Friday (Mid-morning) Football With Former Top Chef Contestant Tiffany Derry
I loathe reality TV, but I make one exception - Top Chef. Is it because Padma Lakshmi hosts? We'll never know for certain.
I was like a lot of North Texans this past season who were bummed when Tiffany Derry (right) was voted off the show just one episode before the finale. Personally, I think she got jobbed.
Derry is from Beaumont, resides in Dallas and has her own restaurant:
5301 Alpha Rd
Dallas, TX 75240
She was kind enough to talk Top Chef, cooking and sports.
Mac Engel: You said on the show sports were a big deal in your house; how so?
Tiffany Derry: My grandad was a huge Redskins fan. My husband is a diehard Redskins fan. All he wants are tickets to the Cowboys-Redskins game. My dad has loved the Cowboys through all of their ups and downs.
ME: You were a rather active athlete as a kid weren't you?
TD: Yes. I played volleyball, basketball, golf, tennis, track. All of my brothers played football and basketball. I was a tomboy and would play some football against them but mostly basketball.
ME: Do you have more of an interest in pro or college football?
TD: Probably more pro but I follow college now because my brother's in school. My dad is interested in all of it.
ME: When did you know you wanted to make food your career?
TD: When I was 17. At that point I was more into sports, but I started to go to a culinary school in Beaumont and it was just amazing. I was doing that, going to school and working at IHOP. I thought working in a restaurant wasn't that far from sports because there is so much energy, so much pressure, so much adrenaline. It's quick moving. You sweat a lot.
ME: How did you come to land a spot on Top Chef?
TD: Usually you apply but Bravo called me. I originally said no. I have my own restaurant and I was getting married. But I agreed to meet with them and, I liked the money part of it, so I agreed to do it.
ME: How accurate does the edited version of the show portray what really happened?
TD: It's pretty accurate. There are those moments when they play up certain things but that comes to pass. But if you said it, you said it. They didn't put words in your mouth.
ME: It can sound as if the critiquing can be over the top; did you find that to be so?
TD: That's their jobs - to be critics. That's what they do. When you have a group of talented chefs you have to differentiate. It's not like when someone goes out to eat for enjoyment; that's different than eating to critique.
ME: Could you tell when you had done well or poorly before the judges' table?
TD: You can tell. For me, everybody told me I had a gift because I could tell when the judges' enjoyed something. Then there were times I was like, 'Oh, buddy, I don't know if this is going to fly.'
ME: Who did people ask you most about from the show?
TD: At first it was Padma. It was, 'Is she as pretty in person as she is on TV?' She's more gorgeous in person. Now the question is, 'Who is your favorite judge?'
ME: Who is your favorite judge?
TD: Anthony Bourdain. He was so honest and just cut right through it.
ME: Were there ever times you felt the judges were too harsh with their choice of words?
TD: There are moments when you think, 'Really, did you need to say that? It was like cat food?' For me, I always knew I messed up before I went to the judges' table. When I was voted off, I knew it was going to be me. It was a gut feeling. I felt it was me the moment the mussels froze in the freezer.
ME: Have you seen a correlation between your appearance on the show and increased business at your restaurant?
TD: I see it every day. There are tons of people who come in with their cameras and want me to sign pictures and autographs.
ME: I have always heard owning and running a restaurant is a terrible business venture; why?
TD: Look around you and see how many restaurants open and close every week. Our rate of survival is ridiculously low. It takes over your whole life. Most chefs have been divorced or married multiple times. It's not a healthy environment, unless you can create a balance in your own place. It's your own so you work a heck of a lot, 12 to 15 hours a day.
ME: Do you plan to open a new restaurant one day?
TD: This is the only restaurant I want of this kind. There are other concepts I do want. I have this love of Mexican food, and I'm really good at it, and I've worked with a lot of moms and grandmas to do it right. I want to do a taco bar, like a hangout place. None of that Tex-Mex stuff. A place where you can see and smell tortillas being made.
ME: Do you have a favorite restaurant in the area?
TD: Shinsei. I go every week or once every two weeks.
ME: Time to pick some college football games.
ME: Wyoming at TCU
TD: TCU is going to win
ME: Arkansas versus Texas A&M
TD: Texas A&M
ME: Texas Tech versus Baylor
TD: Hmm ... this is a tough one. Texas Tech
ME: Michigan State versus Michigan
TD: Michigan State
ME: Alabama versus South Carolina
TD: Alabama, baby!
ME: Finally, Florida versus LSU
TD: I'm going to have to go with my little brother's school, LSU.
- Mac Engel
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