Chef Brooke Williamson became an accomplished chef at a young age. She started working with pastries at age 18, stopping in acclaimed West Coast and East Coast kitchens along the way before becoming the executive chef of Boxer in Los Angeles. From there, she moved onto Zax, a highly lauded restaurant in Brentwood, Calif., where the world started to notice her culinary skills. She was invited to cook at the James Beard House and received coverage from many major media outlets for being the youngest female chef to do so.
After Zax, Williamson decided to open her first restaurant, Amuse Café, with fellow Zax chef and now husband, Nick Roberts. From there, the pair opened Beechwood in Venice and then the gastropub, Hudson House, which they named after their son Hudson. They have since added The Tripel and Playa Provisions to the lineup, with more locales to come in the future. If that isn't enough, Chef Brooke Williamson was also a runner-up on Top Chef and currently hosts the MTV food series, House of Food. However, being an accomplished chef and a parent doesn't come without its challenges. Here's what Williamson had to say about how she thrives in the kitchen and at home.
Being a Female in a Male-Dominated Industry
Although Brooke Williamson knows she's in a male-dominated industry, she has never felt intimidated by that and she believes that young, aspiring female chefs shouldn't be either. At this point in her career, she feels like she has earned equality in the kitchen as a chef, not as a woman. She challenges young women "to really take a look at yourself and why you are doing it, and if you have passion and drive to have the career and the lifestyle." Williamson knows her career is a tough one with variable schedules and an unpredictable lifestyle, but cooking has always been a passion of hers. "I don't think being a female stunted my culinary options in any way," she says. "I had enough motivation in myself to move past that."
Balancing Life as a Parent and Chef
Williamson is in a unique situation because she shares both parenting and restaurant responsibilities with her chef-husband Nick Roberts. "We both have the same goals for our careers and in life—being happy and enjoying life." With Brooke's travel schedule picking up steam since her appearance on Top Chef, she often relies on Nick to pick up the slack at home. They make sure the help goes both ways, steering away from typical gender roles, and doing what they need to do to make things happen at home and in their restaurants.
There is one thing Williamson refuses to compromise on, both professionally and personally, and that's her integrity. "I feel like if you're going to say that you stand for something or believe in something or do something a certain way, you should back it up and live that way," she says. "I don't claim to be anything other than what I am. If you enjoy what I do and who I am, then great, but if not, perhaps my food isn't the food you should be eating, or I'm not the person you should be friends with."
Williamson and Roberts know that parenthood isn't something that's easily done alone, and they credit their close friends and colleagues for making it a little easier. "We surround ourselves with people—both personally and professionally—that add to our son's life," she says. Whether it's trusting a friend to discipline her kid, or knowing that her son has a blast peeling shrimp with her sous chef, it feels good to have that sort of support system.
Making Time for Herself
Williamson also realizes the demands of being a chef and a parent can sometimes be daunting, so she makes sure to carve out time for herself. "If you don't make it a precedent to carve out time for yourself, then you won't enjoy life," she says. That's why you'll often find Williamson making time to take a spin class or run on the beach to clear her head and regain sanity. She explains that she wishes someone told her to not feel so guilty and to be okay with who you are as a parent before she became a mom. "Don't constantly compare yourself to other people," she says.