What is in this article?:
- Mette Williams talks Chef Wanted cooking competition
- Learning from the masters
Mette Williams wanted to test herself on TV, and now she’s the executive chef at Culina.
Williams’ prize for winning Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell? A job at Culina, with its stunning indoor-outdoor design and this lush garden terrace.
Learning from the masters
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RH: Now that you’ve got a taste, do you want to do more TV?
Williams: I don’t know. Cooking competitions have never been something I was too interested in. If someone wants me to do local news cooking segments, I’d probably do those. As far as challenges, I don’t know if it’s for me. Depending on the situation, I’d love to be a host on a travel cooking show, but those challenges? I think I’ve gotten them out of my system. For now.
RH: You spent eight years with Wolfgang Puck, first at Postrio for a year, then five at Spago Beverly Hills and two at CUT, his newer steakhouse concept. What did you learn from him?
Williams: He wasn’t cooking a whole lot, but he’d still come in a little bit. Just watching him in his business—the way he communicates when he visits tables, he just makes people feel special. He makes people feel good about what they do.
RH: What did you learn from working with Lee Hefter, his executive corporate chef?
Williams: He is a mastermind of execution. He showed me how to care for food and make it shine for what it is, to enhance it with certain ingredients. Instead of adding in all these other things and molecular stuff. It’s fun to see that done, but you’re still hungry after eating it.
RH: So you like a simpler approach?
Williams: It should be all about comfort. I want everyone to come to the restaurant and be able to recognize something from their past. That’s very important—your history, growing up. You want to have those good memories come back through eating. I like family style, rustic and bold flavors, but not fussing too much with ingredients. We use local as much as we can and then we really try to use the best ingredients in the best possible way.
RH: How’d you get into cooking as a career?
Williams: I’ve been cooking ever since I could stand. It’s always been a part of my life, but I never really thought about being a professional chef. My mom suggested it while I was on the waiting list for a nursing program. I wanted to go into medicine, but she asked if I ever thought of becoming a chef. “You’re always creating recipes, watching Food Network, you don’t do homework and you’re always cooking,” she said. “Let’s take a trip to San Francisco and check out a culinary school.” I fell in love. I guess you should always listen to Mom.