The end of March ushered in a host of Fort Worth and North Texas food and beverage heavy hitters, including chefs, anxious to showcase their culinary talents sprawled out over four glorious days.
Chef Tiffany Derry is unapologetic in her cooking style and in her goals for the future. The television star and busy restaurateur made her first Fort Worth appearance (professionally) at the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival during its March 30 kickoff event, Noche del Sol, in which she collaborated with highly respected Chef Juan Rodriguez of Magdalena’s in Fort Worth.
The duo’s cooking styles delivered “bold flavors” that were punctuated by acidic accents marrying Rodriguez’s Mexican influences with Derry’s famously Southern nods toward her own roots. The carnitas and beef tenderloin were two dishes they cooked that perfectly encapsulated their heritages. Derry’s hard work paid off last year with the Top Chef alum receiving best restaurant and best chef final nominations from the James Beard Awards.
In a recent conversation with Chef Derry she discussed her excitement over the Fort Worth Food & Wine festivities and the one thing she’s most looking forward to: Challenging the perceptions many have about Southern foods.
“Many people have a narrow view of Southern food. Most don’t understand or give credit to the various cuisines that have been created by people brought to the South,” said Derry.
Derry continues: “I honor all of those who were brought to the area and those who contributed. She is also happy to be an inspiration to other female chefs in the industry. It’s not often that women are in positions to own restaurants.
Derry is hoping to transform that with help from Tom Foley, attorney and co-founder of T2D Concepts with Derry.
“Growing up I didn’t know any female chefs – minority or otherwise – to look up to,” Derry said.
Gender inequalities and misogyny are less brazen today, and statistics show the industry is more favorable to female-led restaurants, in comparison to where it was a few years ago, but the profession still has much progress to be made.
T2D Concepts is making strides to alleviate this disparity. In addition to food waste being a central part of the brand they are also hoping to make positive changes “through systems-change thinking, measured partnerships, and entrepreneurial energy.”
With one nationally acclaimed fine dining restaurant in Roots Southern Table in Farmers Branch, two fast-casual Roots Chicken Shak (Plano and Austin) and her newest to be built in DeSoto, what’s next for the successful Southern belle? Check out her website at www.tiffanyderryconcepts.com or follow her at @mastercheftd on social media.
Another showstopper at the festival is no surprise. Jon Bonnell’s tent was one of the first I visited and his sampling of a very Southern side of perfectly cooked stone ground grits paired with braised quail. The bird was delicate yet carried astonishingly bold Southwestern flavors. The natural juices of the quail made the grits quite delicious. One of the best things I had the pleasure of experiencing during day two of the four-day festival, which ran March 30-April 2.
Both quail and grits are found on the menu of Chef Bonnell’s restaurant – Bonnnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine in west Fort Worth – and you can order the delicious duo separately. The rustic dining menu offers green chile cheese grits as a “sides” option and a crispy version of quail legs served as an appetizer. The award-winning farm-to-table philosophy portrayed here exhibits “regional style with spices that fuse Southwestern, Creole and Mexican.”
In addition to the dozens of vendors at Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival, there were friendly competitive awards at the Burgers, Beer and Blues outdoor event on April 2.
Tommy’s Burgers took home recognitions as “Best Burger” and “Best Beer” chosen by judges with the Thai-influenced burger which was an extraordinary surprise, followed by Cowtown Brewing Company’s best brews.
There was also a separate category for “crowd favorite” for each showing nods to local favorite JD’s Hamburgers with a more traditional bacon cheeseburger but with a twist. The subtle sweetness of this burger is found by the addition of candied bacon.
Deah Mitchell writes about more than food. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.