When Bravo kicks off season 10 of its hit show Top Chef on Wednesday night, a familiar South Bay chef will be in the crowd.
Brooke Williamson, co-owner and chef at Hudson House in Redondo Beach and The Tripel in Playa del Rey, will compete against 20 other chefs from across the country in the culinary reality show set this season in Seattle.
But while Williamson, who owns the two restaurants with her husband Nick Roberts, is about to gain national television exposure, she said what really matters is the the continued exposure and support they get from the local South Bay community.
"The comraderie down here is awesome," said Williamson. "People support each other down here."
While the couple does expect increased patronage as a result of Williamson's appearance on the show, they don't expect the spike in visitors to last forever.
"People might drive here from Hollywood once, but they are not going to be long time customers," said Williamson. "They are not going to be the ones that keep us in business."
The customers that will keep them in business, Williamson said, are those that have continually supported the restaurant long before it was seen in the national spotlight.
As evidence, Williamson pointed to a writeup they once received in the Los Angeles Times. While the couple thought they had hit the publicity jackpot, business did not increase as they had expected.
"It was two days of craziness and then it was back to normal," Williamson said.
However, when the Hudson House was reviewed on the front page of a local South Bay paper, Williamson said business almost tripled overnight then doubled each month after that.
"People didn't care about the L.A. Times; people cared about their local paper," she said.
That small town atmosphere and local support is one of the main reasons why the couple said they decided to locate Hudson House in a Redondo Beach neighborhood in the first place.
"People support neighborhood places if you keep it a neighborhood place," said Roberts. "We walk in and we say, 'Hi' to 40 percent of the clientele that is in here every night... It is a good feeling," he added. "You go to the Westside (of Los Angeles) and it is always changing because they don't have that neighborhood feel."
Williamson said that part of keeping the neighborhood feel is actually listening to what people want to see at the restaurant.
"What the neighborhood wanted kind of affected what we became," said Williamson, who added that craft beer was brought into the restaurant by request. "The ability for us to bring in the more expensive beers and less known beers definitely happened because the clientele asked for it."
With their food, Williamson and Roberts have stuck to a simple philosophy of providing scaled up pub food that utilizes fresh, seasonal ingredients that, while upscale, does not alienate anyone.
"We are definitely not trying to reinvent anything... We are just trying to provide a really solid meal that you wouldn't get at your average bar," Williamson said. "We don't want people to get the impression that we are fancier than we are—we are a bar that serves pub food... We just want it to be better than average pub food."
While both Hudson House and Tripel have recently updated their menus with new items such as Arame Chicken Drumettes with Spicy Red Curry and Baby Celery and Shell-on Black Vinegar Shrimp with Fresh Coconut, Plantains, Lime, and Mint, local favorites such as the pretzel burger always remain.
"There are certain things that we have tried to take off the menu, but people definitely like their standbys here," said Williamson.
Because of a confidentiality agreement, Williamson was unable to talk specifics of her time at Top Chef, or even whether she makes it past the first episode. However, she confirmed she will make an appearance in at least the first episode.
"Stay tuned," said Williamson.
The first episode of Top Chef Season 10, which will feature Williamson, airs locally at 10 p.m. Wednesday on Bravo.