It seems there is nothing Chef Brooke Williamson can’t do. Not only did she win Top Chef Season 14, she and her husband Nick Roberts own five restaurants, including poke spot Da Kikokiko, gastropub Hudson House and Small Batch Ice Cream.
As if running five restaurants wasn’t enough, Williamson also travels frequently for events and constantly is experimenting with new, exciting recipes, which she shares on her Instagram account.
FoodBlogs chatted with Williamson about her rise to Top Chef stardom and her thoughts on becoming an Instagram and social media influencer.
How did you start in your career and what was your journey to Top Chef?
Top Chef was never something that I sought out to do. I knew I wanted to be a chef at a strangely young age — like the age of six or seven. And part of the avenue of creativity for me was not about being in the spotlight publicly in any way whatsoever. It was just something that I loved. I loved food. I loved cooking. I loved what food does for people. And so I just started working towards that at a very young age.
The avenue to Top Chef didn’t happen until way later in my career after Nick and I had opened several restaurants. They started approaching me, probably, because the Internet existed and they needed to seek out female talent. I think they have a much harder time finding female talent for the show than they do male talent. A lot of people try out but they’re mostly men. They approached me for, like, four years in a row until I finally said yes. It was never something I thought I would be good at. I didn’t even think I was a competitive person, really, until I started competing.
The food industry is so traditionally male-dominated — how did that affect your career?
I knew from a very young age that I would generally be the only female in the kitchen. It was a source of motivation for me to prove that I could do just as good as a job if not better than the men who surrounded me. I would say 90 percent of my career I was the only female in the kitchen. Especially because I sought out savory rather than pastry. Pastry generally has a few more females in it. But it never deterred me. It challenged me in a really great way to prove that I could do it just as well.
I definitely think once I got to a position of authority it was unusual and, therefore, something to write about, which maybe helped push my career along in different ways. But I think to get to that point I had to prove that I could do the job.
Now in your career, you’ve taken on the role as a food influencer. Do you embrace that? Where do you see yourself going with that side?
I embrace it. It’s strange to say I enjoy Instagram, but I really do because it’s so visual and I’m a really visual person. I really like Instagram and the artistic aspect of it. The influencer aspect for me is not something I’m passionate about or really seek out for any reason other than to remain relevant in that space. I’m not naive to the fact that that’s important. It’s just part of the job to me. There are two different aspects. There’s the creative and fun and visual aspect of social media, and I think it’s a great way for networking and communicating with people. The promotional aspect for me is really just a matter of remaining relevant and taking opportunities that can make my life and my family’s life a little easier.
What’s next for you?
We are giving Hudson House a facelift at the end of October. We’ll be closed for a little bit and we’re going to freshen the place up. We just signed a new ten-year lease. We’ve been there for ten years, and it’s kind of time for a freshen up. We’ll be changing the menu completely. It’ll be a brand new menu, a brand new look and I’m excited about that.