Today Eater Dallas got a glimpse inside Chef Tiffany Derry's shiny new Private Social restaurant on McKinney Avenue in Uptown. Sleek purples and chic centerpieces dot the tables on both sides of the restaurant concept, developed by Top Chef fan favorite Derry and her partners Patrick Halbert and Andy Austin, which reserves one area for private table dining and one area for small plates, cocktails and, you guessed it, socializing.
If you can snag a seat in the back dining room, you can watch Derry and her cadre of celebrity chef friends, plus her sous chef and sister Brandy Jackson, at work through a giant glass window to the kitchen. Starting tomorrow night, they're open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.
So how'd the concept for Private Social get started?
"I met Patrick [Halbert] and Andy [Austin], they actually found me, when i was working for Go Fish and they closed down. I was getting ready to represent the state of Texas in Canada with the Dallas [CVB]. I was getting ready to go. They just start calling and calling and calling! They go, ‘We want to open a restaurant, come in, blah blha blah.’ I had just finished the day before. I'm like, I'm okay right now, let me unwind. But they were really persistent,.'Please come and talk to us! Please, please please!' So finally we do. We meet up. And they're like, 'I love you,' and I’m like, that's nice.
They had never worked in the industry, and I’m very wary of those kinds of situations, I said what I’d like and that I was no longer interested in being a chef and I wanted a place where I could put my name on, and where it is mine. Where I decide chairs and tables and centerpieces and design a kitchen and come up with a staff and they’re like, ‘Whatever you want, it’s yours.’ It just kind of happened."
Why this location? Why Dallas? You're a huge celebrity now, you could go anywhere.
"It was my favorite. They showed me like four in one day. One I didn’t even get out of the car, I was like, this is not it. I promise this is not it. When is aw this I was like yeah I love it! I love this spot. It just had so much potential. Right there on McKinney. This is like, the perfect spot that you would want to be in if you were in Dallas, in my opinion. I had opened McKinney and Pearl, the grotto that was there, I always said I love that spot. I love the traffic, they’re always busy, so that was a big part of it."
Tell us about the very diverse menu here at the restaurant. Fried chicken! Pork buns!
"I think most people, they know I’m from the south but that’s about all, oh they know I worked at IHOP. They don’t know much more, thanks to Bravo. Even some of my friends now they’re like so what did you do inbetween IHOP and how did you get on top chef? I’m like, I have been cooking for 13 years now. There was a period there! A lot of people don’t know the middle story of how I got there. I worked for a seafood restaurant, Peche in Houston. It was Italian owners, a very strong Italian background that came through with the food. I went to China. I studied in China for about a month and went to like five different changes. I studied in Paris at the Ritz Escoffier school. I wanted to travel. When I first went to culinary school I said if I have to save all my money to go somewhere for one time out the year, I will do it. It just became a part of me. I became this person that, I don’t want to cook just this way. I don’t want to be in a box. I don’t want to cook just in an Italian restaurant. I don’t want to cook just seafood. I want to be a compilation of a few things. That’s how I came up with the cuisine here. It’s global. I got pork buns and I got fried chicken. It’s random, but they work."
Is this place only for fancy people?
"With this we wanted a place where people can come in and feel comfortable but feel somewhat of a privilege. When I go out to eat, I want to be somewhere nice sometimes and then I just want to feel comfortable. I don’t want to feel like I have to put on that cocktail dress to eat, if I choose to go out in my pants I’m working in and a shirt, then I would feel comfortable. Then we talked about private, social. Andy [Austin] was saying, you have some friends that have some money, and some that doesn’t. And it’s hard for them to find a place to actually go and eat. A place that catered to both. Which was completely what I love. You feeling completely comfortable. You being able to say, chef, I want some bacon and eggs. And I’m gonna go back there and cook you some bacon and eggs. So that’s how we came up with the private and social."
What's your favorite dish on the menu?
"That’s a bad question! I love them all! That is such not a fair question. I always said I’ve never ever did fried chicken on a menu. I actually stayed away from doing what I consider soul and southern all my life. Because I didn’t want to be labeled as like, a girl that can cook just southern food. I always said that if I ever do it, it has to be like the best chicken I ever had. And so I worked with this one and worked with this one, and said I’m gonna do it. And my favorite vegetable is greens. I don’t care if it’s collard, kale, turnip, I don’t care. So I did that. That is a complete meal to me. Fried chicken and some greens. And then I love ox tails, and then I love beef cheeks! So then it’s just so many different things. I wanted to do not just all high-end items where it costs $40 in order for you to buy it. A good price range. I didn’t want to be $35 for every entrée. Most of my entrees range from $26 to $34."
How's it feel to be wearing the executive chef uniform?
"A little surreal. I don’t really, I don’t think it’s kicked in all the way, that we’re open. It’s just been going, going, going. What do we need to do? And this and this, trying to direct people. get construction finished. All those details. And just that list, you start of with this list and it’s just like, it’s not going away. In fact, it’s getting longer. It’s been great. It’s been a good feeling. I think the best part was to see my family, came up last night. My mom, dad, grandmother, my aunties, my cousins, driving five and a half hours just to come in for the first night. They live in Beaumont. It was really nice. My mom’s all teary eyed. My grandma’s all rubbing me down, all, “Awwwhh, baby!” So just to see how happy they are of me. I was telling my sister, my sous-chef, I was telling her how excited I was yesterday. I said ‘Sis, I’m getting al lot of press! This is good! People are excited to come check it out!’ and she said, ‘You seem surprised. I expected that.’ And I said, ‘Well, I didn’t!’"
She says she’s looking forward to her first sit-down dinner in the dining room, which will probably happen in the middle of next week.