Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

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Harold Dieterle on Restaurant Wars and why Mikey was his boy.

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First, let's talk about this judge. Mike Yakura. He was on the show last year. And before that I'd never heard anything else about him, other than being the head chef at Le Colonial in San Francisco. I have two problems with the guy. haroldsblog_yakura2_320x240.jpg

Problem one: He speaks to everyone with a complete lack of respect. In the competition last year, he was cursing at Miguel. He doesn't know us. What does he have invested in this competition that makes him think he can treat people the way he does? Out of respect for the judging system, it certainly kept me from speaking my voice about it when I was on the show. I can't figure out why he's such an elitist. Why he thinks he's so much better than everyone else. And that leads me to problem two.

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Problem two: That the guy serves dog food at his restaurant. What the viewers at home didn't get to see last year, was that the day before he was going to judge the episode, we ordered $600 worth of take out from his restaurant and I would say that at least 65% of that food ended up in one of the Glad trash bags. It's just a compilation of mediocre and generic Vietnamese dishes. And for this guy to speak to the contestants the way he does is appalling. I can't figure it out. He's delusional. And besides the fact that his food is less than marginal, the way he speaks to people is crazy. The guy is totally delusional. And I'll say this: I don't like the guy and if he's got something to say about it, I'd be more than happy to cook up against him any day of the week. But enough trash talk, let's get to the show.
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The Quickfire. I have to say this. They've really got to calm it down with the sponsors. Come on. I get it, it's TV, but at this point in the competition -- using a pre-made dressing as a focal point is hard. At this point, you're supposed to be fired up and use your skills. Listen, I'm not going to say that I don't love mayonnaise, but I can make mayonnaise.

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And let's talk Ilan. Making a vinaigrette foam to try to make a statement about Marcel, out of spite.... I don't get it, man. How do you do that? You're supposed to be taking the opportunity to represent yourself and your food. Not making food to mock somebody else. I had a problem with that.
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The Elimination Challenge was great. We had to go through it last year too. Getting a place open in a few months is hard, believe me. Let alone doing it in one day. Challenging is an easy way to say it. I really liked both team's concepts. There were issues on both sides, of course. If you're going to say that you're going to do old school Italian food, then what's up with that watermelon dish? There's nothing old school about that. And you can't open an Italian restaurant with no wine. You just...you can't. Have any of them been to Italy? It's tough question. The one thing I will say: Nobody on either team has any experience with front of the house experience. So trying to do that also plays into it. When I did this challenge, I was blessed to have both Tiffany and Dave, who'd both had this experience. Without them, my team would have gotten beat up on. It just shows that having the yin and the yang is always going to help you out.
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And there's poor Mikey. You know, he just didn't bring it this time. And it was sad to see him go. That was my boy. That was my dark horse, I thought he was in it to win it. But it didn't happen, so now we move on. I'm sure he'll figure out more about what he does and doesn't want to do from the experience and I wish him the best. I thought the burger idea was great. But if you're serving raw chicken...that's cooking 101.

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Yeah, the judges were harsh, but in this case they had the firepower to do it. Mike and Tom have both opened up restaurants, so I thought there should be some sort of judging curve. They both know how hard it is. This was a really tough episode to sit back and watch. I wanted to jump in and help in whatever way I could. It's a good challenge. They should do it every season, no matter what. It's possible to pull off, it's been done. But it's certainly not easy.