First things first: According to Herb & Ranch partner-chef Brian Malarkey, the restaurant’s name is not pronounced ’erb and Ranch – which sounds like Urban Ranch – but, rather, herb with a pronounced H.
“The English comedian Eddie Izzard has the funniest bit,” Malarkey says. “You Yanks say to-may-to, we say to-mah-to, you say ’erb and we say herb … because there’s an H in it!”
Malarkey has been a semifinalist on Bravo’s “Top Chef All-Stars” and a “Top Chef” finalist; he’s judged “Chopped All-Stars” and “Cutthroat Kitchen;” his Chefs Life cooking oils are available nationwide.
“The people who work here are from lifescience and technology companies trying to save the world. We don’t want them to eat and feel like they need to go take a nap. We want them to eat and go make the world a better place!” – celebrity chef Brian Malarkey
Herb & Ranch recently opened at UCI Research Park, an office campus adjacent to UC Irvine. The name refers to the ranch where Malarkey grew up and to the eatery’s location on the historic Irvine Ranch.
The venue offers breakfast and lunch at five stations: Farmhouse for protein plates; Grains & Greens for bowls; the Press for sandwiches; Mahalo for Hawaiian dishes; and the Bar for coffee, beer and wine.
The inspiration for the multi-dining concept?
“Menu exhaustion,” Malarkey says. “If you eat at the same place every day, you get tired of the menu. The challenge was to offer a ton of options that are really healthy and really brain smart.”
“The people who work here are from life-science and technology companies trying to save the world,” he says. “We don’t want them to eat and feel like they need to go take a nap. We want them to eat and go make the world a better place!”
Given the quality, creativity and stylish setting, the business model might be surprising.
“It’s like the cafeteria at a ski lodge,” he points out. “It’s important for us to be clean, fast and efficient. The longest wait is one minute – that’s for the panini press, and people don’t mind waiting for that.”
The project was developed with Irvine Company.
“They are spectacular,” Malarkey says. “They built us a world-class facility. They promote us, they back us, they support us, they give us everything we need, and we look to expand with them.”