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Top Chef Season 6

according to eater.com, it's in *Vegas*

anyone else think that's a really crappy culinary choice?

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  1. That's a bit offensive, actually. Las Vegas has more high-end 5-star restos now than ever before.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Honeychan

      Right. But when it comes to, for example, sourcing ingredients, Las Vegas is a, well, desert. Although it has their sponsor, Whole Foods, so I guess that's all they need.

      I wonder if they'll even try to do any "local" challenges (like going to the greenmarket in Chicago, or shopping in ethnic neighborhoods in NY), or whether they'll be completely focused on the big-name restaurants and the tourist areas. When they did the season one finale in Las Vegas, I don't think they left the MGM Grand (where, not coincidentally, Colicchio has a restaurant).

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        It's been a looooong time since I lived in Las Vegas -- later '60s -- and I can honestly say that I have never lived anyplace where I had the selection, variety, and quality of food I had at my fingertips in Las Vegas. From suckling pigs slaughtered just for me to meet the specs for roasting it in my oven, to USDA Prime beef from the same supplier that delivered to the best restaurants in the city. Great produce. great wines liquors and liqueurs, anything I wanted I could get. I have no idea what things are like there now, but if the producers of the show dig into sourcing, my guess is that they can do very well indeed if they don't restrict themselves to one market.

        1. re: Caroline1

          Yeah, but the wines and liquors (and a lot of the other stuff) weren't *local.* You can get just about anything money can buy in Las Vegas, but most of it comes from California (and beyond); most of the agriculture in the state is in the northwest -- farther away from Las Vegas than Los Angeles is.

          I looked at the vendor list for the Las Vegas farmers market and the pickings were pretty slim, at least by Bay Area standards. Las Vegas has grown exponentially since the '60s, and that kind of urban growth usually crowds out local agriculture by driving up land costs and diverting resources like water.

          Las Vegas as it exists today is too new to have its own food traditions, nor, with the exception of a small Chinatown, does it have any traditional ethnic neighborhoods where traditional foodways are nurtured, despite the fact that it's quite ethnically diverse.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            I thought the point was what is available, not where it comes from. I don't recall any Top Chef season in which the contestants were restricted to using only locally grown produce or wines or meats. So what's your point? As I said, when I lived there, there was nothing I could not obtain locally.

            1. re: Caroline1

              My point was that the food in Las Vegas is generic -- you might as well be anywhere -- heck, most of the big name restaurants there are spin-offs of famous restaurants in other cities. I gave examples of how Top Chef has tied itself into things that are specific to the local food scene -- there are others. Almost every season there's some kind of challenge that plays off of local food specialties -- just what would a Las Vegas food specialty be?

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Well, I can't speak to now, but it's the only place I've ever lived where I could get a fresh and perfect suckling pig of any size I wanted straight from from the hog ranch with no middle man. I don't recall seeing any roast sucking pigs on Top Chef up to now.

                Do you really think all the food where you live is "local"? Where I live, when I go to an Asian market, for example, to buy spring roll wrappers, by golly if they're not made in Thailand! <sigh> My dried pasta is most often from Italy, unless its rice based, then it can be from anywhere in Asia. Would buying these things in Kroger's make them "generic"? I think you're being rather snobbish about Las Vegas. If you get off the strip or away from Casino Center, there are a lot of good, very authentic small ethnic restaurants. It can be a lot of fun to live there. And if you don't entertain out of town guests, you can have a very rich life without ever going near the strip or a casino. The only problem is if you're a compulsive gambler, even super markets and the post office have a full array of slot machines. When I lived there, many supermarket had full time counselors to talk to customers who gambled away their grocery money before they bought breakfast cereal for their kids.

                There are a lot of people, some chowhounds included, who think of Las Vegas as a sort of Mecca for upscale dining. Obviously you don't, but Food Network plays to the masses. '-)

                1. re: Caroline1

                  Top Chef isn't on the Food Network; it's on Bravo.

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    I've spent quite a bit of time "off the strip" -- one of my best friends lived there for several years. In fact, part of her job was to run an annual International Festival with food from various ethnic groups throughout Las Vegas.

                    That said, as I've been trying to say (are you deliberately misunderstanding me?), and as goodhealthgourmet has said much more succinctly, Las Vegas is not a place that has a "unique culinary identity. In so many other cities the food is steeped in tradition, plays an important role in local history." Considering that most of the people who live there have come from somewhere else in the last 25 years, it's not a slam to note that they don't have locally-rooted traditions.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      I wasn't trying to misunderstand you, but I think you've been missing what I'm saying, if not very well. There have been extremely limited segments on ANY of the Top Chef shows that focus on the culture, traditions, or foods of any particular city they've been taped in. But even if they had, how would that push Las Vegas out of the running? Are you (and/or GHG) trying to say that "glitz" is not a great American tradition? Or gluttony, as in "buffets"?

