I think most people who watch Top Chef don't give a crap about learning about Gullah or Low Country cuisine. They watch it for the drama and for what they perceive to be "cutting edge" or "top notch" cooking. Much of the cooking on Top Chef is neither, but most of those who watch the show wouldn't know the difference. It sure as heck is fancier than Olive Garden or Chili's stuff, that's for sure.
So of course the show will be set in places that are different enough to be "exotic", yet familiar enough not to turn off most of the general audience. Think of the general audience as the types who travel to far-off exotic countries like Mexico, Dominican Republic, or Cuba yet stay in all-inclusive resorts. Or those who travel to Asia or Europe on group tours that follow pre-determined itineraries that include all meals.
Seriously? Honestly, I don't think the "drama" is high enough to drag the drama crowd away from the Real Housewives or whatever or whomever of wherever... Lord knows there are more than enough drama shows that I wouldn't think Top Chef would be a threat to any of them.
I do think it appeals primarily to people interested in food, cooking, cuisine, travel. And the fact that there are a great many copycats out there (speaking of AB) tells me that the food competition and the locales are the main draw. It's been my personal experience, anyway, with my friends and family, that as the babyboomers age and retire, the kind of leisure interests and hobbies that have always appealed to a more affluent crowd with more time on their hands are becoming more and more popular.
The type of drama in Top Chef is different from the type of drama in [fill in Bravo reality show here], but it's drama nonetheless. Who's going to tank? Who's going to get the win who shouldn't? Who should have gotten voted off who didn't? Or shouldn't have who did? Who's a dick/bitch/psycho/incompetent/star? People still get wrapped up in that stuff--look at the discussion that has taken place on eG regarding Top Chef for examples.
People who go to all-inclusive resorts are also interested in food, cooking, and travel.
I won't argue that those who watch Top Chef or Food Network are or aren't more affluent than those who might watch (for example) Duck Dynasty, but there are many types and sources of affluence. In my experience, people I know who watch these shows are those who are relatively new to food, travel, etc. They did not necessarily grow up being exposed to different kinds of food or even being exposed to different countries (I mentioned travelling to Angkor Wat to one of my Top Chef-watching, Food Network-loving "affluent" co-workers and he said, "Where's that?" He's about 10 years older than I, and makes almost 3 times as much, and he does travel--Europe, Mexico, Caribbean cruises ...). Again, this is based on my experience, my frame of reference. I live in a city that's probably very different in socio-economic make up than where you live, so this would, of course, colour my experiences and my opinions.
@annabelle--I don't doubt Savannah has all that and more, but Savannah has not yet reached the trendiness that NO has. Amongst the general audience that probably watches Top Chef, even Austin is more well-known than Savannah because of barbecue and food trucks (both of which have probably received attention on the Food Network). What kind of food-related publicity has Savannah received that would entice people to want to go there? NO has received loads of food-related publicity (as others have mentioned), so people are probably more familiar with the food available there, even the more "unusual" items. Therefore, it seems it would be a more natural choice over Savannah. I would guess of cities in the south, Memphis or Nashville might be in line for a show if neither has already hosted one.
(FWIW, Savannah is on my list of cities in the US I most want to visit--I'm speaking of the general public, not personally).
re: Tony Bourdain (staying on topic), he's providing what people want so he can still make a living. He's kind of like the Starbucks of food-celebrities. Don't fault the product. Fault the society that demands/encourages the product.
Edited by prasantrin, 19 May 2013 - 06:09 PM.