If it comes as news to you that Portland has never hosted the long-standing reality TV hit Top Chef, we're right there with you.
After 17 seasons, our city—whose vibrant food culture and renowned chefs have made headlines for years—is finally being showcased on the popular Bravo program. Filming is currently underway in Portland for the show's 18th season, which is scheduled to air in 2021.
The Rose City won't be the only location featured, either. Top Chef will take the competition on the road, with stops at Hood River's Fruit Loop, Tillamook Bay, and Willamette Valley wine country. Each locale will help shape what sorts of dishes the chefs end up making.
"Oregon's natural pantry of indigenous ingredients and incredible scenic beauty make it the ultimate chef's playground and an ideal destination for Top Chef to explore," Levine added.
Of course, production of any TV show in 2020 faces new challenges because of the ongoing pandemic, particularly one that focuses on cooking and sharing food. That's why Top Chef has implemented comprehensive safety measures in accordance with guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local authorities, and NBCUniversal, Bravo's parent company.
One noticeable change will be a rotating judging panel, set to include local chef and second-place finisher Gregory Gourdet, in order to keep the gatherings from getting too large, as The Oregonian first reported. Also expect to see returning hosts and judges Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons.
The show arrives in Portland at a time when restaurants and bars are reeling from lost business due to COVID-19-mandated closures in the spring, reduced capacity this summer and then a week of shutdowns earlier in September because of hazardous air quality created by wildfire smoke.
It's unclear whether the presence of Top Chef will bring any bump in business once it airs, but some think shining the spotlight on Portland's hospitality industry is a good move no matter what right now.
"Considering all our community is facing this year, Top Chef's selection of Portland as its filming location means more than if we had been selected any other year because it recognizes that, in spite of everything, our city remains a world-class culinary destination," Travel Portland president and CEO Jeff Miller said in a statement on Bravo's website. "The show will serve as a window into what Portland has to offer when viewers are ready to travel again."