Eater: Top Chef "Texas" Coming to Houston After All?

Yesterday afternoon, Amber Ambrose broke two interesting pieces of news on Eater regarding Top Chef's current tour through Texas as it films for its next season.

"Today, the tipline brings the rumor that after shooting in Dallas (where they are presently) and then Austin, the show will also shoot in Houston," Ambrose wrote.

She continued: "But it gets better: In researching whether or not Houston was going to be a location for Top Chef, a source confided to Eater the allegation of a pay-to-play situation in which a company negotiated with the Houston Convention and Visitor's Bureau for cash in exchange for shooting in the city."

"We never had any discussions with Top Chef or Bravo," said Holly Clapham, vice president of marketing for the Houston Convention and Visitor's Bureau (CVB), on the phone yesterday in response. "No one has reached out to us or told us that they were coming."

Clapham called the "pay-for-play" allegations from Eater "a little harsh," as well as "a little bit stressed and a little bit dramatic." She did note, however, that a production company had been in touch with the CVB about underwriting one Top Chef episode devoted to Houston. The CVB's marketing department declined, however, with Clapham saying that "It's not something we would normally underwrite," both due to the amount of money requested and the editorial content of the episode.

"You have to be very careful how you spend your money," she said, referring to the economic troubles that have tightened everyone's belt.

And if the tip that Top Chef is indeed coming to Houston is true, Clapham said that neither she nor the rest of her staff in the marketing department at the CVB were aware of it. The Houston Press's own tip line has been completely silent on this matter as well, without even a single peep from any of our usual suspects.

"To tell you the truth," Clapham said, "we're still trying to understand how this is unfolding. We, too, are seeking out information."

Regardless, it simply doesn't make sense for the show to skip Houston entirely, especially taken in context with the knowledge that Top Chef's production company was at least scouting Houston at one point.

Alison Cook had an eloquent dissertation on 29-95 as to why Top Chef shouldn't miss our city, as well as an explanation of sorts as to why it might: Tom Colicchio's chain of Craft restaurants has a location in Dallas, but not Houston. And Hanna Raskin, writing for the Seattle Weekly, defended Houston as well, saying: "Houston may be more deserving of the attention" than Austin, although she didn't seem hopeful that the producers of the show recognized this fact.

But here's the real, basic, fundamental reason it would be simply silly for Top Chef to blow past the Bayou City: We're the fourth largest city in the nation, and by far the largest in Texas. To film an entire season of a show in Texas and pass up Houston would just be surreal. And despite the dearth of tips, I wouldn't be surprised if all the hullabaloo was over nothing, and the Top Chef crew did make a surprise appearance here after all.

On the other hand, it would be very interesting to hear an excuse from Bravo or NBC Universal if that didn't happen, especially in the face of all the exciting and unique culinary adventures that await in the plains and bayous of our gloriously vibrant city.

Clapham agrees: "This is something that we think is a great opportunity and we have a great culinary scene."

"I think it should be Top Chef: Houston," she laughed.

So do we all.

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