Mother Nature was not on Tiffany Derry's side on the second part of the Top Chef: All Stars finale. After she plated her conch and coconut chowder with conch ceviche early, strong Bahamian winds and a threatening storm cooled the soup, leading to her elimination. Still, the Dallas-based chef believes her dish would've worked if it stayed hot, even with a cold component on it.
Top Chef's Carla: I would've sent myself home too
Did you have any feeling that you were getting booted?
Tiffany Derry: It was such a mixed thing. I didn't know who it would be. I definitely knew the issue of cold and hot. When they straight-out asked me, "Was it supposed to be cold?" I was like, "No, not cold. Please don't say it was cold." At least say it was lukewarm. Sometimes there's a little exaggeration between cold and warm, so you never really know, but I was like, "No!" And there are other issues [for Richard and Antonia]. When someone says something is raw or undercooked, then it's like, [the elimination] could be based on a technical issue or a [temperature] issue. You never really know. ... I didn't know how to read the whole thing. I felt like my dish was good. I really enjoyed it and I think I said that. To go home on a dish that you like is better than going home on a dish that you know you could've done better on.
The judges didn't get your mixing of hot and cold temperatures with the soup and ceviche.
Tiffany: After the fact, I was like, "Um, do you not eat black bean soup with pico de gallo on it?" I'm sorry. There are plenty of things that have a cold condiment with a hot soup. There were so many things I thought of later that I could've said [during Judges' Table] that would've made them go, "Oh, OK." I don't understand what was so strange about it. Do you not put crème fraiche on hot things? It wasn't strange by any means.
The ceviche would've stayed cold had the soup stayed hot?
Tiffany: Well, it doesn't have to stay cold. It was just a difference of temperature when you have a soup that's cold with something that's already chilled. That's not the way it's supposed to be.
How much earlier did you plate? Would it have made a difference if you waited?
Tiffany: It wasn't that early. It was only a minute before I wanted to be finished. It just became extremely cold. The wind was starting to come down. It was about to start storming outside. We were wrapping it up. I was one of the last to go. It just became extremely cold. They were literally like, "OK, let's go. Let's wrap it up. It's about to start raining." It's just what happened. Usually, I plate with, like, 10, 15 seconds left. This was a little early, but I wanted to get everything [in place] because it was so frantic. A minute feels like a long time. It wasn't like I plated five minutes early. I don't know if it would've made a difference if I waited.
Top Chef's Dale Talde: I could not get in gear
Did any of you guys consider the fact that it could start raining?
Tiffany: It was a beautiful day though. It was so beautiful at first and then it just changed! I figured if it started raining, they weren't going to have us cook in the rain. They want the food to be good. I really didn't go through all that in my head.
After the weather this week and the fire last week, do you think you guys should have the best equipment at your disposal in the finals?
Tiffany: I don't know. I think this made it much more interesting. We cook with great tools in our restaurants every day; that's the norm. To put us outside of our comfort zone with different machines and all of that is kind of cool.
You and Antonia won the Quickfire and then you got eliminated. Do you believe in the Black Hammer curse?
Tiffany: [Laughs] I know! But see, the Black Hammer is supposed to [strike] when you're cooking with her, when you're on the same team. So I don't know what happened. [It took effect] on the next challenge. You know what's weird about this challenge too? I was going to make the dish Antonia ended up making. We're on the same wavelength sometimes. It's kind of crazy. I was going to do a pan-seared fish and the conch ceviche on the top. My other idea was to wrap the fish in banana leaves and still do the conch ceviche. I found out Mike was doing banana leaves, so I'm like, "Freak!" I was freaking out! Then I heard Antonia describe her dish and I was like, "Oh my God! I'm doing the same dish everyone's doing!" So [my soup] was the third option.
Did you have a fourth option if Blais was going to make a soup?
Tiffany: Oh my God! I don't know. I would've had one, but I wouldn't have been so happy! [Laughs] I honestly believe the dish served hot would've had a different effect than served cold. It was never meant to be cold. When you have hot food, the flavors come out more. When stuff is cold, you have to season stronger so you can taste it.
What are you up to now?
Tiffany: I am building a restaurant in Dallas. It's called Private Social. Traveling a little bit, doing a lot of cooking demonstrations.
Did you go on your trips from Season 7 yet?
Tiffany: I have not. I haven't had time. When I came back, I was booked for a bunch of things, so I'm trying to make some time in May. I plan on going to Paris in May and then Italy in July.