Platelist: 'Top Chef' Harold Dieterle Exudes Confidence in the Kitchen

Restaurateur and Top Chef winner says he started cooking in home economics class

ByABC News
February 22, 2011, 10:51 AM

Mar. 8, 2011— -- When restaurateur and "Top Chef" champion Harold Dieterle was a kid, he said he wanted to be a fighter pilot. But it wasn't meant to be.

"[My teacher's] quick response was that you don't have 20-20 vision, so you have to pick something else." he said.

Growing up on Long Island, Dieterle said he became hooked on cooking at age 15 when he took a home economics class in high school.

"I wasn't terribly popular in high school either so I kind of took to cooking with the scheme that if I took a home economics class, it would definitely help me meet girls," he said. "That's kind of how the cooking started."

Dieterle also credited his eclectic family for inspiring him to follow his passion for food, going as far back as the Sunday dinners that filled his childhood.

"There were always a lot of lovely Italian suppers going on, on the weekends," he said. "The family was always cooking together on Sundays. That's my mom's side of the family, a bunch of Sicilian crazy gals."

With German and Irish grandparents on his father's side, Dieterle said he learned to love many different styles of cuisine, but one recipe he kept close to his heart was his Sicilian grandmother's tomato sauce.

"People are constantly, always asking ... 'Oh what's your favorite tomato sauce?'" he said. "We'll it's my grandmother's sauce and I try and replicate it all the time but not too many people are into pigs feet."

"The food that brings you back to your childhood is definitely the most rewarding, in my opinion," he added. "It makes you feel special."

Click here to get chef Harold Dieterle's recipes.

Cooking became an excellent fit for Dieterle, who is now the owner of two restaurants in New York City, Perilla, a critically-acclaimed New American restaurant with Asian influences, and Kin Shop, which is devoted to Thai cuisine that was inspired by Dieterle's several trips to Thailand.

After graduating high school in 1995, Dieterle went to Spain to work in some of the country's top kitchens, and then came back to the United States to attend the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, N.Y.