Story last updated at 2/6/2013 - 1:38 pm
This past August film crews and "cheftestants" from Bravo's "Top Chef" took a detour from the usual Seattle kitchen battle royal to play with the fresh tastes Southeast Alaska has to offer.
The contestants, or "cheftestants" as they're called for the show, vie for the top spot. They started with 21 contestants, and each week one is eliminated. The reward? Earning the title of "Top Chef" in the nation, a $125,000 prize, a feature in a gourmet food magazine, and a showcase at a food and wine event in Aspen, Colo.
In the latest episode, the chefs were told they were getting on a cruise ship and headed to Juneau. Their trip on the cruise ship wasn't all rest and relaxation though. They were tasked with cooking challenges in making food for the ship's passengers.
In fact, the drama only gets more intense through the Juneau episodes - Feb. 6 and 13 - as the final episode features the final elimination round with celebrity chef judges Tom Colicchio, Hugh Acheson, Wolfgang Puck, Gail Simmons, Emeril Lagasse and hostess Padma Lakshmi.
Susan Ball, commissioner for the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, said the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau, her department and local businesses are the reason the show even came to Alaska. She particularly credits JCVB with attracting the show to Juneau, though more areas of Alaska were looked at.
Ball said it's important to solicit high-profile shows like this to Alaska.
"Both our tourism marketing program and our seafood marketing program rely heavily on promotions," Ball said. "The investment on time and some cases funds has significant return on viewership if we had went out and bought advertising with that same dollar."
Ball said that Bravo estimates 2.6 million viewers weekly, and each episode airs an average of 12 times. Each airing has an advertising value of $2.7 million.
"The exposure and reach we can get through working with programs, very significant return on investment," she said. "That translates to people visiting the state and getting excited about Alaska seafood and other products that are featured in the show."
Ball believes it will drive up awareness and interest in Juneau and Southeast Alaska, and the way the show's episodes are playing out enhances that. She said the twist of teasing the cruise trip to Juneau creates a twist and is building excitement.
"From our department's perspective, we market our seafood, visitor destination, place to do business," Ball said. "We partner with Alaska Grown. This is a great example of us as a state agency and the private sector working together to showcase our state. They'll certainly be beautiful scenery of Alaska. We were lucky the weather worked in our favor. A number of different venues are featured."
Some of the places featured in the show are Tracy's Crab Shack, Gold Creek Salmon Bake, Mendenhall Glacier, Jorgenson House, and the Governor's House - where the final elimination round happens. Kitchens at Thunder Mountain High School were used. Ball's department also credits the Office of the Governor, and many local businesses, including, Alaska Airlines, AVIS Alaska, Westmark Baranof Hotel, Prospector Hotel, Aspen Suites Hotel Juneau, Temsco Helicopters, Era Alaska, Taku Smokeries, Juneau CARRS Safeway, and Alaska Glacier Seafoods for their help with making the program successful.
Sarah Day is the editor of Capital City Weekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.