Chef Tiffani Faison calls herself an “army kid,” and spent her youth living in a wide range of places, from Oklahoma to Germany. But these days, she calls Boston home, and the city reaps the benefits. Faison runs Sweet Cheeks, one of the finer barbecue joints in the city. She’s also been a contestant on “Top Chef,” and will be appearing on “Top Chef Duels.,” which airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on the Food Network. We chatted with her about what you should order at her restaurant, and where her favorite place to eat in town is.
Does having grown up in a variety of places influence your taste?
I think it makes you really open to everything. I’m sort of constantly craving new types of food and new experiences, and so I think it just opens you up. We had a phrase in our house that was, ‘You don’t have to like it, you just have to try it.’ You go to someone’s home when you’re invited in when you’re in a different country or a different state, and you can’t turn your nose up at anything.
What should someone who’s never been to Sweet Cheeks try?
I think you’re safe with anything. I think whatever speaks to you. Obviously the biscuits are a big draw. We’ve become known for our biscuits. But I also think there are things that we do that are a little bit off the beaten path for a barbecue. We do a smoked short rib. We do pork belly that’s pretty awesome. So it just depends on what speaks to you. If you’re a really classic barbecue fan, you want to go in and have a pulled pork sandwich, you can do that too, but I really think that you’re in good hands with anything.
What’s your favorite restaurant to eat out in?
That is hard. Right now, probably Sarma. Cassie’s just killing it. The food is so good. I think Ana and Cassie [Sortun and Piuma, respectively, also of Oleana] are probably the best team in Boston right now. I just think that they’re incredible in terms of the flavors of their food and what they do. No one does it as well as they do. They understand those flavors so well and they execute so well.
What do you like about being on reality TV?
It’s a learning experience every time. For me, it’s a really personal experience. As public as it is, it’s a lot about learning who you are and how you’re growing in your career. Both personally and also technically, it’s really interesting. I’m a kind of competition junkie. I leave them and I’m like, ahh, I’m never doing that again, and then they call, and I’m like, hmm, ok!
What do you eat at home?
It depends. I usually keep it pretty simple when I’m at home. Typically whatever my wife wants to eat that night. We do a lot of Mediterranean stuff, try and keep it lighter.
So it’s up to your wife?
Yep. Happy wife, happy life.