I have been addicted to the Bravo TV series “Top Chef” since Season 2. I’m just thrilled that the current season, which started Dec. 1, has brought back almost all of my “Top Chef” favorite contestants, except for Ron Durpat from Season 6.
But what I really like is how Bravo has incorporated social media tools that help fans feed their fix for the addictive show. And the show can serve as a guide for journalists who are still struggling with how — and which — social media tools to include in their efforts to join the conversation with readers.
Each of the judges – Anthony Bourdain, Tom Colichio and Gail Simmons — have blogs that offer considerable insight and behind-the-scenes informative and entertaining tidbits. But why no blog for Padma?? There’s also a Team Top Chef blog that adds to the fun. I can check this off, because I contribute to 2 work-sponsored blog, and I also write the NABJDigital blog and now have this blog (yes, I do sleep and have a life).
You can spend hours on the website alone playing games, reviewing the past eight seasons, checking out photos and videos, chatting away with fellow fans on the message boards and keeping up via Twitter and Facebook. I especially like the Top Chef presence on Twitter. It’s obvious they have someone dedicated to that account, judging by the steady stream of Tweets. I consider HootSuite a great free tool that can help you manage Twitter accounts and Facebook pages.
And if that weren’t enough, you can get lost in the recipe finder section, which is broken down into 13 different categories, including: skill level, course, cuisine, season and even mood. Let’s get real – I consider myself a pretty good cook, but I won’t be making the Colorado Rack of Lamb, in the challenging category, made by Dale Levitski from Season 3 (and I’m glad he’s on the current season). I’m much more likely to attempt the Spicy Shrimp Ceviche with Chili Popcorn, in the moderate category, done by Sam Talbot in Season 3. And I’d definitely try the Grilled and Chilled Shrimp recipe, in the easy category, from Lisa Fernandes in Season 4.
The website is also very friendly on smartphones, and allows visitors to sign up for updates. There’s even a Foodie Fight iPhone/iPad app that allows you to battle with past cheftestants using items from the Top Chef pantry. My company does not have an iPhone app, but it does have a handy mobile website that’s accessible on any smartphone.
The journalist/social media side of me sees so many possibilities of what can really be done to bring in – and keep – your audience as a part of the conversation, thanks to what “Top Chef” has done. We’ll see what develops in 2011!