Food News

Top Chef: Texas Cost Taxpayers $200K More Than First Reported, Thanks to San Antonio

We've been telling you since the summer about the estimated $400,000 the Texas governor's office agreed to pay the producers in exchange for them promoting the state's brand in the ongoing, Texas-centric season of Top Chef. Last we checked in, the producers, a California company called Magical Elves, were suing the Attorney General to block the state from releasing details of the arrangement.

There's been very little movement in that case, but today Bravo sent over a document that shows the exact amount the producers were paid in exchange for working Texas into the show. That amount: $600,000, or 50 percent more than what appeared on the estimate worked up by the state's ad agency, Dallas-based TM, in June. (You'll see that estimate below).

There is an explanation the new dollar amount. She goes by San Antonio, and you might recognize her from the show.

The "brand integration" agreement is technically between the producers and TM on behalf of the governor's office. And many of the provisions cover the state at large.

But there San Antonio is singled out in several places. According to the agreement, eight of the 14 episodes will include San Antonio locations, including one at the Culinary Institute there. At least one San Antonio chef will make an appearance as a guest judge. And Bravo's microsite for the show must promote the San Antonio Convention and Visitors' Bureau, which is also allowed send out a press release and use its web site to promote the show.

You may recall: All this started when Eater raised questions about whether Houston's visitors' bureau had "paid to play" -- in other words, kicked in cash or tax credits or free locations in exchange for getting some pub on the show. It's how a lot of reality shows subsidize their costs, and Magical Elves has bragged about being a leader in this sort of "brand integration."

At the time, Eater decided that: No, Houston didn't pay. "But here's the bigger question," Eater wrote. "Did Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, and the state of Texas use tax dollars to fund the next season of Top Chef?"

We quickly surmised that Dallas hadn't either. Instead, we reported, the state -- specifically the governor's Office of Economic Development and Tourism -- had agreed to pay, and had been told by its ad agency that it would cost $400,000.

Which it did. According to the governor's office, which just confirmed what the documents seem to indicate, the state paid $400,000 and San Antonio picked up the other $200,000. (Dee Dee Poteete, communications director for the San Antonio visitors' bureau, declined to comment.)

This is all standard operating procedure for TV shows, reality and otherwise. What isn't standard -- or at least shouldn't be -- was the state's obfuscation when we first asked how much taxpayers were forking over and what for.

Now we know, thanks to Bravo and the document on display below. My favorite part: "Company agrees to make good faith efforts to ensure that Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi and the Series contestants will not appear on camera participating in underage drinking, illegal gambling or illegal drug use."

Gail and Emeril, though? Let's do this.

Top Chef Brand Integration Agreement

Magical Elves vs. Texas AG

Estimate for Top Chef: Texas