The stakes were high on this week’s episode of Top Chef, with a car and trip to London on the table as well as an invitation to Cape Canaveral to watch a space-shuttle launch. Not to mention the ultimate prize: earning one of four spots to the finale in Singapore. Everyone’s favorite Texas chef, Tiffany Derry, prepared a flavorful dish of pan-seared halibut with coconut curry, but when her mussels froze—rendering them unusable—she found herself iced out of the competition. We spoke to her about over-zealous refrigerators, sticky rice, and her pick for the Top Chef.
>>For a recap of Episode 12, click here.
Tom said all five dishes were “very good” and that the judges were “splitting hairs” trying to find faults. Going into this challenge, did you know how close it’d be?
“I had no idea how close it’d be. But I knew that I was up against some really good people. Someone made the comment ‘I wish I could take all of you.’ Sometimes we just make bad decisions. But listening to all the critiques [at judges’ table], I felt like it was me. Everyone else seemed more confident at the end with their dish. I felt like mine was the most controversial.”
How were you feeling when you tasted the other dishes?
“When I went back into the kitchen and tasted everyone’s food, I kind of felt like I might be okay. People didn’t pull it out the way I thought they would, with crazy bold flavors. Eddie’s dish was bold, but there was so much going on I didn’t know if [the judges] would appreciate it.”
What happened with the refrigerator?
“The temperature of the fridge just dropped. It killed almost all of my herbs. It froze my tomatoes. It just froze my mussels completely. That mussel was the one thing that took [my dish] up a notch. I actually didn’t want to bring it up at judges’ table. Because the reason you’re going home is because the refrigerator froze, something you have nothing to do with.”
Aside from adding the mussels, do you wish you’d done anything else differently?
“It kind of came down to plating as well. Mine was not as tight as it should’ve been. I would’ve cleaned the plate up a little more—I knew it was horrible looking. The flavors of the dish were good, but the rice wasn’t quite sticky enough to hold in the ring mold. If I’d had three more minutes, I would’ve made sure the rice was perfectly in the mold and more sticky. Just small details, but the flavor of the dish I was happy with.”
What was the highlight of this experience for you?
“It wasn’t any one challenge. It was being able to go on Top Chef, being chosen to participate. Me, Tiffany Derry, from Beaumont, Texas. I thought it was an honor, a blessing.”
Who’s your pick for winning Top Chef?
“All the guys and girls can really cook. But I hope Ed pulls it off, I really do.”
Speaking of Ed, what was up with the yellow dress?
“I was sitting in my room and Eddie said, ‘Let me see one of your dresses.’ I only had two dresses, and he took the yellow dress. It was just a moment to lighten it up. I died laughing, and I died again when I saw it.”
Will any of your fellow contestants be at your upcoming wedding?
“Almost everyone is thinking about it. I know that there’ll be a few, so we’ll see.”
>>For more Top Chef DC coverage, click here.
Follow the Best Bites Bloggers on Twitter at twitter.com/bestbitesblog