Why There’s No Top Chef in Houston

Wondering why the upcoming season of Bravo’s Top Chef: Texas won’t feature scenes of Houston in any of its 14 episodes — even though state officials gave the production company $400,000 to film the season in Texas? Well, here’s a possible answer: Houston officials refused to fork over an additional $120,000 to the production company, Magical Elves, in return for a single episode to be filmed in Houston. “They were not going to give us any editorial influence for what was shot,” Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau marketing director Lindsey Brown tells the San Antonio Express News. “We just felt it wasn’t worth what they were asking. They could go out to Beaumont and film oil [derricks] for all we know.”

Instead of Houston restaurants and grub, the series will feature 8 full episodes shot in San Antonio, including a faked farmers market at the La Villita village downtown and the highly anticipated return of Pee-Wee Herman to the Alamo basement. Why the San Antonio focus?


That city’s convention bureau forked over $200,000 in hotel tax funds to Magical Elves. Austin and Dallas will be featured in the series too, but officials from both of those cities have denied paying for the privilege. Meanwhile, Magical Elves is suing the Texas attorney general’s office to prevent the release of any more information about state funding it asked for or received.

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

28 Comment

  • The more I hear about this, the more it stinks. It seems that this show on Bravo is only a slimy PR shakedown. I was under the impression that only the ice machine had slime. If San Antonio forked over another 200k, would it guarantee a win? It makes me feel a bit better about our leaders refusing to pay to play.

  • well at least they used common sense for once.

  • That seems like a unneccessary shot at Beaumont. Would you really have to drive that far to find an oil derrick?

  • I say “Bravo” (pardon the pun) to Houston for not caving in.
    Bravo: “Give us $120k or we’re not going to film in your city”
    Houston: “Eat a d**k”

  • Yeah, gonna have to give the city council a round of applause for that decision.

  • Can you say Adobe?


  • $400K from the state to a film company? Yes, I see the free market is alive and well here in Texas.
    Glad the GHCVB didn’t cave in to their demands.

  • What a total waste of our tax dollars

  • Robert, except there wasn’t.

  • Or maybe because 99% of your restaurants taste like ass.

  • Come on, it’s not even Food Network! They were lucky to get their parking validated!

  • I’m sure Houston will get it’s big break soon. Houston is all about the food, are you kidding me, Hdtexan? Screw Bravo!

  • Good for GHCVB. Film subsidies are wasted money.

  • Top Chef should have just used their common sense and filmed at least one episode in Houston. We are the 4th largest city in the country and quite a few people watch (or of late, endure) Top Chef. I’m just a little tired of being constantly insulted. It’s just downright mean in this case.

  • Who cares that they didn’t come to Houston? Guy Fieri rolled into town and all he accomplished was going to the wrong Tex Mex place, and patronizing two of my favorites (Niko and Red Lion) neither of which are a diner, a drive-in or a dive. Oh ya, and now Red Lion is even harder to get a table at and managed to become slightly more expensive.

    I’d rather see Tom Colicchio and Co show up to Mi Tierra and act like it actually tastes good…

  • Houston is the 4th largest city but only the 10th largest TV market. I think the “TV market size” is a better measure.


  • Before we develop an elbow injury from patting the GHCVB on the back, I read the story as saying that the refusal wasn’t on some high-minded grounds of ideological purity; it was because they didn’t get any editorial input.
    Any doubt that if they got a little more control, they’d’ve written than check?

  • Cody, it was a waste of our tax dollars

    state officials gave the production company $400,000 to film the season in Texas?

    We got lucky we didn’t compound the problem by giving them an additional $120,000 to film in Houston.

  • I’d be surprised if the chamber of commerce didn’t pay for this kind of publicity on a regular basis. Not knowing how the budget of the chamber is funded (probably not city dollars??) – it seems like Houston missed an opportunity to get some national visibility via this very popular show. I agree with the concern that there would have been no editorial rights for the city – but then I’d have to ask if you’re so worried about our city looking bad on a TV show, how ’bout improving the city?

  • Why in hell does Houston need publicity? Who hasn’t heard of Houston, Texas? Why does Houston need a ‘big break?’ Who cares if they film here or not? Magical Elves obviously knew which cities were the easy prey…Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.

  • MarketingWiz, everyone has heard of Houston, for sure. As a marketing wiz, what do you think the people outside of TX think of when someone mentions Houston? I’ll bet it’s not good food, pretty green space, diverse culture and interesting architecture, things that might bring tourist/convention business to our town. Doesn’t Houston have to make some effort to market itself? Isn’t a show like Top Chef an excellent opportunity to do that kind of marketing?

  • I agree with Karen. There is almost no concept of Houston, good or bad, outside of our region. I’ve had people in much smaller cities ask if it was hard to get a flight out of Houston. At least they look embarrassed when I tell them we have two airports.

  • As a native Houstonian, I don’t want national recognition. I like my food inexpensive, my job status as employed, and awesome things to do every single weekend. We shouldn’t be paying a dime for anyone to come here and film anything. If it is worth it, they’ll pay to do that here.

  • lhooq,

    I think that is more of an indication of the geographic knowledge of your friends than it is a commentary on Houston. Anyone who seriously asks if it is difficult to get a flight in and out of the 4th largest city in the US either knows nothing about American metropolitan demographics OR has never stepped foot outside the 5 Boroughs.

  • I don’t blame anyone for not paying the producers, but I am a bit upset with BRAVO and Top Chef. I mean, come on, how rude.

    They could have at least stopped in Houston (for a quickfire maybe) on the way to Galveston. It would have been a real boon for Galveston and a chance to show the beaches, the old city, and the recovery from Ike.

    There’s a crack party going on at Bravo network. Anybody who watches knows it.

  • @Karen: I don’t give a rat’s azz what people outside of Houston think about the city. Everyone unfamiliar with Texas already thinks we all ride horses, wear cowboy hats, two-step and chew ‘tobaccky’ so I don’t think Top Chef will change that. As for marketing itself, that’s the job of the GHCVB and given that Houston is ranked as the 4th largest city, not to mention the MASSES who enjoy living, vacationing and ‘conventioning’ here, I’d have to conclude that their marketing efforts have been pretty successful. As a native Houstonian, I’m with Dan. I think Houston is popular enough.

  • Has anyone seen that train wreck of a show “Most Eligible Dallas” absolutely horrible! Could you imagine how bad Houston would look if we had a show like that. Yuck, obviously Texas is the new thing or whatever but hey we at least have “The Little Couple” on TLC which shows many parts of Houston including the Medical Center. I have lived in Houston my whole life and I am glad we are nothing like the rest of Texas. And we have a better art scene! Suck it Bravo!