Bravo Cooks Up Extensions

Bravo has a recipe to extend the Top Chef series brand into retail and services environments both expected (cookware) and unexpected (cruises).

The idea, Bravo officials said, is to get the brand beyond the television screen and directly into a viewer’s local environment.

The most natural extensions are with the Culinary Institute of America, which already worked with the network to provide prizes for an early-season live polling sweepstakes on this edition of the series. Going forward, the CIA will host a series of Top Chef-branded classes at its facility in the Astor Center in New York this summer. Contestants from the show will cook for classes of about 40 students, and the partnership will help generate online content, such as the CIA’s most popular recipes, for the “Bravo for Foodies” Web site.

Calphalon, the cookware used and promoted on the show, will launch a promotion in the fourth quarter in retail locations. Buyers of $400 or more of Calphalon kitchen supplies will get a “purchase with purchase”: a six-quart brazier gift set including a copy of the current release Top Chef: The Cookbook.

The most exotic extension might be a sponsored cruise on Jazz Cruises. The Top Chef trip, scheduled in May 2009, will be hosted by former contestants, who will escort guests on shopping forays to local markets and wineries in such Mediterranean destinations as Rome, Barcelona and Venice. The hosts will also select local restaurants to dine in and will offer hands-on cooking demonstrations.

At this month’s Cable Show in New Orleans, the network will kick off a 20-city mobile tour. A customized 18-wheeler will make stops in key markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis, Detroit and Denver. Former contestants will offer cooking demonstrations and “behind the scenes” production secrets at the stops.