At age six, Brooke Williamson would sit in front of the TV on Saturday mornings—only she wasn’t watching cartoons. She watched legendary chefs Julia Child and Jacques Pépin demonstrate classic French cooking techniques.
Brooke had already decided she was going to become a chef and, as soon as she could read, poured through the Betty Crocker Cookbook. Pancakes were her first culinary achievement.
She’s racked up even more impressive achievements since then, including winning the latest Season 14 of the popular reality TV show “Top Chef.” Brooke, who also was runner-up on Season 10, had to get the approval of her son, Crossroads third-grader Hudson, before competing in the time-consuming show a second time. Hudson said OK, as long as they could go ziplining in Costa Rica afterward.
Entering Crossroads in seventh grade, Williamson immersed herself in dance, soccer and the arts, particularly photography. “My plan was to go to culinary school straight after graduation,” she says, but her parents, both artists, argued for college. Brooke chose the University of Colorado Boulder. “I concentrated on the business courses I’d need if I was going to own a restaurant someday.”
After a year, she left Boulder and applied to the Culinary Institute of America. By 21, she was the youngest sous chef at the acclaimed Michael’s of Santa Monica, then worked with chef Daniel Boulud in New York City before becoming executive chef at Boxer in LA. That led to her opening the Brentwood restaurant Zax as executive chef. Her sous chef was her future husband, Nick Roberts. Together, they have opened five successful ventures in the South Bay: Hudson House, The Tripel, Playa Provisions, the culinary boutique Tripli-Kit, and their latest, Da Kikokiko, featuring fast-casual Hawaiian cuisine.
Brooke is grateful to Crossroads for nurturing her artistic side while giving her a great education. “That’s why I chose it for Hudson,” she says. “He’s an outside-the-box thinker, like I was.” At Crossroads, she adds, “he will never be told he can’t do something. That’s the best thing I provide for him: opportunity.” Including that ziplining trip to Costa Rica, a promise she kept.