One of the things that you might not know about Top Chef is that they are paid by the cities and states they film in each season to come there. Many cities and states have incentives in place to encourage the film industry to bring jobs to the state. Some have incentives in place to encourage programming that highlights the are in a way to encouraged tourism. Behind the scenes for every episode of Top Chef since they put on their traveling shoes, the has been a hard fought competition.
These fights are not without their controversies. The most notable controversy was Top Chef Season 11, filmed in New Orleans. That season, Louisiana Office of Tourism paid the Magical Elves production company $200,000 and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation paid in $175,000. While these incentives are commonplace as part as the Tourism offices way of advertising their cities, many were appalled that a production company would take incentives from Louisiana when it remained in devastating financial times after Katrina, and more recently the major BP Oil spill that devastated the gulf regions fishing industry.
Mediaite did some incredible investigative journalism of that debacle at the time.
In an article about the state’s sponsorship of Top Chef, the Times-Picayune revealed that the $200,000 paid by the Louisiana Office of Tourism came from a recovery fund established by BP to compensate the victims of the devastating oil spill. In exchange for the oil money, Top Chef agreed to shoot at least two challenges outside of New Orleans to
reassure people that the state’s oysters aren’t filled with chemical dispersants“showcase other parts of the state,” said state spokesman Jacques Berry.
Lest you think dear old Andy Cohen was not aware of this situation, Mediate included this update”
UPDATE #2 (7:00 PM EST, 5/15/13): After Anthony Bourdain nudged this story in the direction of Andy Cohen as part of a brief Twitter freak-out, Andy sassed back, “Call me abt Treme’s tax credits from NOLA.” Andy is, of course, referring to the David Simon HBO series on which Bourdain was a writer.
You can click the link to read that tweet. But please don’t get all up in your feelings and tweet Andy about this. It’s old news, he doesn’t care, and it will only serve to cause problems for this site. Thanks.
As for Treme, they generated several million dollars in income for local production crew and musicians. When they left the left a half a million dollars to local charities that was collected by the cast and crew.
That season of Top Chef was also very controversial because Tom Colicchio seemed to strong arm the other judges into naming Nicholas Elmi, a villain of the series over Nina Compton, who many at the final dinner felt was the clear winner, as did much of the viewing public. Tom even tried to defend the winner on social media by supposedly outing how everyone voted.
Similar things happened in for the Texas series for Season 9. When city tourism agencies passed on Top Chef’s incentive requests for filming in their fine cities, then Governor Rick Perry filtered almost half a million dollars to Magical Elves through an advertising agency at a time when there was no money in the budget to assist the states failing schools.
Because while state money may not have been spent bringing Top Chef to Texas, the governor’s office did agree to pay an estimated $400,000 “for the integration of [the state’s] brand in Bravo’s production of Top Chef cycle 9.” It says so in an estimate drawn up by TM Advertising, a Dallas-based firm that helps the governor’s tourism and economic development office promote the state. The agreement was “accepted” by the “client” — that would be the great state of Texas — on June 29, one day after the Top Chef crew was first spotted in San Antonio. [Dallas Observer story on Texas and Top Chef]
So all of these things were in the back of my mind when this PR crossed my desk last week….
NEW YORK – March 22, 2017 – Bravo Media’s Emmy and James Beard Award-winning “Top Chef” sets its sights high and heads to the state of Colorado for season 15. Production will begin this spring with a new batch of talented chefs battling it out for the coveted title amongst the breathtaking landscapes and thriving culinary scenes in Denver, Boulder and Telluride. Set to premiere later this year, the series returns with host Padma Lakshmi, head judge Tom Colicchio, along with Gail Simmons and Graham Elliot at the judges table. The announcement was made today in partnership with the Colorado Tourism Office and the Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media.
“We are always on the hunt for the next great culinary destination and Colorado is fast becoming a hot spot for young chefs and foodies, making it an ideal backdrop for our upcoming season,” said Shari Levine, Executive Vice President, Current Production, Bravo Media. “Our new cheftestants will have an abundance of inspiration to pull from as they cook amid the awe-inspiring scenery and explore the bourgeoning (sic) culinary scenes from cities to mountain resorts.”
Cathy Ritter, director of the Colorado Tourism Office adds, “Colorado is the ideal locale for ‘Top Chef’s’ first visit to the Rocky Mountains, and we cannot wait for viewers to experience the scenic beauty, hospitality and vibrancy of some of our thriving culinary destinations, including The Mile High City of Denver, Boulder and Telluride.”
“Top Chef” is the number one food show on cable among P25-54 in 2017-to-date. The season 14 finale (3/1/17), which crowned Brooke Williamson (Los Angeles, California) “Top Chef,” hit season highs among all key demos, delivering 2.2 million total viewers, 1.3 million P25-54 and 1.1 million P18-49. The finale was also the most watched episode in over three years (Nielsen, Live+3; since season 11 finale on 2/5/14).
It’s interesting that prior to the Charleston season the New Orleans season was the highest rated.
As for Colorado, they will be paying up to a million dollars to have the pleasure of filing the upcoming series featuring three cities. And Colorado Film Commissioner Donald Zuckerman seems just fine with that. The taxpayers may or may not agree as budget cuts are causing the state to consider slashing the line in the budget for production incentives.
“We’re basically a job-creation program,” Zuckerman told Westword in a recent article, “and bringing Top Chef here means that a lot of people will be hired locally. And we also have the opportunity to really increase tourism by Colorado being perceived as a food destination. We all know that people will say, ‘Hey, I’ll take a holiday in Italy, because I think the food is great,’ or ‘I think I’ll go to San Francisco, because there are a slew of restaurants I want to try.’ And while a lot of people know we have an awesome brewery scene, they don’t know about our food scene. So putting the imprimatur of Top Chef on the food scene here is major.”
And that is more than you ever wanted to know about Top Chef production.