BY Maile Pingel | July 11, 2019 | People
Chefs Brooke Williamson and Nick Roberts dish on life, Top Chef and the 10th anniversary of their restaurant, Hudson House.
“We are where we are because we aren’t afraid of diving into things,” says Brooke Williamson of Company for Dinner, the multifaceted hospitality group she and husband Nick Roberts own and operate. “We don’t think on routine and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. It takes a certain personality to enjoy that.” Translation: The culinary world isn’t for wimps.
The couple met, not surprisingly, in a kitchen (she was the executive chef, he the sous-chef at Zax in Brentwood some 18 years ago), and although they “didn’t look at each other all that fondly,” recalls Williamson, who won Top Chef: Charleston in 2017, something was bubbling. “We have very different approaches to things; Brooke is calm and level-headed,” adds Roberts with a laugh. But when it comes to what’s important—their son, Hudson; fitness; and the business—they’re in lockstep.
The two opened their first restaurants, Amuse Café and Beechwood, in the early aughts, quickly winning praise from StarChefs, which titled them Rising Star Chefs in 2004. Since then, Williamson and Roberts have gone on to open gastropubs The Tripel and Hudson House; dining and retail concept Playa Provisions; foodie dream shop Tripli-Kit; Hawaiian eatery Da Kikokiko; and Small Batch, an ice cream shop. To honor the 10th anniversary of Hudson House, they crafted a new menu and updated the space with their go-to designer, Jill Stevens of Dust & Co. “It felt modern 10 years ago and needed a face-lift,” says Williamson.
Keeping their focus on the South Bay, within reach of their Westchester home, the couple credits their garden with influencing their menus. “It’s more for use at home but it gives us ideas. It’s a way to chart what’s in season and growing well,” says Roberts. “I was hesitant at first, since vegetable beds take work to look beautiful, but it teaches us something every day,” adds Williamson. When not dining at home, they can be found at local favorites like Ayara Thai Cuisine, Kanpai Sushi, MTN and Felix. As for keeping sane with lives that move at a frenetic pace, the couple credits SoulCycle, Lacey Stone Fitness boot camps, Peloton sessions and swimming. “We’ve gone through different phases over the years, but we both landed on cycling,” Williamson says. In fact, they recently did a culinary bicycling tour in Italy. “We rode 40 to 50 miles a day, saw the scenery and stopped for coffee and lunch—for one meal, the chef had foraged porcini mushrooms that morning,” recalls Roberts.
It’s a much-deserved reward for a couple that’s worked nonstop to turn out smart, quality-driven products. “We see a lot of people getting into the business now because they’ve grown up watching it on TV, but we got into it because we love food,” says Williamson. “It’s not the most lucrative business and the hours are absurd!” Roberts add frankly before offering these sage words: “You’ve got to do it for the passion, not the paycheck.”
Photography Courtesy Of: Nomadic Reverie