For Shirley and Brooke, it’s all about comfort food.
Though we’d devour all of it in a heartbeat, the food the chefs crank out on Top Chef doesn’t exactly look approachable. But despite the upscale dishes they present to the judges, Season 14 finalists Brooke Williamson and Shirley Chung make breakfasts at home that any of us can recreate.
Though Williamson’s go-to is sweet and Chung’s is savory, both chefs agree that breakfast needs to be comforting. For a Sunday morning treat, Williamson makes crepes, largely because it’s what her son likes to eat.
“Crepes are so much fun for me because I can get something done really quickly, and not feel like I’m spending an entire day,” she says. “If I’m cooking at home, I try to keep things super simple.”
The batter comes together quickly in a blender: eggs, milk, a little bit of sugar, a pinch of salt, some melted butter, and flour. Then, she pours it into a hot nonstick pan—but always makes a “tester crepe” first.
“I always have to do a tester, so I can check to see if it’s thin enough,” she says. “It helps if the pan is hotter than you would expect it to be, because I’d rather cook them quickly and not let them dry out.”
When they’re finished, she spreads each one with a thin layer of Nutella for her son (and almond butter for herself), tops that with thinly sliced banana, and folds them into triangles. Finally, she finishes it off with granulated sugar.
Chung’s favorite breakfast, a congee with soft scrambled eggs, leans more savory. Though congee, which is a porridge with a white rice base, typically takes up to an hour to cook, Chung quickens the process by breaking up the rice in a blender. By using this hack, the dish is ready in 10 minutes. The rice gets added to boiling chicken broth—typically a ratio of 1 part rice to 6 parts liquid.
“When you make porridge, one of the most important things is you don’t want to start with cold water,” she says. “Everything will stick on the bottom and you cannot create creaminess. So you always want to boil your broth, and make a very flavorful broth. Once it’s boiling you drop your rice in there and keep it constantly boiling and simmering.”
When the porridge is finished (about 5-6 minutes), Chung tops it with a soft scramble seasoned with mirin, a little bit of soy sauce, and sesame oil. Then, she finishes it off with a quick marinated vegetable pickle made with cucumber, mushroom, chili sauce, sesame oil, and soy sauce.
When they’re in a hurry, Williamson and Chung both grab a banana. And in the Top Chef house? It was all about avocado toast—topped with olive oil, salt, and a squeeze of lime.