Chef Brooke Williamson
This interview has been a long time coming for me. I’ve been quietly chasing this amazing person, wife, mom and Top Chef winner for months now. I finally catch her while she is town in between her world travels. My drive up to Santa Monica as usual was long and traffic congested but I am amped to finally meet up w chef Brooke Williamson.
We sit down in her newly opened Small Batch Ice Cream store. As you walk in you see the gigantic mural resembling her son Hudson. It’s kind of surreal sitting down with her since I feel like I already know her. She is as you see on tv and social media outlets: kind, welcoming and very down to earth.
How would you describe the importance of food growing up?
“Food for me starting at a really really young age was my whole life. Which is interesting because I wasn’t exposed to the culinary industry. I just took a liking to it. My mom made dinner every night of the week. I remember that very well and so as a kid I could always look forward to that. I think this had a great effect on me in terms of what food meant to me as a kid. It was a creative outlet. I knewfrom the age of 6-7 years old I wanted to work with food for a living.
Tell me about your culinary path, how did you get involved in the industry?
“Well I did not go culinary school and I always intended. I applied at CIA in New York and they required a certain number of working hours so I went and got a job with the anticipation of leaving in a few months. I got a job at the Argyle Hotel with Ken Frank on Sunset. He really gave me a push and said to me that he thought I could really make it here and not need to go to culinary school. So I basically learned through experience and working with people like butchers and prep cooks. I am very thankful to all of those people.”
What is once piece of advice would you give to aspiring young chef?
“I would take a step back and evaluate why you are doing what you are doing and where the desire comes from to be in this industry. I think being ached has become glamorous to some people and its not. I’m super grateful that I had a full career before stepping in front of a camera. But I think there are a lot of people getting into the industry to step in front of a camera. In my opinion that’s not a recipe for a successful culinary career”.
How would you describe your food?
“I would say my food is really approachable. In some ways my food is nostalgic. I would say as cliche as it sounds it’s very California inspired. I grew up in California and love to embrace everything that my surroundings has to offer.”
What inspires you?
“I think different approaches to ingredients makes me think of why someone has changed the way a traditionalist would approach something is a lot of fun for me. I think thats a big inspiration of how I create things. I’m not doing anything anyone hasn’t done before but maybe I am approaching it in a different way or adding a twist on something you may have not expected.”
Does the term “female” chef have any effect on you?
“It’s a question I’ve been asked my entire career. Do I love to talk about the fact that I am a female chef, no. Because I feel it doesn’t make a huge difference in the way I create or do business. But I would be incredibly naive to say that it doesn’t matter. I mean me acknowledging that I am in a male dominated industry is necessary and a huge part of why the landscape for females has changed dramatically over the last 20 years since I started cooking. Do I think its important to talk about yes but do I want it to define who I am as a chef, absolutely not!”
If you weren’t a chef what you be doing?
“I have absolutely no idea because I’ve wanted to be a chef since I can remember, since I knew what a career was. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do.”
What would you have as your last dish?
“It wouldn’t be one thing. A perfect plain croissant, a really simple, a perfect sushi dish and donuts.”
It’s easy to see why everyone love Brooke. She is extremely talented, intelligent and driven. But what strikes me is how personable she is. Brooke may be one the most popular chefs in the country but she hasn’t lost her sense of where she comes from. But she definitely knows where she is going and I for one am on that bus going for the ride.