When Tiffany Derry left Private Social in early 2013, the Dallas dining scene lost one of its most talented chefs. Now after 3 1/2 years of consulting, making TV appearances and participating in brand partnerships, she's coming back. "I am ready," she says. "You have no idea."
The Top Chef all-star, a native of Beaumont, Texas, plans to open Roots Southern Table in Trinity Groves in January. The 100-seat restaurant (including 25 on a patio) is under construction now, adjacent to Nick Badovinus' burger emporium Off-Site Kitchen.
What will be on Derry's Southern table? "The most craveable foods," says the 33-year-old chef. "I always pushed aside Southern food. Now I've come completely around to the food that matters to me. I grew up with it." The inspiration is her family's cooking, which she characterizes as out-of-this-world amazing. "Nobody can beat my mom's seafood gumbo. Nobody."
One thing she knows will be on the menu: the duck-fat fried chicken that wowed diners (myself included) at Private Social. A half or whole bird is the idea, with buttermilk biscuits. And a dish inspired by one that her Uncle Punkin, a chef in Baton Rouge, used to make: beef stuffed with greens (collard, mustard and turnip), then braised and sliced. "It hits a whole different part of your soul," she says. "His real name is Lee West. It took me thinking hard to remember!"
The restaurant will be a casual, order-at-the-counter place — but don't worry, there will be a bar. And Derry's mom will be part of the picture, contributing desserts like chess pie, old-school chocolate cake and orange juice cake. "She's going be at the door, greeting and hugging people. And my grandma's coming, too! The restaurant will be a whole different feel. I want to go down deep."
Unlike most of the existing Trinity Groves restaurants, Roots Southern Table will not be part of the development's "incubator"; Derry has a conventional tenant-landlord relationship with Trinity Groves.
Meanwhile, that's not all Derry has in the works. She plans to open The Cupboard by Tiffany Derry in Uptown Urban Market, the food hall that Mark Brezinksi and Jonathan Tobolowsky are reportedly opening this fall at Gables Villa Rosa. There she'll sell "grab and go" foods: salads, wraps, sandwiches and such, plus sushi and a poke bar — which Shigekazu Tateno, owner of three Yama restaurants, will oversee.
Derry says she's also working with Front Burner's upcoming Legacy Food Hall to open Roots Chicken Shack, featuring duck-fat-chicken sandwiches.
"I've been trying to do a Roots for almost two years now," she says. It will be exciting to see — and taste — what she does there.