For celebrity chef Tiffany Derry, Labor Day is a celebration of tradition and a break from the hustle that has earned her a fanbase not only in her hometown of Houston but internationally. Tiffany rose to fame on season seven of Top Chef and has since appeared on Top Chef: All Stars, Hungry Investors, and Bar Rescue both as a competitor and sharing her expertise as an advisor. Her restaurants and culinary ventures fall under her Texas-based, purpose-driven hospitality group T2D Concepts where she channels her childhood growing up on a farm and international kitchen experiences into modern Southern cooking. Here, Tiffany fills us in on her newest restaurant, Roots Southern Table, opened this summer honoring her heritage and the traditions that shaped her. Check out how Tiffany Derry uses her Labor Day recipes to harness the last gems of summer produce and classic cookout staples below.
TLP: As the end of summer nears, what are your favorite ways to use late-season produce?
TD: I love pickling and preserving. I approach my home and restaurant fridge the same: Find as many strawberries and rhubarbs as I can to batch our preserves. And okra, green beans, and asparagus—I pickle! I make tons of hot sauce with any hot pepper I can find. Restaurant guests love my Louisiana-style hot sauce, which is a vinegar-forward sauce. Most of my tomatoes never make it out of the cupboard because I eat them fresh daily or make sauces that we devour.
TLP: What does modern Southern cooking mean to you?
TD: I like to call it Southern cooking but most folks tell me what I’m doing is modern Southern because we take old techniques and recipes, and traditional produce and present them in a modern way. Take, for instance, our peach salad—it’s local peaches, pecans, Steen’s vinaigrette, mint, and frisée all tossed and served with sliced ham. It’s all things I love about the South but maybe a little different than you’re used to. I play with nostalgia—and I like to bring back my childhood love of braised greens with turnips. We braise any green leafy vegetables we can find, par-cook and pickle some turnips, and [put them on the] grill. We serve our turnips like that with hot water cornbread and [a jar of] pepper vinegar on the side.
Tiffany Derry’s Plans for Labor Day
TLP: What are your Labor Day traditions, and how do you plan on celebrating this year?
TD: Labor Day for my family has always been about barbecue and loved ones. We smoke some ribs, chicken, and burgers, and my mom usually does all the sides and I get to sit around. I love going home because I can actually sit, eat, and enjoy my family—it’s the only place I don’t have to cook.
TLP: Tell us about your new restaurant Roots Southern Table and what you feel this new concept brings to the Dallas area?
TD: Roots Southern Table is an homage to the South and my family. My family had a farm and we would eat good [laughs], but not in ways most think of in the South. We had an abundance of vegetables on every table. There were lots of traditions tied to what we ate. Louisiana food to me is so interesting because, number one, my roots are there, and [number two] because of the people who make up the region. The people who were either brought there or chose to be there have created this beautiful fusion of what we know the South to be—but too often we relegate the South to only specific dishes. I love creating dishes that honor all the people who make up the South! In order to truly create these dishes, you must look back to our ancestors, to the people who stirred the pot, and tell their story boldly on a plate.
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