She cooked ginger caramel squid, served up a dish of frog legs with celery root and fennel puree and prepared lamb stuffed squid. She gained the respect of the likes of Emeril Lagasse and some of the world's most successful chefs. She even overcame her crippling fear of heights, boats and helicopters by cooking in the Seattle space needle, cruising on a ship to Alaska and strapping herself into a helicopter to soar over glaciers.
However, after beating out 16 other chefs, winning five elimination challenges and ultimately surviving 16 episodes of the reality show Top Chef, local chef Brooke Williamson came just short of claiming the Top Chef title and finished runner-up in the final episode of the show's 10th season Wednesday night.
In front of a live audience of 300, Williamson faced off againt chef Kristen Kish of Boston in a five-course cookoff finale and ended up losing in the fourth round of cooking.
Williamson, who owns Hudson House in Redondo Beach and the Tripel in Playa del Rey with husband Nick Roberts, said that while she didn't win it all, she has no regrets.
"I have absolutely nothing to complain about... I am ecstatic about how everything turned out," Williamson told Patch the morning after the finale. "Of course there is an ounce of disappointment, but with that ounce there is a gazillion gallons of excitement that I made it as far as I did in the first place."
While her appearance on the show's finale may very well boost her career and notoriety in the culinary world, Williamson said that her personal growth during the show outside of cooking is what really mattered to her.
On the show, Williamson admitted she had a "crippling" fear of heights, boats and helicopters. Despite these fears though, she was able to face all three phobias head on throughout multiple episodes and cooking challenges.
“In terms of overcoming my fears, I have to say that is probably the best part of what I got out of the whole experience,” Williamson said. “That is life changing... It is not just a career boost and recognition, it is actually something that will change the way I live my life.”
For business locally in Redondo Beach and Playa del Rey, Williamson said she has definitely seen an uptick in customers at her two restaurants over the past two weeks after the public learned she was in the Top Chef finale.
"I am hoping we can sustain at least a portion of it," said Williamson. "People coming in for the first time is never a bad thing if you can get them to return."
With her new fans and customers though also comes easy recognition in public.
"I was working the other night and I was cutting some lemons behind the bar at the Tripel and I looked up and everyone was staring at me ... I felt like a caged animal at the zoo," Williamson joked, adding that many people recognize her but are usually too shy to introduce themselves. "I wish everybody would just say hi."
While Williamson could use her increased fame to open a new restaurant in any part of the glitzy areas of Los Angeles, she said she will continue to keep her restaurants local to the Westside and South Bay and already has plans in the works for a third restaurant.
"We are waiting on the perfect space and we have no intention of stopping now," Williamson said. "We definitely want to stay local to the Westside so we can maintain sort of our hands on approach to how we do things ... We have no desire to open a place that we are never at and not know our customers."
It is those very local customers that have made Williamson's two neighborhood restaurants so successful, she told Patch in November. Those customers were also some of her biggest supporters during her time on the show.
"I will forever be appreciative of all of the support I have received from everyone, but especially from the South Bay and Playa del Rey residents and locals,” Williamson said. "It is unbelieveable how much support one person can get from the entire community."
In the mean time, Williamson said she is working on revamping the menus at the Tripel and Hudson House and plans on including a few menu items she prepared on Top Chef. Items being considered include two of the dishes she prepared in the finale—seared scallop with salt cod puree, speck, black currant and mustard seed vinaigrette as well as her main course of braised pork cheek and red snapper.
- Hudson House Chef Brooke Williamson to Appear on 'Top Chef'
- Hudson House's Brooke Makes 'Top Chef' Cut
- Hudson House's Brooke Wins Top Chef Episode
- Brooke Wins Top Chef Challenge
- Will Brooke Head to Top Chef Finale? [Spoilers!]
- Will Brooke Continue in 'Top Chef' Finale? [Spoilers!]