Top Chef Contender Tiffany Derry Tells (Almost) All to The Daily Sip’s Eric Arnold

Chef Tiffany Derry wisely dodged Eric Arnold's questions about Angelo's mail-order bride.

Once more, OT’s usual commentators on the most recent edition of Top Chef – Caroline Potter and Ed Cotton — are both out of town – and Top Chef is a re-run. Fortunately, I was able to secure an anything-goes interview with former and current Top Chef-testant Tiffany Derry (who is also out of town but not away from a phone). If you don’t remember me, Eric Arnold, I’m the editor of The Daily Sip, a free, wine-centric e-newsletter; and you can usually find me waxing about the wines of New Zealand–and other booze-related topics – herehere, and here. As for Chef Tiffany Derry, when she’s not on your television screen or out of the country, she is the Executive Chef of the upcoming Private Social restaurant in Dallas [Ed. Note: We hope Private Social will be featured on OpenTable.]

We hear you’re out of the country. Where are you right now, and what’s the greatest thing you’ve eaten?

I am off enjoying some much-needed family time. I am a foie gras-head and it was done at Brennan’s Restaurant in Houston, Texas. They did this praline foie with French toast — and it was the perfect balance of sweet and savory.

Last week was pretty lopsided, and the front-of-the-house person always has a big bull’s eye on him or her. Did you think Padma was going to tell you to pack up and go, or were you confident you’d hang on?

I am never confident when I am on the bottom. Sometimes you hear things slightly different from what they actually said. I honestly did not feel like it should have been me. I brought back so many plates of food and had so many bad comments that it was very overwhelming. I did the best I could to not show all the drama that was going on in the back of the house.

In the Quickfire when Tom made a dish in about 8 minutes, everyone seemed incredibly impressed. Did it really taste THAT good? Or can you just not say to Tom’s face that you didn’t like a dish of his?

I did not have time to taste his dish but he did everything right and made a smart dish.

One friend of mine thinks Angelo is hot. My wife thinks he’s not….You’ve spent time with him in person, so settle it for us, once and for all. Hot or not? From 1 to 10 (and explain why).

Not my style. I would give him a 5, but he gets cuter after you get to know him — like a singer who is not attractive to you, but once they start singing, you’re like “Ooohh, lala.”

Eric Arnold doesn't always drink wine out of a paper bag; sometimes he uses plastic.

Which chef do you think comes across totally different in person than on TV? (Was Marcel the nicest guy ever? Does Isabella actually kick dogs?) And who’s portrayed most accurately?

Angelo was made to look like he was a saboteur, but he really was trying to help. Marcel is okay outside of kitchen, but in charge in the kitchen? Not so much.

Do you think the food that everyone cooked during this season is up to All-Star level? Was everyone truly cooking at their best, all season long, or was the difficulty level the same as in your regular season?

It is very hard to stay consistent, no matter what season you are on, from start to finish. You have to keep yourself motivated, and that is hard because you are not in the norm.

Who offered up the most surprises? Who just cooked out of his or her skin?

I personally was impressed with Dale Talde. He cooked with soul and his imagination surprised me.

Last season or in this one, was there ever a time you think the judges truly got it wrong and sent home someone they shouldn’t have?

I feel the judges were on point and made the same decisions I would have. You know when you messed up, and it’s not normally a surprise.

Who can put back the most beers while you all are waiting for the judges to decide? Who’s just an absolute booze monster?

Mike I., Dale, and Marcel drank a few, but I didn’t see the limit stretched until Dale and Marcel got into it. I was thinking, “Okay, guys, lay off the booze!” On my [first] season, there was more drinking, but I think most of us were there to really compete.

Molecular gastronomy: Tasty food, or solely for food geeks who care just a little too much? Don’t be afraid…make the call.

I have never been a big molecular gastronomy girl, but Richard Blais has truly opened my eyes, and I am very interested in parts of it. I believe you need to know how to cook and [then] elevate with the molecular. Some people just want to show you what they can do – and, at the end of the day, the food has no flavor.

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