What's the sign of a true top chef?  How about still managing to help your team win a charity cook-off that you had no interest in being part of?

Original Top Chef winner Harold Dieterle participated in Bravo's Top Chef: 4-Star All-Stars showdown.  However according to the 30-year-old West Babylon, NY, he wasn't exactly a willing participant in the "Season 1 versus Season 2" charity cook-off special in which Dieterle and three of his fellow former first-season Top Chef contestants defeated four of the show's second-season finalists.

"I didn't want to do it," Dieterle, who was only two weeks away from opening his first restaurant when Top Chef: 4-Star All-Stars filmed in Miami earlier this year, told The New York Post recently.  "There were a million things on my mind and I was majorly distracted."

"I had absolutely no interest in being there for three days," Dieterle, who was put the finishing touches on his new Perilla bistro in Greenwich Village, explained of the Top Chef special that also gave viewers their first look at the Bravo reality show's third-season cast.   "And the producers were like, 'We really don't want to call the pit bulls on this and take legal action.'"

According to Dieterle, his May 2006 Top Chef win -- which netted him 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 the Food & Wine Classic event in Aspen, CO -- also included an agreement that he would make himself available to the show through the end of May 2007.  And although the cook-off's timing couldn't have come at a worse time for Dieterle, Top Chef's producers threatened him with legal action if he didn't agree to participate in Top Chef: 4-Star All-Stars, which filmed in April.

"I gave the contract to my lawyer and I said, 'Do they have me by the balls here?'"  Dieterle told The Post.  "And he said, 'Pretty much.  You knew you were getting yourself into this.'"

Despite his involuntary Top Chef: 4-Star All-Stars participation, Dieterle did still make it back to New York to open Perilla, which according to The Post, is named after an Asian plant and a member of the mint family.  And although he had to put his personal and professional lives on hold to appease Top Chef's producers, Dieterle says he's still thankful for the opportunity the show gave him.

"Top Chef was a tremendous experience," he told The Post.  "I'm grateful."