The Great Ones is a celebration of humans we admire — and an exploration of why they cook, not just how. If you’re eating in Detroit, you need to know Kate Williams’s name; she’s the chef and owner of Lady of the House, Candy Bar, and, most recently, Karl’s. But she’s also a (Food & Wine “Best New”) chef who makes time for home cooking with her family; we visited her at her mother’s home — a short drive from Kate’s own — where she made steak and béarnaise sauce.
I always say I didn't have an upbringing where I was on my grandmother's hips, stirring sauces. Cooking in my family was really about feeding the masses. Both of my parents come from Irish immigrant families with nine and seven children, and I have three brothers.
I've dedicated my life to food.
My most sacred memories aren’t necessarily related to the food; they’re of being at the dinner table, laughing and getting into trouble. But now, of course, I've dedicated my life to food. I've worked in restaurants since I was 14, and now I'm 34.
I’d call my restaurant, Lady of the House, new American with a little bit of an Irish twist. Hopefully you know you're in Detroit when you're eating at my restaurant. I’m in love with the underground creativity in this city, whether it’s through food, music, or art. We also have a bar called Candy Bar that opened last year, and then this summer we opened up our second restaurant, called Karl's. It's a diner named after my great-great-grandfather's bakery that used to be on the east side of Detroit.
Outside of my restaurants, I cook a little bit at my own home, but I mostly cook at my mom Sharon’s house. This relates back to why I became a chef — I wanted to cook for her and my brothers and their families.
My mom does Sunday dinners every week. She cooks for the entire family, and whenever I'm there I help her out, but she's a great cook.
I made steak with roasted onions, tomatoes, and béarnaise sauce. I make this a lot at my mom's house because it's her favorite dish. She loves a béarnaise sauce and never feels like she can do it herself, but, honestly, it’s easy, especially because the Great Jones pans are great.
When I’m at my mom's house — or anyone else’s house — I want to use the least amount of dishes possible. I seared the steak in Deep Cut, then seared vegetables with some balsamic and butter, and I'm surprised how well one pan did both. I mean, it really did it nicely.
I actually do my béarnaise (and hollandaise) at the restaurant the same way I do at home (I feel like French chefs will turn in their graves when I say this): I make it in a blender. I heat the butter in a separate pan and start the egg yolks in the blender; once the blender starts to get hot and temper the yolks, I add a little vinegar, water, and salt. Then, with the blender still going, I slowly drizzle in the butter.
French chefs will turn in their graves when I say this.
When it comes to making steak at home, your meat needs more salt than you think it does. That's the restaurant tip. You want a very nice crust of salt before it goes into the pan, and then make sure you have white smoke coming from the pan — not black while the meat is cooking. Three or four minutes per side. You don't want to touch it for at least the first minute, while it gets some nice color.
Add some more butter to the pan, and then just constantly baste that meat, especially if it’s a thick cut like rib eye. Just from the basting and the heat of the pan, it cooks to medium rare in about eight minutes.
I can’t stress enough that, with the exception of melting the butter in another pan, this was just a one-pan dish. It’s so quick that my mom and I got to focus more on being together.
This was just a one-pan dish.