When Go Fish moved--and moved up market as Go Fish Ocean Club--the owners picked Derry to run the kitchen.
She may look fresh-faced, but Derry's been in food service for some time. Before she finished high school, the Houston native became the youngest person to manage an IHOP. She then attended cooking school, which led to posts in the Landry's chain.
Derry came to this city as a teacher, working for the Art Institute of Dallas' culinary school. Go Fish is her first executive chef position, but she's already developed a following--and a reputation for excellence.
Good thing it's a seafood place, because if she sees foie gras...
1. What's the trick to great seafood?
Fresh and in season, but fresh is number one. If you start with bad product, you're not going to miraculously turn it around.
2. Is there one fish that's hard to work with?
It's not hard, just more tricky: monkfish. The cooking has to be exact, it's hard to clean. But it's so delicious.
3. Do you ever stop teaching?
No. And I actually think I will never stop, whether it's the guys here or the students. I just trained two guys with great potential up from dishwashers. They want it so bad they listen to all the details. It's great, I don't have to tell them twice. And I still have interns. I'll be teaching forever.
4. How many hours do you sleep?
Hmm...Last night I got three hours, so let's do an average. I think I average five or six hours. With six, I'm good. But this energy is not natural. It's espresso.
5. You just got engaged. How does a chef meet someone outside the industry?
My whole life, up until now, has been industry people. This time I found someone who knows nothing about the industry. He's a truck driver and he's gone for a week at a time, so it's not like we're nagging about the late hours--it's good. He comes in the restaurant and has dinner. We make it work.
6. You're skinny. So apparently you can trust a skinny chef...
This is not natural, either. I go to the gym between 3 and 4, right in this complex. But I'm not skinny. I'm larger than I've ever been in my life. I probably eat the worst of anyone I know. I say I'm gonna work on it, but I don't.
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7. Do you cringe when reviews come out?
Oh, my gosh. It is a feeling like none other. And because this is my first executive position, I feel it so bad. My first four reviews I was so tense throughout. You go from happy to fearful to sad. I have a whole page of answers for that one. It's better once they're all done.
8. You said you eat badly. Hooked on junk food?
No, not really. I'm not a chip person. I do crave items that are so not healthy--fatty food, foie gras. That's why I won't have it [foie gras] here. I really would devour it.
9. Ever read cookbooks?
Yes. It's my favorite thing. The owner of this place bought me three books for Christmas and I was as happy as if he'd bought me a car. I love the pictures more than anything. The French Laundry Cookbook, that's my favorite. Great pictures.
10. When you watch late night TV, are you tempted to buy one of those kitchen gadgets they advertise?
No, but it seems like everyone else is tempted to buy them for me. I have a large family. Oh, geez--'great, something else to add to my collection.' You know, just give me a knife, I can do all that stuff. But I am tempted by those adds for aerobics and yoga. I don't use it, but I'm tempted.