chef Tiffany Derry
Conversation with Farah Fleurima, The Dallas Diva!
Images by Jeremy Bown
Chef Tiffany Derry Keeps Momentum Percolating
Top Chef alum has numerous pots
on the stove

Top Chef fan favorite Tiffany Derry, although a Beaumont native with deep roots in that South Texas city, has crafted a huge reputation for herself in Dallas. After the show wrapped, she launched her own restaurant in Uptown, Private | Social, that drew foodie fans and food newbies angling to get a glimpse of the kitchen chief. Since departing that fine dining establishment, Derry has juggled a number of new endeavors, including a burgeoning apparel collection, a spice-blend line and cookbook, all under the auspices of her umbrella consulting company, TD Concepts. How does the young culinary pro handle business, the kitchen and TV appearances? With candor and a hearty sense of humor! She sat down to with us to give a glimpse into how she’s managing it all – including the occasional gratis gig at her absolute favorite Thai place in town. | Read on

You’re from Beaumont, but is Dallas your forever home?
Dallas IS my home base; not going anywhere! I love Dallas, my son’s here, we have a home here, I’m totally for staying here. But I do travel a lot now, been working on quite a few projects, of course, like Food & Wine (Magazine) festivals, private things, corporate parties. I’m getting ready to launch my shirt line, kind of excited about that as well. It will start with shirts, but there will be a lot of other things to come.

That is so funny, I don’t know if I’d read it somewhere, but – I had a thought about you and apparel today …
Oh, wow! You probably saw maybe a peek or something on Twitter.

Mayyybe … but tell me about that line.
So I wanted to do something fun, you know – things that I can wear. So when I go home to Beaumont, everybody in Beaumont, Houston, everywhere [says] “Oh, my gosh, do you have this, do you have that?” I’m like, “I’m working on everything, I promise!” Cookbooks! Aprons! Shirts! So finally, I said, I’m going to design a shirt, and I have one that’s called Know Your Roots, not only as far as vegetables … it also means know where you’re coming from, and in the same token it’s, Don’t forget where you’re coming from. So for me, it’s all about putting all of those things together. … my city has helped me – Beaumont – and moving forward, I support all things that support me.

Tell us a bit about your consulting business …
So I started a new company called TD Concepts, and with TD Concepts, it takes care of all of any consulting that I’m doing, from just menu to helping with design and flow to training – everything. And also, it’s kind of the house for all the TV appearances and things that I do.

What is the lure of consulting versus being in the kitchen?
Well, I love the kitchen, I love restaurants – I’ve been doing it for 15 years now, I started when I was 15 years old, so there is no substitute for the kitchen. It is a beast, it’s lovely, it’s chaotic, it’s like all the things in life that I love. But, at the same time, there are other things in life that I want to do. One of them is to have my own TV show, have my own merchandise – those are all the things I’ve been wanting for a long time, and unfortunately, I can’t do 15,000 things at one time …

I know – what a thought, what a concept! So I said, “OK – Tiffany. You turned 30. You’ve been talking about doing some of the things you’ve been talking about for a while, sooo … when are you gonna get it done?” I kind of had that talk with myself – and I know they say if you answer back you’re crazy, so maybe I am – but I realized that, you know, now is the time to do all the things, and I need to do it right now. And so, I just started everything from ground up. I wanted to do the new company, love consulting, I love teaching, I love all of those things. … My spice line, I wanna get my cookbook finished. All of these need work and time, and if I want to do them, versus someone else writing everything and doing everything for me, then I have to put in some work.

Where’d the spice line idea come from?
When I was at Private|Social and did the duck fat fried chicken, and everyone was, like, “oh, my gosh, what do you put on it, what kind of spices?” I said, “you know what? Everyone else has a spice line, why don’t I have a spice line? I have good seasonings, you know!” [laughs] A company out of Beaumont called TexJoy … they will be able to handle my spice line.

And what kind of cookbook are you envisioning putting out there?
I want a cookbook that not only tells a story and involves family – of course it has recipes and lots of pictures – but at the end of it all for me, it has to be about inspiration. Not just in cooking, but in whatever it is you want to do. And so I need there to be a story between everything that I do, it has to inspire someone to do something. And so it will tell a story.

What type of cuisine will it skew toward?
It will be global, that’s what I do. I have a section I’m working on about breakfast, and it’s so funny because I love eggs Benedict but then I love udon noodles, so it’s that big of a batch of things [laughs]. Seriously, what I love to cook is anything around the world.

If you could only eat one cuisine for a month, what …
Thai. [laughs] Thai is my favorite. Thai food. I loooove Thai food.

So what is your go-to Thai place in DFW?
ZENse. And it’s so funny, no one knows of it, and it’s been around for about eight years. … It’s in Valley Ranch and it used to be right by my house, and that’s what started me going. It’s a mom and two daughters, and they are absolutely amazing. I actually go work with them sometimes for free – I said as long as you feed me, I’ll cook. I ran their lunches a few times. … I was going crazy one day, I was on that wok, and I was GETTIN’ it! [laughs] I love Thai food.

Talk about the ‘Top Chef effect’
I don’t think anyone could have prepared us for the “Top Chef effect.” You know, when you’re competing, you don’t really think about that after this, millions of people are gonna see it, millions of people are gonna know you. You’re just in the mindset of competing, you know, trying to hold it together and do the best that you can. After it, I came home, and I got married, and I was only home, like, three days, and they called me up and said, “Hey, we want you to come on back.” So I didn’t even get to see all of my season on TV. So then I left to do Season 8 for [Top Chef] All-Stars. I’ll never forget, we were doing an event, we were in New York, and peopl e were like, “you had me crying!” and I was, like, “crying for what?” And they’re like, “you were just eliminated!” Oh! So that night I asked the producer if I could see, you know, my episode, and they let us have a little viewing party, and I remember crying. [makes weeping sounds] It’s because looking at that show, because it’s so real, you understand and you feel all of the emotions you had at that moment. And at that moment it was very hard for me, I was very emotional that day. Because I knew it. The day my mussels froze – I knew that it was over, because I needed the mussels to make the dish. And then to hear the judges say, “Oh, if you had had the mussels in it, it would’ve been a completely different dish!”

Even the camera people, they were all crying. And they’re not supposed to … so much going on that day. [laughs]

I remember that day, too! You just had that hold on people, and people just had such goodwill for you.
Yeah, [Top Chef judge] Tom [Colicchio] said when I was eliminated, it was the most hate mail that Bravo had ever received.

Tell me about your upcoming events here in Dallas
I love getting together with people. If I had a huge home, I would probably rent it out, and we would do parties every single day. I love throwing parties, I love being the host. I’m gonna have a dinner here at Wine Poste. It’s gonna be fun, I’m excited!

What do you think about the Wine Poste space?
This space is amazing! I told [the manager] I’m trying to figure out what else I can do with this! The nice, big open kitchen area, I’d like to plate on that, and have everybody here on the sofas. The coziness of it? I love it.

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