Doesn't surprise me, Ed. I remember one of Bobby Flay's Throwdowns, which was a Hot Browns challange done at The Brown, against the executive chef and, if I recollect correctly, his sous.
They, too, made a version that was not quite the same as the original.
It's kind of crazy, because this is a fully documented dish, with precise records of when and how things were done. Check the history and you'll find:
1. They are correct about the cheese. It was done, originally, just with parmesan.
2. They are incorrect about "always turkey." The dish started life using poached chicken, and later evolved to turkey.
3. They are incorrect as to the use of tomato as a garnish. The original used mushrooms.
4. The original was also garnished with bacon, and I've never had any version (even some gross ones using country ham & turkey swimming in an orange cheddar sauce) that didn't include it. Did they not mention that?
5. The bread isn't just dropped in. It's arranged in a precise manner. Did they mention that? The guys who fought Flay at least knew about that, and made a point of it with their version.
6. I've eaten, literally, hundreds of Hot Browns, made all sorts of ways. Not once was I served one made in a skillet. Not saying it couldn't have been done that way. But the arrangement of the bread almost dictates an oval baking dish, and not many restaurants stock skillets in that shape.
What I suspect is that, even at The Brown, somebody along the way modified the recipe. He passed that down to his successor, and so on. The guys working the kitchen today, therefore, make the version that was handed to them, but have never checked the records to see if it differs from the original.
That recipes evolve, and change, and are put a personal spin on by chefs is a regular part of our industry. Normally it doesn't bother me. But when an iconic (yes, I hate that buzzword---but, in this case I'm using it precisely) is presented at its point of origin I feel they should get it right. At The Brown I would expect a correctly made Hot Brown, just as I would expect a correctly made Waldorf Salad at the WA.