In May, Bravo’s Top Chef announced the upcoming eleventh season will be set in New Orleans, and filming in the city promptly followed.
Locations of past seasons have included San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, New York City, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., and most recently San Antonio, Dallas, and Austin for Top Chef: Texas, and Seattle and Juneau, Alaska, for Top Chef: Seattle. All are noteworthy food destinations, and this year’s addition of New Orleans is no different. The city is rich with history and a fusion of cuisines, so it is no surprise it made the Top Chef cut.
But it got us thinking, where has Top Chef not visited? There are options in all regions of the country. Considering unique cuisines, historic and/or intriguing landscapes to serve as a backdrop, and obviously a preexisting culinary presence, here are the five places we hope to see Top Chef to shoot in future seasons.
Is your hometown one of them? What other cities do you think would be fun and impressive settings for Top Chef?
Nashville, Tenn., is essentially synonymous with country music, housing the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Country Music Awards, and more. The city's music contributes to a place full of vibrancy and culture that has developed an impressive dining scene. In fact, it had four recognitions in this year’s James Beard Awards: Tandy Wilson of City House was a nominee for Best Chef: Southeast, Margot McCormack of Margot Café & Bar and Tyler Brown of Capitol Grille were semifinalists, and Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack is a 2013 America’s Classics James Beard Award-winner. Nashville is actually the birthplace of hot chicken, which is chicken that's marinated in buttermilk, breaded, slathered in sauce that's spiced heavily with cayenne, then of course fried. But the city is so much more than chicken, and you can find anything from down-home Southern joints to beautiful restaurants serving modern, inventive American cuisine.
Denver embraces top cuisine without the snobbery that often comes with it. Its unpretentious, young vibe creates the perfect storm for chefs to experiment with flavors and create new takes on classic dishes. You can find local breweries (Wynkoop Brewing Company), farm-to-table cuisine (Fruition), fresh charcuterie (The Pig & Block Charcuterie), and more. The city’s ninth-annual Denver Restaurant Week had a record 355 restaurants participate, the most of any restaurant week in the nation. This year, Jennifer Jasinski of Denver’s Rioja was the Best Chef: Southwest James Beard Award-winner. With a mountainous backdrop, Denver would offer an active season of Top Chef.
How has Atlanta not been covered yet? It’s certainly a big enough city and as a central hub of the South, it truly is surprising it has not been visited yet. Not to mention that Hugh Acheson, a judge on the past two seasons of Top Chef, lives in the Peach State and owns one restaurant in Atlanta (Empire State South) and two in nearby Athens, Ga (Five & Ten and The National). New Yorkers can claim they know brunch, but Atlanta has it down pat, too — Local Three, Flying Biscuit, West Egg, Ria’s Bluebird are just a few of the city's best spots. Atlanta also has its share of James Beard recognitions: Steven Satterfield of Miller Union was a nominee for Best Chef: Southeast, Holeman & Finch was nominated for Outstanding Bar Program, and Hugh Acheson won two James Beard Awards last year, tying as Best Chef: Southeast and winning for his first cookbook A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen. With many surrounding suburbs, Atlanta offers a diverse landscape for Top Chef.
A West Coast gem, Portland, Ore., is a food destination in its own right. For its midsize, it has a respectable amount of top-notch restaurants and fine dining spots, not to mention the abundance of food carts that has become a trademark of The City of Roses. The annual Portland Eat Mobile Festival showcases the some 400 food carts every April. The city has seen its fair share of awards, too. Gabriel Rucker of Le Piegon won a James Beard Award this year for Best Chef: Northwest, and two other Portland chefs were also nominated, Naomi Pomeroy of Beast and Cathy Whims of Nostrana. Also receiving recognition was Ken Forkish of Ken’s Artisan Bakery, who was nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef. The uniqueness of Portland combined with Top Chef would make for a fun and entertaining season.
If Top Chef wants a backdrop full of old Southern charm, Charleston fits the bill. As the oldest city in South Carolina, Charleston has built a legacy of rich cuisine. The four-day Charleston Wine + Food Festival grows every year in attendance and acclaim with its showcase of Lowcountry cuisine. And Charleston is not without its star chefs: Sean Brock of Husk and McCrady’s, received a 2013 James Beard nomination for Outstanding Chef. The Ordinary, opened in 2012, was also a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant. Charleston’s coastline is dotted with outlying areas, perfect for off-site challenges. We can already see them at Bowens Island Restaurant for a steamed oysters shucking Quickfire challenge.