                      I'm really not trying to be difficult, but I don't see a problem with Las Vegas. And visiting a friend who lives there isn't the same thing as actually living there. But should I ever have to move back, I would absolutely have no more than one bedroom. If you do, you have "guests" call you up and tell you they'll be arriving for two weeks next weekend, and you can hardly remember that fifteen minute conversation you had with them six years ago which they feel entitles them to guest status in your house. Yes. More than once. I finally got an unlisted number.

        2. re: Honeychan

          i didn't mean to be offensive. the issue isn't the number of high-end restaurants, it's the fact that LV doesn't have any sort of unique culinary identity. in so many other cities the food is steeped in tradition, plays an important role in local history, and really *means* something to the residents. IMHO, Vegas food is mostly about over-the-top extravagance/decadence and gut-busting buffets.

          that's not to say that the previous seasons of TC really highlighted the local cuisines or took advantage of what the host cities had to offer....but they certainly won't have much to work with this time around.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            Thanks. That was what I was trying to say.

        3. Geography has had very little to do with any of the seasons. Maybe 2 episodes per season has any local flavor. If there is a Whole Foods or some other equivalent than they will be fine.

          1 Reply
          1. re: KTinNYC

            There are four Whole Foods markets here in Las Vegas. I'm sure they will use the one on south Vegas Blvd. I'm excited about season 6 being here in Las Vegas.

          2. I don’t think it really matters. Vegas is a good choice for the glamour (no doubt FN will point out that NFNS was there first).

            And I don’t think it matters because when they were in New York they more or less ignored the city opting for very generic challenges that could have taken place anywhere. It was New York in name only, which I thought was a real shame and a huge missed opportunity. Each season they have been getting further and further away from featuring the uniqueness of the host city.

            I was sure that New Orleans was going to be the next destination. But they probably would have ignored that city as well.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Withnail42

              NFNS was in Vegas first? TC1's finale was in Vegas, no?

              1. re: momjamin

                You’re right, I had forgotten that the finals were held there. Season one seems like a long time ago.

            2. Vegas is becoming a major foodie town. Some of the best chefs in the US (the world?) have restaurants there. It's an expensive food town but I wouldn't call it crappy.

              There can be some fun episodes. Although I imagine finding fresh local produce (like in NY or SF) will be an issue.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Elyssa

                cook with sand

                you have 5 minutes


              2. While it's not crappy per se, it's been done before (TC1 Finale).

                Why not pick a location that *hasn't* yet been used? The Southwest (Phoenix/Tempe/Albuquerque). The Northwest (Portland/Seattle). The Deep South (Charleston, Savannah). As you said yesterday afternoon, GHG, at least those areas have a food culture that is uniquely theirs or one that is part of the culture of that area that the locals have passed down through families and traditions - not an amalgamation of everything from outside their area.

                16 Replies
                1. re: LindaWhit


                  i really don't understand why anyone would find my initial statement offensive...it's not like i said Vegas has crappy food, i said it was a poor choice for TC from a culinary perspective.

                  anyway, thanks to you & Ruth for trying to help clarify my point :)

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    I believe I read somewhere that the production company got a lot of money from Las Vegas (tourism board?) for them to film there. Vegas has been suffering terribly from the recession, so I guess it's not too surprising they would do this to attract tourism. Unfortunately, I think when it comes to picking locations, culinary history takes a backseat to money.

                      1. re: Miss Needle

                        If they were thinking about culinary history, they'd do it in Castelnaudary, France. They are thinking about how to put out a quality show within a reasonable budget - they do have to make some money off this. I have a family member involved in the production, and they cast a pretty wide net before finally choosing a site, both for the main show and the finales.

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      "Why not pick a location that *hasn't* yet been used?"

                      It's just a guess but I would say for ease of production. Not only do they need a film location they typically need other working professional kitchens and Chef's willing to put up with allowing the cast in their kitchen as well as having venues to take the Cheftestants to compete. Las Vegas probably has that in spades right now with the down turn in the economy. This show doesn't have a whole lot to do with local ingredients, flavor or personality. The only real "local" challenge IR where they had to shop was the farm market in Chicago. Kinda sad really that they don't have more local or regional based challenges.

                      1. re: Fritter

                        They also did local for a finale challenge in Puerto Rico.

