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Chef Tiffany Derry stands in her chef gear in front of a sign that reeds “Roots Southern Table” in her Dallas restaurant.
Tiffany Derry at Roots Southern Table.

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At Roots Southern Table, Tiffany Derry Delves Deep Into Family Recipes

What to order at her Farmer’s Branch restaurant

Courtney E. Smith is the editor of Eater Dallas. She's a journalist of 20 years who was born and raised in Texas, with bylines in Pitchfork, Wired, Esquire, Yahoo!, Salon, Refinery29, and more. When she's not writing about food, she co-hosts the podcast Songs My Ex Ruined.

Growing up, chef Tiffany Derry’s family meals revolved around Creole and Cajun cooking. With Roots Southern Table, her fine dining restaurant in Farmer’s Branch, Derry set out to explore her own food origins, tying the menu to Creole, Cajun, and Africa traditions. “When I first opened, I took my team through a tour of Louisiana and it started at my mother’s house,” Derry says. “She made a huge pot of gumbo and pound cake.”

The tour took them through grocery stores and gas stations to eat boudin and cracklings, into rice fields where crawfish are farmed, and to New Orleans to study the melting pot of cultures that created Southern food. “Southern food is not one group of people,” Derry says. “If you really think about it, when you’re talking about Louisiana, you’re talking about Africans, the French, Germans, Spaniards, and Vietnamese. There are so many people who contribute to what Southern food is considered to be.”

Derry, the lone James Beard Award finalist from North Texas in 2022, spoke to Eater Dallas about some of her favorite dishes on the menu at Roots and the research, training, and nostalgia that inspired them. While chicken-fried chicken (still some of the best in the Metroplex) may have helped make Derry a household name, the chef is using ingredients at Roots — from Zummo’s sausage to black-eyed peas — to showcase the depth of her talent.

Gumbo is served in a white bowl with silver place settings.
My Mother’s Gumbo is a dish inspired by Derry’s Creole cooking roots.

My Mother’s Gumbo

“This is my favorite thing on the menu. It is very traditional. My family is from Port Allen in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, o it is in the style of Baton Rouge gumbo, which is different from New Orleans. Our gumbo is dark, but it is a little thinner than a New Orleans gumbo with a thicker base — ours has okra and a filé base, rather than one or the other. We add chicken sausage, shrimp, and crab — it’s very meaty. I use sausage is from Zummo’s, made in Beaumont, where I grew up.”

“I like just a touch of smoke in my sausage. I also like good, seasoned, juicy meat. You have to ask what balance you want. That’s why I use Zummo’s.”

“I grew up having gumbo every two weeks, so I don’t have a certain time of the year that I think you’re supposed to eat gumbo. We ate it in the hot summer, in the AC. We eat it whenever we want, not just when it’s cold.”

A pair of hands are dishing up a plate of Gulf red snapper tuna tartare.
A plate of Gufl red snapper tartare being dressed. The chef’s hand hovers over the plate, adding sauces.
Chef Tiffany Derry looks down as she plates a dish in the kitchen of her restaurant.

Tiffany Derry sends a plate of red snapper tartare out for service.

Red Snapper Tartare

“This dish takes influences the South but is not confined to what I consider to be regional dishes. I try to tell the story of where we went from Africa and how we influenced food. Creating this dish, I was thinking about peanuts, because we have always used pecans or some nut in the restaurant. We created a dish around Gulf red snapper, which we bring in whole and chop up into tartare. Then we soak peanuts and make our own peanut milk that is the base for the tartare, along with lime, cucumber, and coconut. It’s topped with jerk cilantro that also finishes the sauce.”

A plate of Texas redfish with harissa sauce sits on top of crawfish fried rice.
Texas redfish with harissa sauce and crawfish fried rice.

Texas Redfish

“Growing up, we ate redfish all the time — it was between redfish and catfish for us. If people did a taste test of many different fish side by side, they would always pick redfish. It’s super forgiving and very clean, just a great, flavorful fish. We make a harissa sauce, another African sauce with lots of roasted red peppers and chili peppers. We’ll make this puree and cook it down so it’s thick, sweet, and spicy. First, we grill the fish, then we broil it and add the sauce. Then we top the redfish with the harissa.”

“Then we make a crawfish fried rice with seasoning for a crawfish boil, so we have this explosion of crawfish flavor. It has onions, peppers, and lots of herbs like dill and tarragon — which is my flavor profile, thanks to my French background and learning. We finish it off with a little salad with beans in it.”

A plate of black-eyed pea hummus sits on a table and a hand dips into it using a fried fritter akin to a hush puppy called akara.
Black-eyed pea hummus with akara.
A hand dips a fritter called akara into a plate of hummus topped with a black-eyed pea salad.
Black-eyed pea hummus with akara.

Black-Eyed Pea Hummus

“We make traditional hummus using peas, tahini, lemon juice, and olive oil that is blended to be very smooth. Then we add black-eyed peas and a vinaigrette made using fresh black-eyed peas, lots of onions and bell peppers, celery, tons of herbs, vinegar, and olive oil. So you have a salad that sits on top of the black-eyed peas. Then we add a bit of sumac.”

“What sets the dish off is our bread. It’s an akara, which is a black-eyed pea fritter that comes from West Africa. It has no gluten, no egg — it’s all black-eyed peas. We make it by grinding up the black-eyed peas and adding herbs and spices. Then we fry it. Some people think they’re hush puppies when they look at them because they’re round. They have a pillowy, fluffy texture. They are the vehicle to scoop up all of that hummus.”

A metal dish of Southern greens is served with a side of accara.
A dish of Southern greens.
A table is set with Southern dishes, using navy blue napkins.
Every dish to try at Roots Southern Table.

Southern Greens

“If I could have two things in my life, it would probably be gumbo and greens. I wanted to serve greens like we eat at home, so it is cooked with smoked ham and salt pork. We use whatever is seasonal and leftover in the restaurant for the greens. That can be mustard greens, collard greens, kale, or radish greens, braised down like my grandmother would do.”

“With it, we do hot water cornbread. That’s something you don’t see on menus anymore. We tell people to dip it into the potlikker. And we add grilled baby turnips inside of it. My family would cut up turnips and use the turnip greens, so I wanted to play off that. The char of the turnips is nice with the braised greens. At the house, we’d always put raw, shaved onions on top, so we top it off with those and serve it with a pepper vinegar sauce, also like my grandmother would do.”

Roots Southern Table is at 13050 Bee St., Suit 160, Farmers Branch, Texas.

Roots Southern Table

13050 Bee Street, , TX 75234 (214) 346-4441 Visit Website

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