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.

Tags: Secrets of a Chef

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