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Harold Dieterle defeats Tiffani Faison to win Bravo's 'Top Chef'


By Reality TV World staff, 05/25/2006 

Harold Dieterle defeated Tiffani Faison to be crowned the winner of Bravo's Top Chef during last night's broadcast of the reality cooking competition's first season finale.

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As Top Chef's winner, Dieterle, a 28-year-old restaurant chef from New York City, will receive a $100,000 cash prize intended to help encourage his culinary career, a state-of-the-art Kenmore Elite kitchen, an appearance in Food & Wine magazine, and a chance to showcase his talents at next month's Food & Wine Classic event in Aspen, Colorado.

"Oh my god, thank you so much," a rather reserved Dieterle told Top Chef host Katie Lee Joel immediately after she announced his win. "This is amazing, this is what I came here to do.. it feels great," he added later. According to his post-victory comments, Dieterle plans to use "some" of the $100,000 prize to start his own restaurant, which he hopes to open in New York City this fall. If Dieterle is able to follow through with his plans, visiting diners might also see some other familiar Top Chef faces at the restaurant -- according to Dieterle, he hopes to hire some of his former competitors as part of his restaurant staff.

Similar to Bravo's Project Runway reality series that Top Chef's producers also produce, Top Chef's finale featured the return of four previously eliminated contestants who helped Dieterle and Faison prepare their final meals. Three of the four previously eliminated contestants expressed a preference to work with Dieterle, forcing him to decide which one of the three would instead be assigned to Faison, whose aggressive personality had made her unpopular among the cast.

After deciding that he definitely wanted Le Anne Wong working with him, Dieterle forced Dave Martin and Miguel Morales to "draw knives" (the same random draw process that had determined which MGM Grand casino restaurant each finalist would be cooking in) to determine which finalist they would be assigned. In the end, Dieterle ended up with Wong and Morales while Faison ended up working with Martin and Stephen Asprinio, the only previously eliminated contestant who had cited a preference to work with her.

Although the finalists only had to prepare a five-course meal for a group of eight diners that included guest judge Lorraine Bracco, Faison had decided to serve ten courses that consisted of two separate five-course meals that involved preparing the main component of each course in two different manners. Upset that Martin and Asprinio had spent the previous evening partying and arrived late and still hungover on the day that the finalists were preparing their final meals, a frustrated Faison had asked the pair to work quietly and hold any idle chatter until after her meals had been fully served.

Predictably, Faison's behavior later came back to haunt her, with Martin and Asprinio later telling Top Chef's judges that they hadn't really enjoyed their experience and would like to see Dieterle win the competition -- a development that Faison called "heartbreaking." Although there was no evidence that the judge's put much stock in the feedback of the previously eliminated contestants, in the end the judges decided that while Dieterle had "played it safe" and prepared a more conservative menu, he was more deserving of being crowned Top Chef's initial winner.

Earlier this month, Bravo announced that it has renewed Top Chef for a second season and casting is already underway. A broadcast date has not been announced.

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