                        And they build their own TC kitchen for regular use - or at least they've done so in major cities where the majority of the filming was being done. The "borrowing" of kitchens just happens for finales or specifics such as at Le Bernardin last season.

                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          Haven't they "borrowed" a kitchen or been a guest at some venue every season?
                          I don't think you can really count the final episode because they always shoot that at a different location than the seasons host city.

                      2. re: LindaWhit

                        I vote for Detroit. They definitely need the infusion of cash. They can make the contestants immerse themselves in middle eastern food and the unique and ubiquitous "Coney Islands" that dot the Michigan landscape. There are lots of farms in southeast Michigan.

                        1. re: Phaedrus

                          There are farms *in* Detroit -- urban farming is apparently getting big there: http://www.absolutemichigan.com/dig/m...

                          Actually, if you google "urban farms Detroit" you'll find a wealth of info.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Oh yeah, forgot about that. They are tearing up crack houses to open up land for people to farm.

                            1. re: Phaedrus

                              Actually, they're using abandoned land (there's a lot of it in decaying inner cities -- I spent a day working with City Slicker Farms in West Oakland -- CA, not MI -- this weekend, and it's amazing how much urban farming is going on there). But in a metaphoric sense, yes, they're replacing crack houses with farms. That's a good thing, right?

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                I had posted this before, the owner of Boggy Creek is writing a column for the Atlantic food web site. Carol Anne Sayle and her husband Larry Butler has been farming in the city for quite a while now. They own a farm within Austin City Limits, an organic farm at that. Carol's older brother was on my PhD thesis committee. so I met her when I moved to Austin 15 years ago. I hated to move away because I had to move away from all that good fresh produce.


                          2. re: Phaedrus

                            YES! PLEEEEEEEEEASE come to Detroit!
                            We have lots of local ethnic flavor and great farms. :)

                            1. re: Fritter

                              wouldn't that be fun, Fritter!

                              Middle Eastern, the usual other ethnic stuff, lake perch and smelt, cherries and apples, Eastern Market...

                              Michigan is second only to California in the diversity of cash crops grown here. You could do the whole series on local food around the state.

                              1. re: coney with everything

                                On top of that we are in full bloom for drawing film production crews, rent is dirt cheap and there is even a tax break for filming here!
                                The possibilities are pretty endless here for TC.

                                1. re: coney with everything

                                  I think Detroit is a great idea, between the local foods and the local place in American cultural history.

                          3. it's not going to make a rat's ass of a difference to the show, if last season is any indication. they were in NYC and that show could have been shot anywhere. except the 1st challenge, they basically ignored NYC entirely

                            22 Replies
                            1. re: thew

                              Precisely! They would be better off just keeping it in a static location (a studio) and then doing the finale somewhere else.

                              Logically, it is television, so sponsorship pays the bills (Glad, Wholefoods, etc.), yet I'm sick of seeing shopping trips for ingredients at Whole Foods. I consider myself to be an accomplished home cook who has lived in various countries and continents, and I have never been impressed with Whole Foods. Rarely are their products the best quality, the prices are highly inflated, and the atmosphere is rather blah and uninspiring. But, I suppose we have to watch the contestants use their budget on overpriced products.

                              While I'm not a fan of Vegas, the location has become very secondary over the past few seasons so it shouldn't really make a difference. Season 5 in NYC was truly banal and lackluster.

                              1. re: vinhotinto75

                                The location is an excuse for shooting B-roll and likely some thematic elements of challenges, plus a chance for a city to show off and get some revenue. Vegas sure could use some of that now, with the fall of in the economy. Expect to see some themes around gambling, the west, massive buffets, Grand Canyon (maybe they'll have to cook with stuff carried down on a burro train).. but in the end, they'll spend 90% of their time in a kitchen, that's what matters.

                                I am of the viewpoint that location shouldn't be TOO foodie - or at least the location shouldn't show through in the ingredients of challenges, otherwise you'd sort of hamstring or advantage chefs based on local experience. And also remember the location has to be able to support filming - a lot of cities aren't really proactive about seeking out, supporting a local filming infrastructure. Lack of vendors, seasonality (a green spring-flowering city freaks viewers out if they expect the leaves to already have fallen) union issues, etc. all have to go into how they figure out where best to go.

                                Vegas is a fine choice.. and its a choice, frankly, that doesn't mean all that much in the grand scheme - we want good competitors and exciting challenges.

                                1. re: grant.cook

                                  Both Bourdain and Samantha Brown did some entertaining shows from Vegas without relying solely on the glitz factor. It may not have a "food identity" but the city definitely has a unique character which could provide for some fun challenges.
                                  It wouldn't have been my next choice but I'm looking forward to it.

