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Apr 24, 2009 08:50 PM

Top Chef Season 6

according to, 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'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:

                          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.