Dallas can’t claim many celebrities as its own. With few exceptions (Hi, Don Henley!), if they make it big, they leave us. That’s why Troy Aikman can’t get through a meal at the Highland Park Village Mi Cocina without a guy coming up to his table to shake his hand. We’re starved for celebrities. Which also explains why we make so much fuss over our famous chefs. Louboutin-heeled ladies fawn like groupies when in the presence of Kent Rathbun, Dean Fearing, or Stephan Pyles.
Television has elevated at least four of our chefs to national fame. Bravo’s Top Chef has featured three from North Texas: Tre Wilcox (then of Abacus), Tiffany Derry (then of Go Fish Ocean Club), and Casey Thompson (then of Shinsei). Kooky restaurateur and caterer Lisa Garza (then of Suze) mesmerized and polarized fans when she competed on The Next Food Network Star. These days, it’s easier to get in touch with Brad Pitt than Lisa Garza.
None of the aforementioned chefs won the big prize. All four returned to the Dallas area and, eventually, starred in new restaurants backed by investors. After her appearance on Top Chef, Thompson left her post at Shinsei and co-founded Brownstone in Fort Worth. After losing in the finals, Garza operated an upscale catering company for several years and has opened Sissy’s Southern Kitchen & Bar on Henderson Avenue. After Tre Wilcox packed up his knives, he juggled consulting and private gigs before he landed center stage at Marquee Grill in Highland Park Village. And Tiffany Derry, who couldn’t sell a piece of halibut at the now-defunct Go Fish while she competed on Top Chef, is now ruling the kitchen at Private Social.