At face value, Roots Southern Table may seem like another elevated take on Southern classics; the menu includes the requisite shrimp and grits, cornbread, and hoppin’ johns, but, true to its name, the restaurant’s roots run much deeper. Southern cuisine is often presented as a blend of English and African influences, but as Derry has uncovered in her career, so many other global traditions come into play.
Spanish paella translated into gumbo while the prevalence of andouille and other sausages from France and Germany also worked their way into Southern cooking. Even seafood-centric Vietnamese cuisine entered the mix. And while Derry’s native Louisiana has long embraced its multicultural identity, other parts of the South have yet to follow suit.
“The way I approach Southern cuisine is seeing everything that’s abundant in those areas and those people. So if you think of Southern food as just fried chicken, mac and cheese, and comfort Southern, then that allows us to truly display the global influences that have been part of Southern cuisine for a very long time,” she says.