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Q & A With Top Chef’s Tiffany Derry

It’s fair to say that I am obsessed with Top Chef! Chrystal enjoys the show too, but without cable, she’s missed out on the last few seasons. I must say, these last two seasons of the show have been absolutely the best. The chefs competed in Washington D.C. in Season 7, and then Season 8 brought together all the best contestants from the previous years, in Top Chef All-Stars. I even had an Italian feast earlier this year in honor of the last season.

My favorite chef from the show hands down is Tiffany Derry. She was just one elimination challenge away from making to the finals in Season 7. Coming so close to the finish propelled her as one of the “All Stars,” and she was back for more the very next season. Though she didn’t take the win in the end, she did come close again in Season 8. Plus, she was voted “Fan Favorite” by the Bravo viewers once it was all said and done — so she wasn’t just my favorite, she was everyone’s!

We recently were given to opportunity to do a Q&A with Chef Derry. You can imagine my elation at the prospect. Below is our short interview with Tiffany. Additionally, she graciously shared with us a recipe she developed for Sargento cheeses. The newest season of Top Chef just started last month, and this round is in Texas. Being that Tiffany hails from the Longhorn State, my fingers are crossed she’ll make a special guest appearance on the show. We can always use more Tiffany in any episode of Top Chef!

Q & A with Tiffany Derry:
1. How would you describe your culinary style and cooking philosophy?
I love food from all over the world. I grew up in the south but I have a tendency for Asian flavors. I like to keep my cooking simple and elevate classic dishes and flavor profiles. Sometimes adding in a few elements that surprise you can really add a WOW factor to ordinary dishes.

2. We hear you have a new restaurant, Private Social, in Dallas. Congrats! What can we expect from this new culinary venture?
Well thank you! Private Social is my baby and I’m so excited to have been able to do this. The restaurant itself has a very modern look. The “private” part of the name refers to the dining room, which provides that private dining experience. The Social part is the bar where we serve lots of small plates – it’s really conducive to mingling and sharing. Many of my dishes are ones that are close to your heart and ones that you’re really familiar with, but have a fun twist. A few of our diner’s favorites are the Duck Fat Fried Chicken and the Braised Oxtail with Gnudi. They incorporate some really interesting and delicious flavors.

3. It’s that time of the year, and the holiday season is upon us! What are some of your family
holiday food traditions?
Well, I have a very large family so our holidays typically consist of 60-70 people coming in and out of the house at different times. We all bring our own dishes, which we’ve made every Christmas for as long as I can remember. I would have to say one of the things that I never grow old of is macaroni and cheese. It has to be super cheesy and baked into a casserole dish. I developed a recipe with a few varieties of Sargento all-natural shredded cheese including Extra Sharp Cheddar, Mozzarella & Provolone, and Parmesan, that I’ve mixed together with bacon for crispy-ness and green onion for added flavor. It’s the ultimate mac and cheese recipe! The all- natural cheeses give it a rich, authentic flavor, and the bacon and green onion add a nice pop of texture and taste too.

4. When it comes to food, the holidays are generally synonymous with over-indulgence. What’s
one of your favorite healthy dishes to enjoy after the holiday season?
One dish I love to eat is Pho. It’s a really light broth with rice noodles, basil, mint, green onion, bean sprouts, and really any ingredient you want to throw in there. There is typically very little meat, though, which makes it nice and light but still filling. I like it because I can eat a whole bowl and still go to work afterwards and function once I’m done.

5. Tell us one kitchen utensil you cannot live without.
It would definitely be a Japanese Mandolin. It makes everything so perfect in a short amount of time. I’m never without one in the kitchen!

6. We’re based out of Los Angeles. Do you travel to LA often? Any favorite eateries to visit in
the city when you’re in town?
I do come to Los Angeles pretty often. Actually, I was there on Sunday! One of my good friends from Top Chef, Antonia, has her restaurant Black Market in LA and it’s my favorite spot to stop when I’m in town. It’s new American food but everything is small plates and tapas. Like me, she likes to play with different flavors from around the world but her cooking has that home cook feel.

7. Have you been watching the new season of Top Chef? It’s still early in the season, but who are
your favorite contestants at the moment?
I have been watching, but haven’t been able to see every episode so I’m a little behind. My good friend Sara Jane, from Chicago, is a fabulous cook. I worked with her many years ago when I was just starting my career and we’ve been friends ever since. Grayson is another one I’m rooting for.

8. They’re in your neck of the woods, Texas, this year. Can we expect an appearance from you
on the show?
That’s something you’ll have to watch and see!

Photo courtesy of Sargento®

Green Onion and Bacon Macaroni and Cheese – Serves 8 (Recipe courtesy of Sargento®)
8 ounces elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
2 cups Sargento® ChefStyle Shredded Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 cup Sargento® Artisan Blends® Shredded Mozzarella & Provolone Cheese
1/2 cup Sargento® Artisan Blends® Shredded Parmesan Cheese
1 cup bacon, cooked crisp and chopped
1/2 cup green onion, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. In large pot, boil water and add 2 tablespoons salt. Add macaroni and cook according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a separate saucepan. Whisk in flour; cook, whisking constantly, or until thickened. Gradually whisk in milk and simmer 5 minutes or until mixture begins to bubble. Remove from heat.

3. Put half of macaroni in 8×8-inch casserole dish and sprinkle with half of the cheeses, bacon and onion, salt and pepper. Repeat. Pour white sauce over.

4. Bake 30 minutes or until set and garnish with additional bacon and green onion before serving, if desired.

Click HERE for the printable recipe.


10 thoughts on “Q & A With Top Chef’s Tiffany Derry

  1. I loved Tiffany – I liked that she was boisterous and outgoing – and that laugh! And I loves me a great mac n cheese!


  2. 60-70 ppl!!!! my word! and here I thought 35-40 was a lot! ooh wee!! So glad you got to interview her! She’s a doll! So much fun! Can’t wait to visit Private Social!

  3. Shut up, you guys interviewed Tiffany? She’s my favorite Top Chef star. I love her idea of filling up on Pho during the holidays–I’ve already gained a few pounds since Thanksgiving. :0

    Have a wonderful holiday, both of you!


  4. Tiffany was one of my favorites as well! I love her personality and she was one of the few chefs who didn’t come off as totally arrogant. this mac and cheese recipe sounds awesome! The ultimate comfort food.

  5. How cool!!!

    I was sooo rooting for Tiffany during her season of Top Chef. While I admire and love many different kinds of chefs on the shows, I was so happy to see a Black woman who was making such fabulous food on the show. Plus, I like the fact that she didn’t play the “mean Black woman” archetype. Yay! She and Carla are both great. I wish I had a reason to go to Dallas just so that I could try her restaurant.

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