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The Top Chef Effect: How The Reality Series Transforms Destinations into Culinary Capitals

The Top Chef Effect: How The Reality Series Transforms Destinations into Culinary Capitals

Mark your calendar. Bravo’s Top Chef returns with its 21st season premieres on March 20, 2024 — and this time around, the “cheftestants” will be competing in Wisconsin, a TURNER tourism partner. Whoever ends up claiming top prize, the real winner might be the destination itself. With each episode of Top Chef attracting 1.5 million viewers, the show has such an influence on food tourism that the media has created the term: “Top Chef Effect.”

Reality shows have become a cultural phenomenon, captivating audiences worldwide with their unique blend of competition, skill and pure drama. But Bravo’s Top Chef not only showcases culinary prowess; it has the power to positively impact the host destination in countless ways. Think of Top Chef as an extended, series-long commercial for a destination — one that will continue to bring economic value long after the show concludes.

Tourism Boost

Bravo’s Top Chef attracts a diverse audience, ranging from die-hard culinary enthusiasts to casual viewers. As the show unfolds each season, it serves as a visual tour of the host destination’s landmarks, cultural attractions and — of course — its foodie hotspots. This exposure can lead to a significant increase in tourism, with fans eager to experience the flavors and ambiance showcased on the show.

  • In Houston (another TURNER partner), where season 19 was filmed in 2022, Bravo’s Top Chef resulted in more than 3 billion media impressions — engagement that translates into tens of millions of dollars in positive public relations value. In Wisconsin, last summer’s announcement that season 21 would be filmed in the destination resulted in a whopping $34.7 million in advertising value equivalency.

A Culinary Spotlight

Bravo’s Top Chef acts as a culinary spotlight, illuminating the host destination’s gastronomic scene and putting it on the global map. The show's challenges often draw inspiration from the local cuisine, introducing viewers to unique ingredients, cooking techniques and regional flavors. This exposure not only promotes the city's culinary heritage but also encourages food enthusiasts to explore the local dining scene firsthand.

  • In 2022, Bravo’s Top Chef put Houston’s diverse restaurant scene on an international platform, highlighting BIPOC makers and going beyond the expected highlights. In recent years, there’s been an increased focus on highlighting different ethnic culinary communities in the destinations where the show is being taped.

Local Business Support

The show not only benefits the contestants but also provides a platform for local businesses. From sourcing ingredients for challenges to featuring local artisans and producers, Bravo’s Top Chef creates opportunities for small businesses to gain exposure and boost their sales. Farmers' markets, specialty food stores and local suppliers often experience increased demand as a result of their association with the show, contributing to the overall economic growth of the destination.

  • Our lips are sealed about each and every location that the cheftestants will be visiting during the Wisconsin-centric season of Bravo’s Top Chef — but the trailer reveals that there will be cranberry marsh immersions, a classic fish boil, an Indigenous food spotlight and a trip to the famed Miller Caves.

Want to learn more about Bravo’s Top Chef in Wisconsin? Get in touch at wisconsin@turnerpr.com.

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