The chef owns six restaurants with partner James Brennan and will expand to 15 more nationally in the next five years. In fact, he's the only chef on the judging panel — which also includes Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson and Ludo Lefebvre — who is working in an actively open restaurant on a day-to-day basis, although Lefebvre has a non-pop-up endeavor opening soon.
But it's the mentors' teams of home cooks and professional chefs who are going head to head in one-bite blind taste tests to determine which contestant deserves to win The Taste. Even so, Malarkey's rivalry with fellow mentor Lefebvre appears to be his calling card (impressionable kids across America have begun to scream, "I'm coming for you, Ludo!"), and a new rivalry springs up on Tuesday's episode (8/7, ABC). Watch the video sneak preview of the "Daring Pairings" episode and check out our five questions with Malarkey below:
1. We love that sort of sci-fi hatch on The Taste that is used to reveal the contestants. Since this is the first season using it, were there any malfunctions?
I must say, that the [hatch] needed a lot of lubrication. [Laughs] It took about halfway through the shooting before it started working properly. I think we wanted to just get started with a little pulley system, some ropes.
2. Can you give an example of one dish that was offered by the contestants that was super risky to do?
There were a lot of risky dishes! What would be funny is that there would be kind of a trend. They'd find out what kind of dish that won the previous episode and then we'd see a lot of that. You can't be chasing the tail. They think they found the Holy Grail.
3. What is your mentoring style?
I'm very direct because that's essentially what I do right now in my restaurants. I have all these different chefs that I work with and I mentor them. I learn from them also. I'm not necessarily a chef that says, "You have to do it this way." I figured out what their strong points were, and then I pepper a little bit of me into it. So, open-minded, yet very direct.
4.The entire season of The Taste has already been filmed. How would you assess the person who is the ultimate winner?
Nigella's flavor profile and what she likes and the worldly Bourdain and what he likes and what Ludo the Frenchy likes and what I like are so different. The fact that one person could actually please all of our palates is incredible.
5. Is there a food trend out now that you're into?
I don't know if this is exactly a food trend. What we're doing in our restaurants right now is what we call "social dining." It's a place where you go in and have great cocktails and you hang out in the lounge, you sit down at the table with a bunch of people and it's a lot of shared stuff and it's fun. And then you hang out and make a night of it. It's just that social aspect of dining. My restaurants Searsucker, Burlap and Herringbone all do this. I feel that food is just a facilitator of great memory. It's just one element that encompasses a wonderful evening.
Whose team are you rooting for?
The Taste airs on Tuesdays at 8/7c on ABC.