Brooke Williamson's Most Memorable Meal Of 2023

Beginning as a teacher's assistant at the Epicurean Institute of Los Angeles, one of the country's top culinary schools, at just 15 years old, Brooke Williamson had already built quite the resume for herself even before winning Bravo's 14th season of "Top Chef" in 2017. By the age of 19, she was the sous chef at Michael's Santa Monica, and, just three years later, she became the youngest female chef to cook at the James Beard Foundation House. 

Williamson's "Top Chef" victory catapulted her into a career as a Food Network star. Juggling appearances on shows like "Beachside Brawl" and "Bobby's Triple Threat," the day-to-day operations of Playa Provisions, the four-in-one restaurant concept she and her husband Nick Roberts opened in 2014, and being a mom to her now teenage son while being a chef, it's safe to say that, in the last decade, Williamson's life has been busier than ever. 

So, when Tasting Table bumped into her and Antonia Lofaso at the Sip and Savor event during the 2023 New York City Wine & Food Festival, we had to take the opportunity to ask her about the most memorable meal she's had in the last year — and she admits that her answer is probably not all that unique. "One of my favorite meals of the year was at Shukette, which ... I know everyone can say the same thing — that's definitely having a moment — but I think it's more than a moment," she said.

What does Shukette serve?

Being the sister restaurant to Shuka, another eatery showcasing Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food, Shukette is an unsurprising dining choice for anyone who has spent time exploring New York City's food scene. The hip restaurant opened in 2021 and quickly became a place you can go where you know the hummus will be silky smooth, the laffa coated in za'atar, and the gazoz drinks served with bouquets of fresh fruits, veggies, and herbs — all of which look as if they were brought in from the shuk, Hebrew for market, that very day. 

The menu hits all the points, drawing on foods that originated all across the Levant, the Middle East, and North Africa. So, make no mistake, even though Chef Ayesha Nurdjaja — a Brooklyn native of Italian-Indonesian descent — may have done her research in Israel, her food at Shuka and Shukette tells a story of its own. One that has long been overdue in the Western food scene. As Brooke Williamson said herself, "It's some of the most inspiring food I've had in a long time." 

With its success, not only is Chef Nurdjaja the trendsetter for modern Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking but she's also setting tables with some of the most politicized foods in the world, casually playing on both time and place. At Shukette, people gather around to sink Iraqi bread into Israeli dips and, afterward, they spoon into oat milk soft serve ice cream with halvah on the top. It's a beautiful sight and a simultaneously new yet intimate food experience. Let's hope that it lasts for more than just a moment.