Secrets from the Top Chef Finale

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Secrets from the Top Chef Finale
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Secrets from the Top Chef Finale

Top Chef runner-up Brooke Williamson and winner Kristen Kish dish on their favorite cooking tips.

Image Credit: David Moir/Bravo

First, check out some words of wisdom from Williamson.

Image Credit: David Moir/Bravo

Don't Overdo It

"Don't bite off more than you can chew," recommends Williamson. "I tend to do that at home because I'm constantly trying new things, but if you want to really enjoy your company and yourself, then you don't want to be stressed in the kitchen."

Image Credit: David Moir/Bravo

Balance is Everything

"I always try to have all aspects of balance in a dish," she explains. "That is what really brings a dish together. [What] gives you that extra edge of perfection is having a balance of sweetness, acidity, richness and bitterness."

Image Credit: David Moir/Bravo

Buy for Quality and Seasonality

"Choose high-quality ingredients and pretty, in-season produce that you can present in a really fresh way," says Williamson. "[Choosing ingredients] that you don't have to do a lot to is a very smart way to go."

Image Credit: David Moir/Bravo

Keep a Healthy Kitchen

"I like to eat clean, not incredibly heavy or rich, healthier food at home," explains Williamson who often makes Asian cuisine. "I eat enough bad food when I'm out, so when I'm home, I try to keep it healthy and clean. Soups, broths and lots of vegetables at home are always my go-tos."

Image Credit: David Moir/Bravo

Own a Good Olive Oil

"I would say I'm big on vinegars and oils," says Williamson who loves to use really good olive oil and coconut oil.

Image Credit: David Moir/Bravo

Use Whole Grain Mustard in Dressings

"A lot of vinaigrettes use a Dijon mustard or a smooth mustard, but I love the graininess of a whole grain mustard," she explains.

Image Credit: David Moir/Bravo

Always Use Freshly Ground Pepper

"I use fresh [ground] black pepper in all of my vinaigrettes," says Williamson. "Pre-ground black pepper that you get at a supermarket has lost 90 percent of its flavor."

Image Credit: David Moir/Bravo

Don't Overcook Veggies

One of the biggest mistakes people make in the kitchen, according to Williamson, is overcooking vegetables. "I love the crunch of a lightly-cooked or raw vegetable," she says. "It still has its nutrients; it still has the bright flavor. I think when you take a really great piece of produce [and] you overcook it, you destroy it."

Image Credit: David Moir/Bravo

Kish has her own philosophies on cooking. Check out her secrets!

Image Credit: David Moir/Bravo

Find What Inspires You

Kish, for one, is an art lover and finds inspiration in sculpture and paintings. "Looking at art books does it for me," says Kish.

Image Credit: David Moir/Bravo

Consider How People Eat

"I gather a lot of my inspiration by thinking about how people eat," says Kish. [Food] has to look good, but it also has to make sense with how you move your fork through the plate."

Image Credit: David Moir/Bravo

Let Ingredients Speak for Themselves

"It doesn't need to be an expensive ingredient," explains Kish. "In the summertime, when you have the most perfect ripe peach, leave it how it is. It is perfect the way it is, [and] you can get it for a dollar. If something is already amazingly beautiful, you don't want to cover it up."

Image Credit: David Moir/Bravo

Mix Savory and Sweet

"I love incorporating savory aspects into sweet and then sweet things into savory," she explains. "I try to hit all of the different points on the palate: sweet, salty, sour and bitter." For this effect, she particularly likes to infuse ice cream bases or cakes with pink peppercorn.

Image Credit: David Moir/Bravo

Make a Thoughtful, Tasty Dish

Aim for dishes that are thoughtful, well-executed, and well-seasoned and people will appreciate it.

Image Credit: David Moir/Bravo

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When Brooke Williamson and Kristen Kish stepped onto the stage for the season finale of Bravo's Top Chef, they initially saw nothing more than an empty studio, soon to be packed for the live filming. "The studio was empty so we actually had a minute to find our bearings and get organized; that was the most nerve-racking part for me: just staring into this abyss," says the evening's winner, Kish. "Once people started filling in, it was definitely more calming, and [nervousness] turned to excitement."

Williamson was shocked by the surprise live finale format. "I was wondering why we hadn't started cooking and I was watching guests arrive," she says. "I thought it was a lot of fun to have the audience see what you are doing from point A to Z." Among the crowd of family, friends and former Top Chefs was her son, who, she explains, "for a five year old, actually looked like he was proud of his mom."

After a total of seven or eight hours between prep and service, Kish was named winner. "It means more to me than I ever knew it could mean," explains Kish. "Obviously I was going into it to be the last person standing, but to finally reach this point is pretty cool."

Kish, whose interest in cooking grew from watching cooking shows like Great Chefs of the World as a child, has no immediate plans for opening up her own restaurant quite yet. Following her win, she is heading back to work at Stir in Boston under Barbara Lynch. "I'm going to keep learning [and] putting myself in new situations," says Kish. "I'll do something on my own much later down the line."

Williamson continues to run her two restaurants, Hudson House (in Redondo Beach, CA) and The Tripel (in Playa del Rey, CA), alongside her husband, and the pair is seeking out a new location for a third eatery.

Check out the slideshow above to learn all of their kitchen secrets.

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