                                  1. re: tofuburrito

                                    Except they already did that for the season 1 finale. There were three parts to the first challenge: high-end, sea-food oriented room service for a high rollers suite; "poker" food for a bunch of guys at a poker table; and pre-show meal for the performers at Cirque du Soleil's Ka show.

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                      I think there is plenty more to keep it interesting, we'll see. I'm more interested in the resumes of the chefs than the location.

                                      1. re: tofuburrito

                                        On that I agree -- I care more about the chefs and the food they prepare than the location, no matter where they are.

                                  2. re: grant.cook

                                    seasonality (a green spring-flowering city freaks viewers out if they expect the leaves to already have fallen)
                                    ????? I think everyone knows they're filming at different times of the year from when the show is actually shown.

                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                      People know, but they don't really process it, and it can be jarring - trust me, no reality producer wants to show a snow-covered New York on a show airing in July.

                                      1. re: grant.cook

                                        Well, we saw them sweating it out on Liberty Island when Season 5 started off in mid-November 2008. No real difference. Perhaps it might have been jarring the first time we all saw it on a reality show, but I think anyone who has watched such shows for any length of time is used to it by now.

                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                          Remember the fake Christmas episode. They were all in shorts when running around the city, but there was a wreath on the door of their condo.

                                          1. re: Sooeygun

                                            I thought I remembered the same situation was for the Christmas episode; just couldn't remember if they were still in shorts.

                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                              The same is true of pretty much every "date-specific" episode - the Foo Fighters played Rochester, NY in spring, 2008, nowhere near Turkey Day, and of course, the Chef Bowl episode never referenced the actually event (although not sure it even could - the NFL is pretty zealous about defending its trademarks).

                                              Fortunately, Las Vegas is a pretty even-keel city - kind of looks the same most of the time - people expect neon and a desert landscape. Temperature doesn't carry through the TV unless they specifically mention it.

                                    2. re: grant.cook

                                      Philly!! We have a culinary perspective and history, lots of kitchens/ restaurants, and we're more "off the beaten path". Although, this has obviously been decided already.

                                    3. re: vinhotinto75

                                      While I agree that season five was rather lackluster, they did do some local challenges. Off the top of my head, they did shopping in ethnic neighborhoods, they did Blue Hill; they did NY "dirty water" dogs. But it's true they didn't do as much local color stuff as they did in Chicago.

                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                        I think you have all 3 of the "local challenges" but the hot dog challenge was done in the TC Kitchen so that barely counts. Chicago had the deep dish pizza challenge on the first episode, the tail gating at soldier stadium and the block party challenge but the block party might as well have been in any neighborhood in the northern part of the country.

                                        1. re: KTinNYC

                                          They actually did say that one of the reasons they didn't do many local challenges was that security would probably have been compromised. There are too many food bloggers and enthusiasts in NYC that there would have been all sorts of stuff on the twittersphere five minutes after a quickfire like the "Union Square Greenmarket Challlenge." It may have been more feasible during Season 1 or Season 2 when Top Chef wasn't as popular. But it has been growing in popularity, with Season 5 being the most watched.

                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                            That makes sense but it really limits "local flavor". I really think it doen't matter anymore where the show is shot. It might as well be on a sound stage somewhere with occasional field trips to Whole Foods.

                                          2. re: KTinNYC

                                            They also had a greenmarket challenge in Chicago.

                                        2. re: vinhotinto75

                                          "They would be better off just keeping it in a static location (a studio) and then doing the finale somewhere else."

                                          I disagree -- I think moving the show around keeps it from becoming -- to use your word -- static. Even if it doesn't result in many overtly location-specific challenges, changing locations does keep production from falling into a rut and makes them re-invent themselves to some extent each season.

                                          Also, it provides some variety for the audience in the overall look and feel of each season. If a reality series is going to last more than three seasons, each season has to differentiate itself in some way in the minds of the viewers. Otherwise, it's too much the same show with different people plugged into it. "Top Chef : New York" is a lot more distinctive than "Top Chef Five."

                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            The other virtue in moving it around is the availability of different local restaurants and chefs for challenges and to serve as guest judges. That's a bit of "local color" in itself, and it keeps things interesting for viewers.

                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                              I thought about that. A static location doesn't completely preclude what you described: they've had guest judges from other parts of the country no matter what city they're in. They can also take road trips -- in the NY season they actually went to two sites (Blue Hill and wherever it was upstate the Foo Fighters were) far out of the city. But yes, the more chances for variety, the better.

