Tom Colicchio

A Top Chef is named! Tom explains Harold Dieterle's win.

on Dec 15, 2008

Which brings us to tonight.

Watching the finale and reflecting back on that night in Las Vegas weeks ago, I was struck at how up until the last moment, the winner was really anyone's guess. The final competition was not a slam dunk, by any stretch.

Right off the bat, Tiffani impressed the judges with the sheer scope and ambition of her undertaking. I guess Tiffani realized that she needed to hit this one out of the park in order to win, and by choosing to prepare not one, but two distinct tasting menus, she threw all notions of safety out the window.

Love her or hate her, that took courage.

At times the strategy paid off. The judges really sat up and took notice. Tiffani's Artichoke 'Risotto' (actually a creamy, flavorful micro-dice of artichoke hearts) with Porchetta was fantastic -- one of the most memorable dishes of the entire competition to date. Her desserts (arguably Dave's recipes, but more on that later) were great. Both of her scallop courses beat out Harold's handily. And yet, by creating ten courses, Tiffani subjected herself to twice as much criticism. It was a risky choice, and ultimately it may have been her undoing. You see, if we had opted to compare only Tiffani's five best dishes against each of Harold's, she may have won. But that would have been unfair -- Tiffani made ten dishes, so she was judged on them all. Roughly it broke down like this: