Brooke Williamson may only be 35 years old, but she’s already been working in the food business for 20 years and co-owns three restaurants with her husband, chef Nick Roberts—gastropubs Hudson House (Redondo Beach, California) and The Tripel (in Playa Del Rey; opened in 2010, and the “East Coast meets Big Sur” Playa Provisions; opening in 2014). Plus, Williamson has become a food TV regular, having been featured on three shows in as many years.

Viewers can catch her battling fellow chefs while using bizarre ingredients on Esquire TV’s chefs-after-hours show Knife Fight and shepherding a bunch of young, untrained chef wannabes on MTV’s House of Food. But her small-screen debut was on Top Chef, season ten, in which she was the runner-up. Said the Hollywood Reporter of Williamson’s M.O., she was a “formidable Top Chef Seattle competitor, [with a] low-drama, no-nonsense approach to cooking—turning out dish after dish that demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of ingredients, flavors, and technique.”

Williamson was a self-starter long before Top Chef came along. At 15, the native Angeleno was a teacher’s assistant at the Epicurean Institute of Los Angeles, and gained her pastry chops as an assistant at restaurant Fenix, at the Argyle Hotel. A gig with renowned chef Michael McCarty at his Santa Monica restaurant Michael’s, when she was only 20, turned into the sous chef position within a year (she was the youngest sous chef in the restaurant’s history). In 2000, she rocked the crowd at restaurant Zax with seasonal American cuisine, and met Nick Roberts, the fellow chef who would become her husband. In 2003, Roberts and Williamson opened the first of their joint restaurants, Amuse Café, in Venice, kicking off the beach-town gastropub spots that, with Hudson House, the Tripel, and Playa Provisions, they continue to thrive on.