Chef Brooke Williamson is no stranger to accepting big challenges — after you successfully navigate the Top Chef gauntlet to emerge the champion (she finished on top of the show’s 14th season), you have to feel like you can do pretty much anything, right? I assume this because Chef Brooke literally does everything. She’s co-chef and co-owner of 3 restaurants as well as a dining hall concept that boasts a bar, ice cream shop, casual market counter, seafood joint, and retail shop — and she’s received universal praise for all of these endeavors.
How does Chef Brooke stay a jill of all trades and a master of all of them? A laser focus on quality in all aspects of her life. We recently caught up with Chef Brooke and spoke with her about what quality means to her. Her response wasn’t veiled:
“I would venture to say that quality means everything to me.”
Chef Brooke understands that people have different tastes. This is apparent from a cursory glance at her active concepts, which range from gastropub to asian comfort food to seasonal coastal café. She also understands that quality, unlike preference, is objective.
“I feel like a lot of things in the kitchen are about likes and dislikes, whether it be a personal like for an ingredient or a personal preference for how you like something prepared. But I think that the one thing that is not arguable is quality. There is an absolute difference between something that is of quality and something that is not of quality, and I think it’s really important to understand and decipher which is which.”
When it comes to her kitchen, there’s a hierarchy of quality that starts with ingredients and trickles downward to her dishes and the overall customer experience she provides at her establishments. Chef Brooke believes focusing on quality at every step in the restaurant process is the key to success.
“If I’m not using quality ingredients, I’m not happy with what I’m producing. If I’m not providing a quality dish or a quality experience to my customers, they’re going to go somewhere else. So I think that the only way to captivate the audience that I need to be successful is to provide them with quality.”
Ingredients aren’t the only part of the kitchen where quality matters to Chef Brooke. In her opinion, the cookware used to prepare those quality ingredients has a massive effect on the dishes that result. Chef Brooke has a great point of comparison when it comes to quality cookware versus low quality cookware: When she and husband Nick Roberts bought their first restaurant, they used the dated pots and pans that came with the space to save money. They immediately noticed the difference inferior cookware makes.
“We had to spend an extra percentage of energy being careful and watching the food because we were making up for what the cookware was lacking. There’s this level of energy or relief that quality cookware can provide you with that takes some of the responsibility away from having to pay attention to certain aspects of what you’re cooking.”
Chef Brooke carried this experience with low quality cookware with her throughout her career, allowing it to inform her future cookware decisions.
“That difference between quality cookware and not quality cookware is really important, and understanding that difference is the first step toward turning your kitchen into something that’s going to help you instead of hinder you.”
“Made In’s level of quality gives me a sense of confidence that is hard to attain with other cookware.”