After More Than A Decade At Urban Kitchen Group, Chef Joe Magnanelli Signs On To Lead Brian Malarkey's Incoming Animae Asian Restaurant

January 11, 2019

After more than a decade with Urban Kitchen Group (Cucina Urbana, Cucina Sorella, Cucina Enoteca), Executive Chef Joe Magnanelli is joining the team of celebrity chef Brian Malarkey to take the lead at his incoming Animae - a multi-million dollar, upscale Asian fusion restaurant opening as early as this Spring within the luxurious Bosa Pacific Gate building in downtown San Diego.

Joe Magnanelli joined Tracy Borkum's Urban Kitchen Group in mid-2006 as the chef de cuisine at the now-defunct Chive. In 2008, Joe took the reigns at the company's Laurel restaurant + bar, which in 2009, transformed into what is now CUCINA urbana. In late 2011, Magnanelli assisted Tracy Borkum in the opening of a second Cucina concept in Orange County - Cucina Enoteca in Newport Beach. Magnanelli has been helping with the company's growth as Corporate Executive Chef ever since, including the openings of Cucina Sorella in San Diego's Kensington, and additional Cucina Enoteca restaurants in Del Mar and Irvine, CA. 

"After nearly 13 years of working for Urban Kitchen Group, I’m ready for a new challenge!" said Joe Magnanelli. "Thank you Brian Malarkey for letting me share in this opportunity! It’s going to be sad to leave my Cucina Family, but exciting to try something new!" 

Currently still working at Urban Kitchen Group, Magnanelli's next position will be as executive chef and partner of Brian Malarkey and Chris Puffer's incoming Animae. Expected to open by late Spring 2019, Animae is anticipated to cost $5.5 million to develop and will take up 9,300 square feet on the ground floor of Bosa Development’s 41-story, luxury condominium tower at Pacific Highway and Broadway, where condo prices start at more than $1 million. Animae will be an Asian Fusion restaurant, described by Malarkey as a "French-Asian charcoal grill," offering flavors from Japan, China, the Pacific Islands, and Southeast Asia. Expect a menu centered around proteins like duck, fresh seafood, and Wagyu beef expertly cooked over a robata charcoal grill and Josper oven. The restaurant will be outfitted with an elegant art deco design with retro accents like wall-to-wall carpeting, velvet drapes, and tufted velvet booths, as well as columns draped with green velvet - all a nod to 1920s Chinese American actress Anna May Wong. Investors in Animae include Brian Malarkey's mother and skateboard legend and San Diego resident, Tony Hawk. Animae will also include an adjacent casual cafe. 

In early 2018, Brian Malarkey left the employ of Hakkasan Group, the Abu Dhabi-based hospitality collective that in 2014 purchased a majority interest in Malarkey and James Brennan's Enlightened Hospitality Group, founders of such establishments as Herringbone and Searsucker restaurants. Malarkey subsequently partnered with his longtime general manager Chris Puffer to open Herb & Wood in San Diego's Little Italy in Spring 2016. Puffer Malarkey Restaurants is also in the process of opening Herb & Sea in Encinitas, currently installing within the 5,500 square foot building at 131 West D Street above Moonlight Beach. In addition to Herb & Sea, the team is working on the launch of Unholy Doughnuts & Creamery, an ice creamery and donut shop with the slogan - "we're putting the hole back in the donut". Another restaurant in the works is Gochujang, which is rumored to be a Korean fusion eatery centered around the culinary technique of fermentation. 

Chef Brian Malarkey first tasted celebrity when he made a name for himself as a finalist on Bravo's Top Chef Season 3 while he was Executive Chef of downtown San Diego's Oceanaire. The Bend, Oregon native steamrolled his newfound stardom into his own "fabric brand" of restaurants with the launch of Searsucker in the San Diego Gaslamp in 2010. Malarkey went on to open and close more than a dozen other restaurants over a short time before he and then-business partner James Brennan sold off the majority share of Enlightened Hospitality Group to Abu Dhabi-based Hakkasan Ltd.