Kentucky investment to lure Top Chef paying off with national exposure

Tax incentives helped sway producers and bring the show to the state

Kentucky’s partnership with the creators of “Top Chef” seems to be paying off, at least in terms of major exposure for the Commonwealth’s food, culture and tourism possibilities.

Kentucky landed Top Chef after the show’s producers visited the state late last year. “We had five days to showcase everything we have,” said state travel and tourism commissioner Kristen Branscum. “I did a hit list: beer cheese, burgoo, country ham … and some of the iconic Kentucky places you have to see, and a list of chefs and restaurants who are up-and-coming and knew the Kentucky culinary story.”

Each episode on Bravo averages more than 2 million total viewers, and the show has helped put Kentucky on the culinary tourism map. State officials have prepared a Food and Wine official tour that launches soon to coincide with Top Chef.

In addition to the show touring the state and having contestants compete using ingredients from around the commonwealth, episodes highlight various Kentucky restaurants, chefs and hidden gems. The show is about crowning a top chef but also showcasing the state itself.

Kentucky’s financial incentives helped to seal the deal for producers. State tourism officials approved up to $3.5 million in tax incentives for the show. The total cost for the season is expected to cost $10.5 million.

Check out the Lexington Herald Leader for details about why Top Chef chose Kentucky. Hint: it’s a combination of bourbon, burgoo and beer cheese (plus a few other factors).

In addition to being featured on Bravo and receiving lots of local attention, Kentucky has garnered lots of media exposure for its food. A recent media report showed more than a thousand mentions of the Kentucky season in stories with a potential reach of 2 billion people and a publicity value of $3.5 million.

Here’s just a few of the headlines:

Eater: Meet the Stars of ‘Top Chef Kentucky’

Food and Wine: ‘Top Chef’ Kentucky Recap: Episode 1 — ‘The Fastest Two Minutes in Cooking’

E! Online: Meet the Top Chef Season 16 Contestants Battling It Out in Kentucky

Chicago Tribune: Bourbon, burgoo and more: ‘Top Chef’ gets a taste of Kentucky, and it’s delicious

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