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Top Chef Cooks Up Rich Interactive Fare

As this year’s Super Bowl commercials demonstrated, the connection between what we watch on television and what we do and consume online is becoming increasingly common and important; and it isn’t just for ads.

Bravo’s Top Chef has been a successful show for the network since 2006, wherein professional chefs compete in challenges for the “Top Chef” title, along with cash and other prizes. Top Chef is an excellent example of how a show can become more than a show by leveraging online properties to keep its audience engagement active before, during and after every episode.

Heck, Top Chefs are even consorting with agency founders these days. [Above: CCO of The S3 Agency, Adam Schnitzler, with Top Chef Beau MacMillan at Sundance last month]

The best chefs aren’t always the most likable chefs.  Since the second season, there has been a “Fan Favorite” chef, voted on by fans texting their favorite chef’s name to a designated number throughout the season to help them win a cash prize. 

Early on, Top Chef was an adopter of displaying a show hash tag on the screen during every episode to cultivate fan comments.  This is still active and successful, as I learned recently when one of my #TopChef tagged tweets was retweeted, favorited and replied to more than any of my previous tweets combined.

The interaction has grown even richer in the past few seasons with the introduction of “Last Chance Kitchen,” an online-only show where eliminated chefs compete for the chance to get back in the game.  Every TV episode includes a compelling promo for these webisodes, driving traffic to the show’s website, which overflows with video, blog and photo content.

The latest fan engagement tool is the ability to save a chef. Save A Chef is the real last chance of “Last Chance Kitchen.” New for the most recent episodes, the chefs who didn’t stay alive through “Last Chance Kitchen” can be kept in the competition through votes on Twitter or via text. For example, Chef CJ was eliminated in “Last Chance Kitchen” but could still come back to battle the last LCK chef standing for a spot in the TV show finale if he continues to get votes through the tag #SaveChefCJ.

With so many ways to interact with the show and fellow fans, Bravo has turned Top Chef into a franchise beyond just another weekly competition show, which also includes real life extensions like cookbooks, a line of Lean Cuisine meals and even a Top Chef cruise featuring former contestants cooking and, one would assume, schmoozing super fan guests.  As I learned from my new #TopChef Twitter friends – it is more a way of life than a reality show.

~ Ali Greco, Account Supervisor & #TopChef Tweeter


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