Tom Colicchio

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

on Dec 15, 2008

First course -- While her Scallop Crudo was a bit too acidic, both of Tiffani's scallop courses were better than Harold's dish, which featured wilted greens and overly aggressive ramps (wild leeks with a distinctive onion/garlic flavor).

Second course -- I liked Harold's Olive-oil Poached Bass, but he left the fish's unappetizing bloodline on Katie's plate and a couple of the other judges weren't impressed. Tiffani's fried artichokes were delicious and perfectly executed, but they fell more into the category of trattoria food than an elegant tasting menu dish. Her Artichoke 'Risotto,' on the other hand, was outstanding. Clear winner: Tiffani.

Third course -- Tiffani's two fish dishes were terrible. Both her Sea Bass with Deconstructed Ratatouille and her Bass with Fennel and Pasta were cold, the pasta was gummy and the flavors didn't come together. Harold's quail was slightly overcooked, but the flavors were good, so Harold took this one.

Fourth course -- Harold's Kobe Beef with Pureed Potatoes and Morel Mushrooms was fantastic. Lick-the-plate good. Tiffani's Saltimbocca with Primativo glaze and Veal with Minted Peas were decent, but Harold's dish was a clear winner over them both. I want to pause for a moment and point something out: In preparing her ambitious dual menus, Tiffani was handicapped by a nerve-wracking hurdle -- namely two drunk sous-chefs. Dave and Stephen straggled in late after a long night of partying, still drunk! We're not talking about a boost-the-nerves airplane bottle of gin (hell, we've all been there). These two were plastered. Dave told us he was taking the high road by giving Tiffani his all, but his actions proved otherwise. Stephen had raised condescension to a new level throughout the competition when faced with amateurs and here he was, acting less professional than any of them. Amazingly, Dave left a full wineglass on the line, a taboo that even a rank beginner is taught to avoid: A broken glass would have meant every last bit of mis-en-place had to be tossed and the night would have been over. Dave took issue with Tiffani's curt request that he move the glass. Why? Because of her tone? Given what she had at stake, I think it was justified. Tiffani soldiered through this handicap, but it couldn't have been easy working without the backing of a solid team.