This summer, Chef Brooke Williamson showed us some of her favorite dishes for the perfect BBQ. The Top-Chef winner, business owner, and mom knows the importance of sharing a meal that is suitable for all tastes while using elevated ingredients for a sensational experience. That’s why she works with Kroger’s® Private Selection® and Simple Truth® ingredients to create a Perfect BBQ. We sat down with Brooke between takes to discuss the perfect BBQ, a fear of heights, and how she got her kid to try something other than chicken fingers.
For you, what is the perfect plate of BBQ?
Variety. Definitely. I like a very balanced plate of food, and that doesn’t mean four separate meals on one plate, but I do want a sweet and a sour, a rich and an acidic. I like to hit all the notes. But to me, just a hot dog with all the fixings – ketchup and mustard and relish and onions…that can totally be a balanced plate of BBQ on its own.
Is there a cooking style or cuisine that you are partial to or originally inspired you, and why?
I would say that being born and raised in Los Angeles, produce inspires me more than anything. I would say that California cuisine is what it is because produce is so prevalent and sort of the king of ingredients here. (Editor’s Note: check out Brooke’s take on veggie-forward BBQ sides)
What talent would you most like to have that you don’t currently possess?
I would love to be able to play an instrument. My son plays the piano and I’m so jealous of his abilities. He inspires me. Or Flying. (laughter) Flying an airplane, because I’m so massively afraid of heights that I feel like maybe that would help me get over it. So, yeah. Piano and airplanes.
So many foods, particularly vegetables, had a bad rap but are seeing such a resurgence. Suddenly people are like “oh brussel sprouts are good!”
My son’s favorite vegetable.
If you told me that in 1989, I would have said that’s insane. Do you think it’s because like…our parents’ generation just… didn’t know how to cook?
My mom was a great cook, but I also think that she followed basic recipes. That is kind of what you did in the eighties. Now perhaps, people feel a bit more liberty to impart their own thoughts and ideas into their food. (Editor’s Note: Check Out Brooke’s spin on BBQ classics) I think that the realization that produce is sometimes better when left alone came to fruition, so now their’s some more personal liberty to practice some personal likes and dislikes.
Are there any lessons you’ve learned cooking for a family that carries over into your professional kitchens? Or Vice Versa?
My home life and my, my business life doesn’t have a line of separation, you know? So the way that my brain works in the kitchen is the way my brain works in the kitchen. I think a lot of my structure, technique, and follow-through in the home kitchen is very similar at work.
So, like, you have a little ticket rack for tracking orders in your home kitchen?
No! Ha, but I try to cook with variety so if there’s part of a meal that doesn’t particularly appeal to someone, there are other options there. And I think that has been the best way to get my son to be open-minded about food – to provide options for him to decide for himself. You know multiple choices that aren’t chicken tenders. And it’s also sort of my responsibility to guide my customers to new dishes, without them feeling like I’m trying to educate them.
Are there any awesome healthy alternatives to kid-favorite dishes you are partial to?
We try to eat healthy at home because we eat out a lot. So we try to balance dining out and junk food by making a rule of not having a lot of junk in the house. But you can’t keep a kid from eating chocolate chip cookies all the time. There are concessions you make, and you find the balance somewhere else. I made this one that’s a total 180 of a classic kid food, which is chocolate pudding. I used Simple Truth Organic™ Hass Avocado. That’s an incredibly specific swap out. (Editor’s Note: She made it for us, and it checks out. Find the recipe here.)
You’re a renowned chef, a business owner, and the youngest woman to cook at the James Beard House…a lot of accolades. But what is the hardest you’ve ever bombed?
I mean, just because I have all those qualifications on my resume doesn’t mean that I’m a master at anything. I fall on my face all the time! And when I fall hard, that’s when I learned the biggest lessons. I don’t have anything specific that stands out because, because I don’t take my failures to heart, you know? Even with what’s going on in the world, with the pandemic and restaurants struggling…my son actually asked me why I became a chef, because it seems so much harder than what his friends’ parents do. It seems like we’re constantly trying to figure out what to do next. And, you know, we don’t have a stable lifestyle or the huge house, or the knowledge of, you know, what next month is going to look like. But I wouldn’t trade my life for anything else in the world, because it’s what makes me happy. And if I hadn’t become a chef, I wouldn’t have met my husband. I wouldn’t have my son. So I think the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is to just sort of take everything in stride and, and know that there’s always a way to change the outcome. If I were to like fester on one specific instance where I’ve failed miserably, then I feel like I wouldn’t be able to move on.
You just burned your hand on the stove. What’s your go-to curse word?
Oh, “mother flour.”
Do you actually say “flour” or are you censoring yourself because we’re a parenting brand?
It depends on how painful the burn is! I had a line cook in like the early 2000s and it was an open kitchen so he would say “mother flower” every time he was mad about something. To this day -and it actually has very little to do with having a kid because he hears me swear all the time — but if I’m just really frustrated, the first thing that comes to my mind is “mother flour.”
As a Mom Chef, what is the best meal you’ve made for your family?
You know what? I’m, I’m actually most happy with myself when something is perfectly seasoned and cooked properly. So like, it doesn’t really matter what I’m cooking. If I brine a pork tenderloin for the perfect number of hours or if a marinade for steak has that perfect balance….Cause I don’t really measure anything. So it’s kind of always a crapshoot. If I execute perfectly, then I’m pretty satisfied. But if I can do something well, that’s what makes me satisfied.
Chef Brooke showed us some of her favorite BBQ dishes and sides the whole family will love using her favorite ingredients from Private Selection® and Simple Truth®. Private Selection® is a collection of select ingredients that elevate any dish into an experience to savor. Simple Truth® provides all-natural ingredients for fresh creations suitable for any diet. You can check out more of our work with Chef Brooke here, and be sure to elevate your summer BBQ’s with Kroger’s® Private Selection® and Simple Truth® .