Sat. Jan 28th, 2023

While the current season of Bravo’s “Top Chef” has been set in Houston, its finale will head to another city – Tucson.

Airing on Thursdays, May 26 and June 2, the 19th season of this Emmy Award-winning culinary competition series will close out within the Arizona destination. This “Top Chef” season finale will take viewers on a culinary tour throughout Tucson along with holding its final challenge there.

In part, this tour will be led by Tucson-based chefs Maria Mazon of Boca Tacos y Tequila and Carlotta Flores of El Charro Café. Both of them are James Beard Award nominees. Mazon is also a past “Top Chef” contestant, having been among the participants in the series’ 18th season that was filmed in Portland, Ore. and aired in 2021.

According to Visit Tucson’s Director of Communications Megan Evans, when Tucson was recognized as the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in 2015, the city’s culinary scene began to get considerable outside attention.

“Thereafter we started conversations with ‘Top Chef’ and had their team scout the area,” explained Evans. “They met with a variety of notable chefs and local growers, who helped to further cement their view of Tucson as a locale worthy of hosting the show’s two finale episodes.”

Janos Wilder, the recipient of the James Beard Awards’ Best Chef: Southwest in 2000, will also make an appearance in the finale episodes. Among the featured venues around Tucson, Mission Garden is the location for a portion relating to the season’s ending.

Kendall Kroesen, outreach coordinator at Mission Garden, said that “Top Chef” producers contacted Mission Garden Executive Director Julie Robinson, through Visit Tucson, about filming on site. The last four “Top Chef” contestants were then brought to this historic agricultural attraction.

“A shot was set up on the day before the episode’s final competition to introduce chefs to the historic diversity of crops grown at Mission Garden,” confirmed Kroesen.

After touring the property’s multicultural gardens, the contestants met with Jesús García to sample some iconic regional ingredients. García is a conservation research associate at Tucson’s Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and a member of the board of directors at Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace, the non-profit organization that manages Mission Garden.

In the garden’s Mexican section, García used a table display of cholla buds, nopal cactus, cactus fruit and chiltepins to teach the finalists about their origins and some of the traditions surrounding their culinary uses.

“Chef María Mazón was also involved in the filming, by contributing additional clues about the kinds of dishes in which they are used,” shared Kroesen.

As a spoiler alert, these foods also end up becoming key ingredients in the “Top Chef” season finale.

Other Tucson filming sites for the May 26 and June 2 episodes include Pima County Historic Courthouse, Tanque Verde Ranch, El Charro and JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort and Spa.

“The Tucson locations were selected because they paint a picture of Tucson’s identity, specifically as they relate to food,” said Evans.

Tucson’s culinary legacy dates back some 4,000 years ago. It has been shaped predominantly by Mexican and indigenous ingredients with outside influences resulting from trade, colonization and the introduction of railroads.

In a media statement, Magical Elves producer Diana Schmedeman explained that Tucson stood out to this production company behind “Top Chef” for many reasons.

“When searching for a finale location, we often look for opportunities to showcase a city, which is both a visually stunning destination and a culinary hidden gem,” said Schmedeman. “Tucson was all that and more with its majestic mountains, lush deserts and fantastic resorts, all creating an epic environment for a spectacular season finale. Having been introduced to influential culinary figures and local growers who help shape Tucson’s scene, we knew we had found everything needed to help inspire our finalists for a memorable season finale.”

Top Chef airs on Thursdays at 8 p.m. on Bravo. Check with your local provider on its scheduling.

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