With one week down at Top Chef Kitchen NYC, today officially marks the start of a new round of chefs taking over the helm: Top Chef Season 9 winner Paul Qui and Season 7 competitor Tiffany Derry. The culinary duo are in the house at our wildly popular pop-up, and The Dish caught up with them on Monday as they were finalizing their respective menus, prepping the waitstaff and kitchen help and also just getting a feel for the newly revamped space.
So what's it like to blindly jump into a kitchen you don't know at all to bang out lunch and dinner for hundreds of people in the foodie-filled New York City? It takes more than that to faze these two.
"I love it!" Derry declared, explaining that "because I do so much cooking around, whether it's for a day or two or for a demo, you just adapt. I'm really not that worried about it. This is what we do on a daily basis. I feel like most people, when you have issues it's because you're not prepared." Qui agrees and has learned to adapt, joking that "in some ways I still feel like I'm on the show. It's just a different set of challenges -- and I'm grateful we've got staff here to help."
As for the food they'll be plating up, Tiffany is bringing a whole lot of Southern love straight from her restaurant Private Social, including a very special dish she's most excited to put in front of Big Apple diners. "I'm doing a dish I call suckling pig, and it's the pork belly and I make a sausage that goes in the center of it with tons of herbs and spices, and then I braise pig ears and then fry them and you have all of these great crazy flavors. And then I serve it over grits -- it's decadent -- with pickled brussels sprouts to cut the richness."
Qui didn't have a single dish to tout, but instead says his menu as a whole is a tribute to mirepoix -- the French base of onion, celery and carrot, and throughout the four-course meal it will "build on itself," "I know the menu says chicken wing or chicken breast or whatever, but the actual star of the dishes, it's an onion, celery, a carrot, and then herbs."
The element of surprise is huge for Qui's culinary style, as he loves tricking people. "I want people to look at the dish and think it's boring, but then have this unexpected pop of flavor."
Derry says her approach in New York City will be to just stick to her guns. "I try not to go far away from my style of food. I might switch up a few ingredients, but I think that's what people want to taste," she says of the food fans watched her execute with precision on Top Chef.
Check the TopChefKitchenNYC website to see if any reservations have opened up!