                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                True, they've had guest judges from other locales. They always have quite a few from the location city, though, and presumably there are chefs who can make a commitment of a couple of days and no travel but not a traveling gig. As for road trips, if it's a static location, there's a finite number of possibilities for trips within reasonable distance for their shooting schedule. But hey, we're in agreement.

                                      2. Reading through these replies makes me think that Las Vegas is a reasonable choice. Although GHG refers to it as a poor 'culinary choice', the staging of a television show in a city is not the same thing as choosing it as a destination for a foodie holiday. Although in some ways, I suspect the point of the choice is to get people thinking about the city as precisely that.

                                        Miss Needle confirmed my suspicions that the tourist board would be behind it, but unlike Miss Needle, I will hold off on the dismissive posture. I do not think that tourism, tourist boards, or the money behind these items necessarily taint anything. In fact, many of you might be shocked to learn that your favourite 'authentic' festivals around the world are very much managed through relationships between local,supranational and tourist authorities. Moreover, I'm uncomfortable with any assumption we can readily disentangle the relationship between cultural programmes (that are about remembering and performing history for locals and tourists alike) and commerce.

                                        All that said, it is clear from the responses that the Vegas tourist board or city commission has every reason to want to rebrand itself, making sure people are aware of it as a place with good food-- and high end food. And as some hounds have pointed out there are a good many high end restaurants out there. But perhaps this can serve as a longer project for letting people know this is a food friendly place, much as some years ago there was the concerted effort to let people know it was a family friendly place.

                                        As for a place to shoot, it seems logical:

                                        * Celebrity chefs who have every reason to be in the area
                                        * Challenges of the location (how does one think about that fresh local season food when we're out in the desert? A high end buffet item?)

                                        And wait, didn't Season 1 actually have the finale in Vegas?

                                        Given the assumptions about needing specific ethnic enclaves or a preponderance of farmers' markets , it seems a Vegas setting might actually have the opportunity to surprise viewers.

                                        And finally, let's not kid ourselves: How much does NYC have on offer that this latest season utterly failed to use?

                                        1. I really wish the locale was New Orleans. There's obviously a vast and varied local food tradition . . . AND a Whole Foods!

                                          1. A lot of valid points here, pro and con. But I keep thinking how hot it will be to shoot in Vegas during May and June (although, granted, not as hot as in August). Excessive heat during filming has been mentioned by a number of past contestants, and it has sometimes affected the food they tried to make during outdoor challenges. (I also recall reading that someone associated with the production said they had come up with a way to film in NOLA that would work with the weather, which turned out to be last season’s winter finale.) Seems to me Vegas would be a better place to film during cooler months . . .

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: intuitive eggplant

                                              The flip side of that is that the challenges on this show very accurately represent what a working chef must deal with. As a chef you do not get to pick and choose the weather and plenty or working chefs operate in Vegas. Linda mentioned some great cities but the humidity in some might be through the roof. It's subjective but I'd take high temps with dry heat over high humidity any day.

                                              1. re: Fritter

                                                And a reasonable altitude.. I can image the culinary challenges of Top Chef Denver....

                                            2. I dunno, couldn't you say that Vegas's "local" food scene IS that it has become a high end food tourist destination? By design, the city has attracted numerous well known and well respected restaurants and/or chefs to open outposts there. Can't that be Vegas's unique food culture? If so, I'm not sure why it's any less worthy than any other city. I kind of think Vegas is an exciting location for the sixth season because it has such a wide array of talented and innovative chefs working there. Who knows how those chefs, their culinary points of view, and their restaurants are going to be woven into the challenges? Lee Ann is quite creative; I have every reason to expect it'll be cool to watch. :-)

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: charmedgirl

                                                They'll probably be a challenge involving Cirque de Soleil in some role...and of course, probably some freaky magician will show up, but the best would be if they had to cook a Quickfire while been stalked by those Siegfried and Roy tigers..

                                                If Carrot Top shows up, I am swearing off the show..

                                                1. re: grant.cook

                                                  As noted above, they had a challenge involving Cirque du Soleil in the Season One finale. Which of course doesn't preclude them from doing it again.

                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                    I'm hoping for a Chriss Angel appearance. Perhaps while sitting at judges table he can make the eliminated chef disappear.

                                                    1. re: tofuburrito

                                                      How about Siefried and Roy? Or Penn and Teller? or the ghost of the Rat Pack?

                                                      1. re: Phaedrus

                                                        The Folies Bergere ladies are unemployed - they'd probably want a gig now and then.

                                                        1. re: Phaedrus

                                                          More likely Kathy Griffin; this is Bravo, after all.

                                                        2. re: tofuburrito

                                                          would it be Las Vegas without Wayne Newton? :>O