Top Chef Reality Show Visits Juneau

A reality television crew arrived in Juneau last week, producing a segment for a cooking show that is expected to air early next year.

The show is expected to highlight Alaska seafood.

It was all supposed to be very hush-hush. But with mini-convoys of box trucks full of production equipment heading into town, pre-production and filming underway at various locations, and stars of the show hitting the local bars and restaurants, it would’ve been impossible to keep the whole Top Chef production under wraps in a town like Juneau.

“It was The Mission Productions from LA,” CBJ Harbormaster Dwight Tajon said.

Tajon says he gave production company representatives at least three different options when he was approached a week ago Monday about the use of Juneau harbor facilities. One of them included the relatively-new Auke Bay Commerical Loading Facility next to Alaska Glacier Seafoods that is predominantly used by commercial fishermen. Tajon says they wanted to film the show’s participants picking through totes and sampling the fish on the Loading Facility’s float. But Tajon says he warned them that the weather may be poor and the float may be in heavy use.

“I let them know that the possibility of using the entire float probably wouldn’t work because we have the returning gillnet fleet that should be coming in,” Tajon said. “They should be in right now, today, Thursday.”

Tajon estimates that the production company brought about 150 people into town and also unloaded a bunch of stuff from one of the cruise ships early last week. He recalls that their early plans included a cooking competition at a local high school with food sampled by local fishermen. But those plans likely changed early on. Other confirmed production locations included the Gold Creek Salmon Bake and Tracy’s Crab Shack, a downtown waterfront eatery known for its award-winning bisque.

Capital City Fire and Rescue says they were asked to provide emergency medical technicians for the production. But Chief Rich Etheridge says they passed the request onto local firefighter unions and volunteer organizations. Firefighters not on CBJ duty for a particular day could moonlight or work as an on-set private contractor for the production company.

According to industry trade notices, The Mission Productions back in March ended a casting call for the tenth cycle of the Top Chef show that airs on Bravo.

Wanetta Ayers, division director of the state’s Division of Economic Development, says there are no productions currently shooting in Juneau that have already qualified for the state’s film production tax credit.

Other local organizations and agencies involved in setting up the production, or Juneau residents recruited to participate or help on set either did not respond to phone calls or referred to a non-disclosure agreement that will keep them tongue-tied until the segment airs.

A spokesperson for the television production, Jennifer Thompson of Thompson and Co., declined to answer questions when approached on set. She wouldn’t even reveal the show or identity of her client because she worried it could spoil the outcome. She would only say that Alaskans would see it in the first quarter next year and it would be “big.”