What Tiffany Derry Learned From Top Chef - Exclusive

Tiffany Derry thought she was being pranked when she got the call from "Top Chef." In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Derry revealed that at the time, she was working as an executive chef at a restaurant and was working the kitchen line when the maître d' rushed in to tell her she had a phone call. Everyone knew that Derry never took a call when she was in the middle of business, and she told the maître d' to tell whoever it was that she'd call them back. But the persistent maitre d' told her she really needed to take the call because it was "Top Chef." 

Derry didn't believe him. "Mm-hmm, sure it is," she said. The matîre d' begged her, and finally, Derry left the kitchen and took the call at the front-of-house. "I answer, and I have an attitude because I really think it's a prank. I'm like, 'Hello?' They're like, 'This is Magical Elves, the producers of "Top Chef." We'd love to have you on.'" 

Derry believed she didn't really need the show for her already-rising career, so she told the producer that she wasn't interested — that is, until they told her she could win $125,000. "Well, wow, where do I sign up?" she said. Derry appeared on Season 7 of "Top Chef," and her journey was a crazy emotional roller coaster ride. "[It] could go from really high to really low all within minutes, depending on how you did."

Top Chef taught Tiffany Derry to trust her instincts

Tiffany Derry was accustomed to the pressure-cooker stress of working in a busy restaurant kitchen, and she performed exceptionally well on "Top Chef," but it was still an intense learning experience. "Every emotion that you can think [of]," Derry recalled, "it had you questioning if you were a good chef or not." Derry made it to Episode 12, when the remaining cheftestants were shuttled to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and challenged to create a zero-gravity meal. 

Although Derry placed fifth and was voted off, she earned recognition as a fan favorite. When she finished her run on "Top Chef," she was immediately summoned back to compete on Season 8 of "Top Chef All-Stars" and advanced to the finals. Since then, she has competed on Food Network's "Tournament of Champions" and was a judge for "Top Chef" on Season 19 and "The Great American Recipe."

Derry's energy is amazing — because all this while, she opened Roots Chicken Shak and followed up with her second restaurant, Roots Southern Table. It was recently announced that Derry had been nominated for a prestigious James Beard Foundation award as Best Chef: Texas, and Roots Southern Table was nominated as Best New Restaurant. Clearly, Derry's confidence and talent grew exponentially because of "Top Chef." "It taught me about myself, and it taught me to really trust my own instincts," she told Mashed. "It confirmed for me that I was enough and that I knew what I was doing."

To find out more about Roots Chicken Shak and Roots Southern Table, visit Tiffany Derry's restaurant group website. You can also follow the chef on Instagram.