‘Top Chef’s Tiffany Derry: Winning Isn’t Everything

by | March 18, 2011 at 3:03 PM | Interviews, Top Chef

Tiffany Derry on Top Chef (Bravo)

Tiffany Derry on Top Chef (Bravo)

In the case of Tiffany Derry’s “Top Chef: All-Stars” elimination, it turns out coconut-conch soup is a dish best served hot.  On a call Thursday, the Beaumont, Texas native revealed why plating too early contributed to her demise, and how a personal tragedy affected her focus this season.

On her final elimination challenge: Even though it was not in the cards for me, it was still my favorite challenge. It was so much fun. Going in and getting the conch and the excitement of running around and cooking… I started laughing, then Richard started laughing. We were hysterical. It was “Top Chef: Boot Camp.” I have no regrets. I’m happy I did it. I felt like, I’m happy that if I have to go home, I did it this way.

On how she managed to make a sand-free soup: I was wiping down that board. I’d take a whole bucket of water and run it all the way down [to the ocean]. Sand was flying everywhere, it was amazing.

On whether plating to early was the cause of her demise: I do believe that the dish being cold was not the way it was supposed to be – the flavors are different. It wasn’t plated five minutes early. It was really windy, and there was a storm coming in. Usually when something goes wrong, there are all these factors. But it was a good dish, so I thought, If I had to go home for this, I’m okay.

On going home: As much as I love “Top Chef,” it is not the end of the world. It seems like it will be in those moments, but winning is not everything. I’ve done sports my whole life and you have days when you do extremely well, and you have days when you don’t.

On how the show has helped her: I definitely have that drive again. Sometimes you just get into your regular routine, but this gets you in that mindset of competing, so that every time you’re cooking you’re serving something really good. And you pick up on styles and techniques you’re not as familiar with.

On making Tom Colicchio an Okra-convert: I asked him to say it again! I just wanted to hear him say, “Yeah, I liked it.” That was definitely a moment. I think the moment came behind me knowing it was excellent. To hear him say it was good was like a double whammy.

On why she agreed to go back right after her season: It was really quick. I don’t know why I did it. I just said, “This is life, these are the moments – do it now.”

On whether this season was as fun as her original season: It wasn’t. When I tell people I absolutely loved Season 7 D.C., it’s because it was so much fun. I look back now [on this season] and I think, What did I cook? Who was that? I don’t even know. I was making food that I don’t cook on an everyday basis. It wasn’t what I do consistently. There were also a lot of things going on. Two days before going back for Season 8, my grandfather passed away. I was going through the whole emotion of, Should I go? I need to be with my family. I kind of want to stay behind. But his last week, he would be watching the show in the hospital. He’d make all the nurses turn on “Top Chef,” and he’d say “that’s my granddaughter.” I knew it made him so proud, and I thought he would want that.

On adjusting to normal life after back-to-back seasons: It is strange coming home, but I don’t really have a routine anymore. I’m building a restaurant, so I’m not in the kitchen as much. Then there are all these appearances, but the opportunities are really nice. All the people who are coming up to you and want to take photos are people who support you.

On who she’d like to see win: I love Antonia. She’s doing so great. I’m definitely in her corner.