Throughout season 16 of Top Chef, winner Kelsey Barnard Clark made cooking look simple whether in quickfire or elimination challenges. And, to an extent, that’s always been the case: To Barnard Clark, cooking comes naturally. She catered her first wedding at age 15. At 20, after seeing Julie & Julia, she dropped out of college to enroll in culinary school, much to her parent’s dismay. Now, Barnard Clark is an executive chef, runs her own restaurant and catering company, and has people over for meals at least twice a week in her Dothan, Alabama home. She’s a big believer that when it comes to home cooking, it should be easy. Don’t believe her? The newest Top Chef shares the simple home cooking tips everyone can master, plus she gave us one of her recipes from Top Chef if you want to stretch your culinary skills.

Brit + Co: You cook a lot from the heart and from memory. What advice can you give home cooks who want to learn how to cook without relying on recipes?

Kelsey Barnard Clark: Actually, I’ve been spending a lot of time on Instagram trying to talk to people, because I get a lot of questions like this. Make sure you’re following recipes that are applicable for your life and home. Get cookbooks that have simple recipes that you can follow easily. For the home cook, try to master proteins, and then add sauces and spices as you wish. Don’t have seven chicken recipes. Have the one you always make, and make that your recipe. Then, you can add some seasoning and sauces later.

B+C: Speaking of chicken, you just posted a yummy looking lavender roasted chicken recipe on Instagram. Could you tell us more about this recipe?

KBC: Most of the questions I get asked are, “I’m a wife, and I have a toddler. What are some easy recipes I can do at home? How do I balance life?” Those are recipes I’m sharing with my followers. Roasted chicken can feed a significant amount of people. Or if you’re a small family, you can eat it for three days. When people come over and you have a whole beautiful roasted chicken, they are going to talk about it for days.

B+C: What are some common mistakes people make when roasting chicken?

KBC: I think the number one mistake people make when cooking proteins are being scared of high temperatures. I cook my chicken at 415°F. Most people cook chicken at 350°F for 2 hours. Who has the time to do that with a family? When you cook at a high heat, you’re making the skin brown and crispy and keeping all the juices inside.

B+C: On Top Chef, you’re cooking against a clock, and as a mom, it must feel like that too. How do you use your time efficiently in the kitchen?

KBC: I’m an organization freak. Get your kitchen organized. You don’t have to be as organized as me; I’m a little psycho. What’s stressful is if they don’t know where their stuff is or if they have that spice. If you’re organized, you’ll know you need to buy x, y, and z to make what you’re cooking.

B+C: You also run a catering company. How can the average person cook to please a crowd?

KBC: Well besides my company, I have people over at least twice a week. People are always at my house. When entertaining, you want to be organized and have your stuff together. You also want to be realistic with your time management. For example, I had a really busy day today, and I’m having people over tonight. I know I have 2 hours to get everything ready. So we’re going to grill pizzas which requires little to no work on my end. You have to be honest with yourself.

B+C: What was the biggest lesson you learned competing on Top Chef?

KBC: I’m glad I stuck to my guns. I wasn’t looking over my shoulder to see someone cooking something fancy and worried I was just making deviled eggs. I just told myself that I’m just going to cook my food and stay true to myself.

B+C: What’s next for you? What are you the most excited to do since winning the show?

KBC: It’s always been a dream of mine to have a lifestyle brand. I get questions like, “How do I keep my plants alive and house clean with a toddler?” I’d love to be this voice that says you can do it all. Let me show you how to do everything and be realistic about it. I want to be a women’s cheerleader, cheering women on to balance life and not feel guilty about having careers.

B+C: Thanks for sharing your ceviche recipe. Can you tell us a little bit about this dish?

KBC: I think it’s a great entertaining dish of summer. It’s so easy. All you have to do is chop a few things up ahead of time. You can make that liquid a couple of days before. It’s refreshing, and it’s a very pretty dish.

 bay scallop ceviche, rhubarb & Rainer cherry consommé, and corn whip

Ingredients:

Ceviche:

  • 4 ounces scallops, chopped
  • 3 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon fennel, minced
  • 1 teaspoon shallot, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon jalapeño, minced

Consommé:

  • 1/2 cup rhubarb, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cherries, mashed
  • 1/4 cup fennel, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon shallot, chopped

Corn Whip:

  • 4 cobs corn, shucked
  • 2 tablespoon cream
  • salt, to taste

Directions:

1. Mix all the ceviche ingredients together, then strain the liquid, and set aside.

2. Combine all the consommé ingredients together in a bowl, then cover in plastic wrap. Place the bowl over a pot with water, and let simmer until a juice has formed.

3. Make the corn whip by boiling corn for 15 to 20 minutes. Then purée corn with cream and strain.

4. To plate, add a tablespoon of ceviche. Top with a tablespoon of consommé. Garnish with corn whip.

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(Photos via Smallz & Raskind / Bravo , Carmo Correia / Bravo, and David Moir / Bravo)