Juneteenth Special: Top Chef Tiffany Derry’s Tips on Honoring the New Federal Holiday

image: Getty Images

Tiffany Derry has a lot on her plate. This monumental weekend she opens Roots Southern Table, a fine dining experience with a casual atmosphere, in Farmer’s Branch, Texas. “I imagine that on June 19, 1865, when Texans got the news that they were free how they must have felt. I can imagine the joy—you know somebody was cooking!”

Chef Tiffany Derry

“When my family got together for Juneteenth, my grandmother would do a little speech but she didn’t go into great depth. You would have to pull information out of her. But I remember the food: green beans with pork, mac n’cheese, cucumber & tomato salad. My grandmother had 11 children; I have over 50 cousins. Everybody can cook. My aunt worked at Church’s chicken, so we would always have fried chicken and dirty rice from Church’s. But we made all the fixings. It was like that for Juneteenth, but it was like that whenever we got together,” continues Derry.

Juneteenth opening: Fried chicken made the Derry way at Roots Southern Table.

Derry, born in Beaumont, Texas, suggests two ways to celebrate the new federal holiday:

Have a Barbecue

The key component to a Juneteenth barbecue is the color red— strawberry soda, red rice, red cocktails, red velvet cake and “watermelon, always.” Explains, Derry, “The food is typically red to represent the strength and the blood of Black Americans.”

Sliced or smoothie’d, Derry says, “There should always be watermelon.”

Stay Local

Cooking food that grows local to where you live honors the land. “My family had a farm so there were cucumbers, onions, tomatoes. My grandfather and uncles were big farmers,” says Derry.

Support Black-Owned Businesses

“Last year, Juneteenth, was a really big day at my restaurant, Roots Chicken Shak. So many people decided to spend their dollars with Black-owned businesses. It was fantastic; something I’ve never seen in my life before.” Derry recollects, “We had lines of people waiting to eat. When we finished work that day, I said, ‘Wow, when we get together to do something look how powerful we are.’  We were able to provide free meals throughout the week because of that day and people deciding to spend their money with us.

See Also

The Big Bird at Roots Chicken Shak located in Plano and Dallas, Texas.

Ask the restaurateur how she’s celebrating Juneteenth? Derry says with a smile in her voice, “I’m opening a restaurant.”

Progress. Just what the ancestors ordered.

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