Brooke Williamson has been cooking since she was 15, when she was hired as an assistant at the Epicurean Institute of Los Angeles. She’s since worked her way up from a pastry assistant at Fenix at the Argyle Hotel, to a sous chef at Michael’s in Santa Monica, to Executive Chef at Boxer and later Zax.
Along the way, Williamson also became a part of the Top Chef family, competing in Season 10 and facing off against Shirley Chung in “Top Chef Duels,” as well as joining the Top Chef At Sea program aboard the Celebrity Solstice.
Williamson recently took a break from sailing and running a number of popular restaurants with husband Nick Roberts, to chat with us about some of her influences.
If you were stuck on an island with three ingredients, what would you choose and why?
One, our Playa Provisions pickled habanero hot sauce. I feel like you could put that stuff on anything and make it taste good—or at least mask the flavor of something you wouldn’t want to be eating. Two, dark chocolate, because I’m pretty sure that out of all of the things that I would find on an island, chocolate wouldn’t be one of them, and I would really miss it if it weren’t an option. And three, butter! I’d be happy eating fresh crab or fish with butter for every meal of the day, and I have a feeling there would be plenty of seafood swimming around that island.
What part of the world inspires your cuisine? What country would you like to travel to and why?
I eat a lot of Asian food, but I wouldn’t say it inspires my cuisine. I would love to travel to Thailand and Vietnam to eat, because it’s the way that I like to eat when I’m not at work. However when it comes to inspiration in what I do in my own kitchen, I’m inspired by my surroundings. I feel like California offers a ton of inspiration.
If you could open a restaurant with a Top Chef contestant from another season, who would you choose? And why?
There are so many talented chefs who have come out of Top Chef—many of whom I would love to work with—but opening a restaurant with someone is like marrying someone. It’s all about the give and take of a relationship, and the mutual respect that you have for one another… I feel that way about so many people that I’ve had a chance to get to know, such as Kristen, CJ, Sheldon, Josh, Lizzie, I could go on…
If you were not a chef, what would you be doing right now?
I can’t imagine my life without food or something that pertains to it. I would love the opportunity to work on a farm or in a cheese-making facility for an extended period of time, and be a part of a process that most people take for granted.
Who inspired your love of food?
My entire family’s understanding of how big a part food plays in bringing people together, especially my mother. I also tip my hat to Julia Child for entertaining me enough to sit in front of the TV as a child watching cooking shows for hours on end.