Chef Tiffany Derry, a woman who is truly America’s sweetheart. It was her insistence to stand out from the Top Chef crowd of chefs on season seven where smarminess is generally a theme and backstabbing is de rigueur. That’s not how Tiffany plays it, her genuine personality coupled with the extraordinary ability to cook led this chef to the top of that season’s heap, which begat an amazing television career which includes another season of Top Chef (All Stars), a gig on Bar Rescue and numerous judging appearances for both Top Chef and Top Chef Jr.. If that is not enough, and is it ever really, she has her own PBS series being filmed as this is written.
While still in high school, Chef Tiffany received her seafood training from Houston’s Pesce Restaurant. After graduation, she became the Executive Sous Chef of Grotto Cucina. She has also has become a food ambassador with the U.S. Embassy and has traveled all over the world in the name of food. Tiffany is a fierce advocate for social justice and equity across gender, race, and food access. She spends much of her spare time lobbying politicians to pass sustainable and healthy food polices—she was integral in getting the farm bill updated in 2013. Tiffany serves as a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, a spokesperson for the James Beard Foundation’s sustainability efforts, an ambassador for diabetes organization Novo Nordisk, and sits on the Board of Directors for Food Policy Action.
Dallas has adopted this Chef hailing from Beaumont, Texas where she was surrounded with the beautiful food of that region. This is where her beautiful new restaurant kicks up that very cuisine, cuisine of her youth, her Roots.
Roots Southern Table is the latest incarnation of the personality, her style and flair in the kitchen. Certainly you may find her style of cookery at her tiny space in Plano, Roots Chicken Shak, and her signature duck fat fried chicken. But it is the Southern Table where we may uncover her real passion.
The first time we sat at her table at Roots we wept a bit as the food filed in, starting with one particularly amazing cast iron pan of cornbread, adorned with Steen’s, Smoked Salted Butter and Apple Cranberry Preserves. So memorable I can imagine the meld of flavors weeks later.
She tapped further into her roots for her mother’s gumbo which cannot be missed and still claim to have dined with Tiffany. The dish is chockful of blue crab, chicken, sausage and the gumbo thickener of the south, file. Beautiful and life giving.
One particularly fond dish was the Charred Romanesco Broccoli. Not something that you might get excited about on paper, but the lovely spirals are adorned with roasted lemon and anchovy sauce with duck fat breadcrumbs that gives this unctuous dish its vibrant flavors. Nothing in this restaurant may be labeled bland. The food might well be piquant, sharp, ripe or mature, but never lacking in flavor. Tears of joy, remember?
We sauntered through a whole host of deliciousness including a Black-Eyed Pea Hummus, a memorable Beet Salad with a Steen’s Vinegar and garlic sauce. But for the real action you will order the Oxtail Ragu with pappardelle (quire possibly my favorite pasta) or the Jerk Lamb Chops with the most delightful Hoppin’ John. Oh, the Hen of the Woods toppled with turnips batons, get that, too.
Of course you might select the Duck Fat Fried Chicken, but the Sous Vide Short Ribs are married to this amazing gruyere potato fondue.
Are you seeing a pattern here? This is the very food found on your tube when watching Top Chef but are unable to enjoy. Sure, you might catch yourself licking the screen when no one is looking, but these dishes are real and merely a short drive from home.