Being a jerk is a valuable skill on reality television. From Juan Pablo to Puck, jackassery has taken plenty of forms since people “stopped being polite” decades ago and produced high-water marks of a now-flooded genre. Everyone knows that evil has some serious currency when networks want compelling TV—you get more camera time when you’re being an ass.
Tiffani Faison and Dale Talde know this all too well. Faison was the show’s “first villain,” a nasty self-described “brat” who rode her mean streak all the way to the finals of Season 1 and left poor Dave Martin a classic reality sound-bite when he became fed up with her nagging and declared, “I’m not your bitch, bitch!” Tiffani thought she was better than the other chefs (in many cases, she was) and wasn’t afraid to say so.
Dale was perhaps even more combustible—he boiled and bubbled over rather than stewed in the waiting room during season 4 in Chicago. There was never any denying that he was a great chef, but he’d probably admit that he was probably the most unstable competitor the show has ever seen. After a disastrous Restaurant Wars service and a judges-table face-off with Lisa Fernandes (another cheftestant who’ll never land anywhere near “fan favorite” status), he packed his knives and went.
Eventually, though, their seasons went to air, and each had to watch hours of their hang-ups, blow-ups, and let-downs along with millions of viewers. Both chefs saw themselves for what they really were—unhappy people who were living unsustainable lives. Thankfully, both had the self-awareness to realize it, and by Top Chef All-Stars, they’d softened into more well-rounded people. Tiffani finished 12th and Dale sixth (with Tiffani defeating Dale in a head-to-head battle at Arthur Ashe tennis stadium in Queens), but both saw their images (and lives) rehabbed on their second-chance kitchen.
They seem to have become even more well-rounded now on Duels. Each has a successful restaurant, and while their competitive pilot lights still burn, there seems little chance either will be turned up to broil. In the past, due to their personalities, neither chef had the option to hide. Their food had to be good enough to justify their outsize personalities. Now, they get to just focus on food.
NEXT: The quickest of quickfires