegant the meal you serve is. For me, dining is about the social experience and memories you make with friends and family over a delicious meal and comfortable meal.
4. One Pot Meals. Keeps all the flavors in one pot, and the mess out of your kitchen.
5. Keep it Flowing – the wine that is! My go-to is New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, with a twist top… can’t get easier than that.

Sounds like absolutely perfection- and we’re definitely on board with #5. In addition to offering you his tips, Brian shared an exclusive recipe created just for Rue readers! Check it out here– and find other exclusive recipes from Brian Malarkey in his book “Come Early, Stay Late.