Top Chef winner Harold Dieterle says he was forced to participate in the season three all-star cook-off by producers, who threatened to take legal action against him if he refused.
Harold tells the New York Post that he “didn’t want to do it” because he was about to open his restaurant. “There were a million things on my mind and I was majorly distracted. … I had absolutely no interest in being there for three days. And the producers were like, ‘We really don’t want to call the pit bulls on this and take legal action,'” he said.
However, the paper reports that his contract required him to “be available to the show through the end of May 2007. Harold says he didn’t go willingly: “So I gave the contract to my lawyer and I said, ‘Do they have me by the balls, here?’ And he said, ‘Pretty much. You knew you were getting yourself into this.'” Despite the threats, he says, “‘Top Chef’ was a tremendous experience. I’m grateful.”
And his restaurant, Perilla, “opened last month to an instant full house,” The New York Sun reported. However, the Sun says “fans may be disappointed that Mr. Dieterle is not in the dining room posing for pictures, but in the kitchen cooking.” However, he makes an exception for kids. “Sometimes they send me notes and I’ve got to go out. I’ve got a soft spot for kids,” he said.