Go Away With … Brooke Williamson

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Content Agency
April 4, 2017

As expected, “Top Chef” winner Brooke Williamson is quite the foodie. “I’m a fan of anything that tastes yummy,” says Williamson, 38. “I don’t care where it comes from — street cart or restaurant.”

Based in the South Bay of Los Angeles, the chef says she finds inspiration in her food creations during her travels. Fans may follow her on Instagram and Twitter, where she posts about her trips, meals and family.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. Somewhere I’ve never been. In most recent memory, Tulum, Mexico. I’d recommend Tulum’s Mayan clay massages. They are not to be missed. And the cocktails.

Q. Have you traveled to a place that stood out so much that you felt compelled to incorporate it into your work?

A. Everywhere I travel gets incorporated into my work. I’ve been inspired by a lot of cities like Louisville, which I didn’t know I’d be inspired by. I was pleasantly blown away by their food scene. The mescal bars in the Yucatan have made Nick and I want to open a mescal bar, but that’s a future possibility. Hopefully, it will happen one day. Hawaii has also played a big part in our cuisine and menus. We recently opened a Hawaiian restaurant called Da Kikokiko, because we love the island so much and the food there.

Q. Where did you enjoy your favorite meal?

A. I would have to say I have had a lot of really nice, memorable meals. Specifically, on my wedding day in Los Angeles, my husband, Nick, and I catered our own wedding and didn’t have time to eat all day. But we had the In-N-Out truck stop by at midnight. Sharing animal fries together was one of the best memories ever.

Q. How does traveling impact the menu you create?

A. I take inspiration from every meal I eat, whether it’s from my hometown or someone else’s. I don’t feel like I have to travel across the world to be inspired. Sometimes it happens at the hole-in-the-wall down the street. I will say, though, that every time I travel somewhere new, it makes me think of cooking in a different way.

Q. People often cite Paris as a place to get amazing food. What other cities are great for foodies?

A. If someone can’t get to Paris, another location for amazing food is in Greenough, at The Resort at Paws Up. They host so many delicious culinary events and one of my favorites is Bounty at the Blackfoot. It’s a family-style dinner served outdoors in the beautiful countryside of Montana. I’ve cooked at the event the past few years and especially love how the menu truly highlights the locals, since we get to hand select our menu items from local purveyors and ingredients at the Missoula Farmers’ Market.

Q. What untapped destination should people know about?

A. Rockhouse Hotel in Negril, Jamaica, is probably one of my favorite places I’ve ever been to. It’s probably one of the most romantic places I’ve ever been to, too. There are no TVs, and it’s very quiet and serene. The Tabacon Hot Springs at the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica is one of the coolest places ever!

Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?

A. My parents took me everywhere, as they love travel. I don’t remember the first one, but I’ve always loved visiting Mexico.

Q. What is your best vacation memory?

A. Ziplining in Costa Rica with Nick and my son, Hudson; and snowmobiling at The Resort at Paws Up, especially driving to the old ghost town in the hills of Montana. One of the most picturesque rides ever!

Q. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your travels?

A. To get there and discover where the locals go and not have plans set in stone, because they always change.

Q. What are your favorite cities?

A. New York, Los Angeles, Tulum and Chicago.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?

A. My stuffed rabbit that I’ve had since I was 4 years old, a St. Christopher pendant, extra chargers, a hat and Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker (by Bonne Bell).

Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you’re on the road?

A. Cheddar Chex Mix.

Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?

A. Food research, especially local inexpensive restaurants.

Q. What are your favorite hotels?
A. I love The Nomad in New York City; the Parker in Palm Springs; and Meadowood in Napa.

Q. Are you a fan of street carts, or do you prefer dining in restaurants?
A. I’m a fan of anything that tastes yummy. I don’t care where it comes from. I have not (gotten sick from street cart food).

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
A. We love spending weekend getaways at The Resorts at Paws Up and the Parker in Palm Springs.

Q. If you’ve ever gone away for the holidays, which was the best trip?
A. The only place I’ve gone away for the holidays is my parents’ house in Baja, Mexico.

Q. What would be your dream trip?
A. San Sebastian and all over Europe.

Q. What are your favorite restaurants?
A. Ayara Thai, which is in my neighborhood, is a go-to spot; Meadowood in Napa; Maude in Beverly Hills; and Ippudo ramen in New York.

© 2017 JAE-HA KIM


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