in Houston, Texas
Top Chef producers sue Texas AG to keep details of $400K marketing payment secret
Thursday, Oct 06, 2011, 03:32PM CST
By Steve Miller
Top Chef fundraiser

When the state shoved $400,000 at a television show aimed at foodies, it never thought the taxpayer-funded gift would land it in court.

But Magical Elves, the producers of Bravo’s Top Chef, have filed a lawsuit against the Texas Attorney General aimed at stifling state officials who are otherwise required by law to tell us what that four hundred large is going toward. The AG’s office ruled last month that the state must release the information.

The sad, litigious tale goes like this:

Bravo was shooting a Top Chef Texas thing earlier in the year in some Texas cities including Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.  Then it was discovered that the show is asking the respective cities for some dough, you know, grease the pan a bit. The return on that investment? We’re not really all that sure, and neither were the cities Top Chef approached.

Austin said it didn’t pay. Dallas, ditto. Houston emphatically didn’t, and at last check there was no word on San Antonio.

But Gov. Rick Perry’s office and the state's Department of Economic Development and Tourism didn’t have a problem, um, forking over the cash.

Looking at the e-mail exchanges between the state and journalists, it appears the governor's office tried to do its best to keep everyone in the dark, although a rep in the Perry office claimed in e-mails to a reporter and to colleagues in the economic development office that “no state funds have been awarded” for the show. 

The Dallas Observer dissected the spin:

While state money may not have been spent bringing Top Chef to Texas, the governor's office did agree to pay an estimated $400,000 'for the integration of [the state's] brand in Bravo's production of Top Chef cycle 9.'

It says so in an estimate drawn up by TM Advertising, a Dallas-based firm that helps the governor's tourism and economic development office promote the state.

Dutifully curious, the Dallas Observer asked for details of just how the money, regardless of the spin, was going to be spent.

And here we are – an AG ruling and lawsuit later. All over some food, some greed and a pay-to-play agreement that may or may not bring some hungry people to the state.


Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or

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Photo "Top Chef Benefit - Sirloin of Beef Roulade" by flickr user Edsel L, used via a Creative Commons license.

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