When Chef Brooke Williamson of Top Chef season 10 fame and her husband bought their house in LA five years ago, it wasn’t the house of their dreams, but it did allow them to build their dream kitchen with plentiful natural light, an island, and a garden.
Now Brooke and her husband, Nick Roberts, also a chef, come home after cooking all day at their restaurant Playa Provisions and look forward to whipping up something delicious as a family. Even their 12-year-old son gets in on the fun. “Having a really clean, functional space to cook together in really enables us to be creative,” Brooke says.
Brooke, who’s also the youngest female chef to cook at the James Beard House, says having the right tools—utensils you use every day rather than gadgets that clutter drawers most of the year—keeps the kitchen organized. “Keep things simple,” she says.
That goes for the actual recipe, too. She says hours spent toiling away over an elaborate recipe doesn’t equate creativity, and many people overthink cooking. “Don’t overcomplicate with too many ingredients and too many steps.”
At Brooke’s house you’ll often find a full rice cooker. She loves to go back for leftovers and clean out the fridge, combining things to make delicious fried rice.
She says people often ask for the recipes behind her Instagram posts and she laughs, saying when she cooks at home, she goes out to her garden and uses what she has. “We eat a lot of really simple, clean food at home,” Brooke says. There’s often no recipe at all. After a week in Montana, for example, the family returned home and Brooke stepped outside to assess their garden before dinner.
“There were tons of tomatoes and onions and herbs. I didn’t want it to go bad so I threw it all in a pot and made tomato sauce. People asked, ‘What’s your recipe?’ Honestly my recipe is: ‘Use things up.’” She says a little trial and error goes a long way, rather than mimicking someone else. “Have the confidence and flexibility to pivot and be creative and trust your instincts.”
Having a small garden is great inspiration for both home-cooked meals and the seasonal menu at Playa Provisions, Brooke says. “Don’t underestimate how far simplicity goes. It doesn’t need to be something that takes you hours. And visually—fresh, bright, clean, seasonal ingredients make a dish impressive.”
A version of this article originally appeared in Sixtysix Issue 05 with the headline “Cooking Clean and Simple.” Subscribe today.