Tom Colicchio

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

on Dec 15, 2008

Come dessert, Harold and Tiffani were in a dead heat. Harold found a way to work around his own acknowledged shortcomings in pastry, and opted for an elegant pairing of carefully chosen cheeses and a delicious fig tart. Tiffani's two desserts were sumptuous and flavorful. Frankly, this one was to close to call. So why did Harold win? Not because we credited Dave with Tiffani's desserts. Regardless of what Dave says about the panna cotta recipe being his, the finishes on both of Tiffani's desserts were consistent with her detailed and polished style. Tiffani clearly built on her coworker's original idea, but I think that is perfectly acceptable in this arena. (Harold acknowledged that he did the same, but neither Lee Anne nor Miguel made a big deal out of it.) A team is a team, and "ownership" of any one recipe under these circumstances is silly -- it boils down to interpretation and execution, along with the leadership to pull it all together.

At the end of the day, Harold won because here was the moment that Gail, Katie and I were asked to take the overall competition into consideration, starting at day one, and to weigh it against the evening's outcome. And overall, Harold had consistently embodied the qualities of a top chef. Over the weeks of competition, Harold pulled off round after round of arduous, high-stakes (and occasionally ridiculous) tasks, and managed to make friends in the process. He demonstrated creativity and spontaneity, and never lost his cool. At times I wish Harold hadn't played it so safe, but as he matures I think he'll find the confidence to take more risks. Tiffani showed talent and even growth, but Harold was also able to inspire a team, and at the end of the day a successful kitchen is a team. Harold truly is a Top Chef.

And what about Tiffani? I don't know what the future holds for her, but if she continues to work on her interpersonal skills she'll be a hell of an asset wherever she ends up. Who knows? She may yet surprise us all.

As for me, I learned a lot from this process. I've met some wonderful people, and gained a sense of how those of us in the insular food world are viewed by the real world; it was eye-opening and educational. I also discovered just how passionate and outspoken the fans of reality TV can be! I'm grateful to viewers of this show who tuned in week after week and gave us their input (some of which was hilarious) on the boards. I'll never be Tim Gunn, but Bravo and I are working out the whole mentor/judge issue. I hope we continue to learn and grow in our second season and beyond.

Cook often and eat well.