AUSTIN, TEXAS – There may be a problem with the final episode of Bravo’s Top Chef Texas.
The problem? It may not have been shot in Texas.
A Canadian chef claims part of the finale was shot in Vancouver, British Columbia last week. Chef Owen Lightly spotted the Top Chef Texas crew shooting in a Vancouver Whole Foods Market on Cambie Street. He took to Twitter and spilled the beans. His friend responded by saying he saw the show’s chefs, Emeril Lagasse and Tom Colicchio, in town too.
“Saw a bunch of contestants from Top Chef Texas in Whole Foods on Cambie today shopping for ingredients. Why are the(y) in Van #topchef” Jan 15
Friend Kenneth Cho responded to Lightly’s tweet:
@OwenLightly top chef USA finales are always at a destination city. Tom collicchio and emiral lagasse spotted at hawksworth”. While it may be true that Top Chef regularly shoots its finales in a “destination city,” Jan 16
“it looked just like one of those mad dash shopping trips you see on the show.”
You may be asking yourself, “What’s the big deal?” The big deal is that Top Chef Texas is subsidized by Texas taxpayers to the tune of $400,000.
The reality TV show created a stir last fall when it received the subsidy from the State of Texas in return for Texas tourism and marketing considerations. Essentially, Top Chef Texas is partially an infomercial for Texas.
The show’s production company, Magical Elves, went to court to stop the media from getting access to its contract with the State of Texas. Both the state and the producers didn’t want the details of what they were doing with taxpayer dollars made public. Both lost. A California judge made the contract public. Read the agreement: click here.
Forking over $400,000 to a reality TV show while the Texas Legislature was making unprecedented budget cuts and laying off teachers didn’t look good.
If Top Chef Texas is now filming in Vancouver, are Texas taxpayers getting what they paid for? We may never know. The state and the show’s producers are still keeping secrets.
We made several attempts to contact Gov. Rick Perry’s press secretary Lucy Nashed. She wouldn’t talk to us, but her assistant said that she wasn’t familiar with the situation and that “there might be an NDA (non disclosure agreement) in place” preventing her from telling me much. She recommended that we contact Magical Elves.
We did. Magical Elves did not respond. Why did the Governor’s office think they would respond if there was an NDA in place?
We then contacted Whole Foods to see if they would confirm that Top Chef Texas had shot the finale at one of their Vancouver locations. Whole Food’s corporate headquarters are in Austin, so why wouldn’t they shoot in Austin?
Whole Foods spokesperson Beth Krauss wouldn’t confirm that the shoot in Vancouver had taken place. But she did say, “Yes, there is an agreement giving them (Magical Elves) permission to film at our stores. There is language in the contract that means I can’t discuss specific activities.”
The state has defended the reality TV show taxpayer subsidy. Perry’s press secretary Lucy Nashed told the Statesman last year the the deal included “allowing Texas Tourism to display the ‘Top Chef: Texas’ brand in its own promotional and marketing materials and also allowing the Texas Tourism brand to receive widespread exposure to an international audience through ‘Top Chef’s’ TV, Web and social media presence.”
Maybe Top Chef Texas’ cast, crew and producers might want to start with keeping the show’s presence in Texas or keep their hands off taxpayer’s wallets.