Top Chef Kitchen Pop-Up Restaurant for Bravo
November 2012. New York City, NY, TriBeCa
In Fall 2012, Bravo’s Consumer Marketing team turned to Empire Entertainment to open a 5-week, limited run restaurant in NYC for the Emmy Award and James Beard Award-winning television series Top Chef. The ambitious undertaking of designing, building and running a fully operational restaurant, aptly named Top Chef Kitchen, was a first for Bravo and Empire.The process began with scouting for the ideal space in Manhattan. Requirements for the space included that it be in an upscale and accessible neighborhood, have a large functional kitchen and a main dining room that could be completely remodeled in the Top Chef aesthetic as well as accommodate 100 diners per seating. Through Empire’s contacts with real estate brokers and local restaurateurs, Empire was able to find the perfect location -- a restaurant with 15-ft high windows in a landmark building nestled in one of Manhattan's trendiest neighborhoods - TriBeCa.
Next up, Empire and Bravo were tasked with designing and building the restaurant in just 10 weeks -- an unheard-of feat in the restaurant industry. Bravo’s consumer marketing team and Empire's production team worked quickly with m-USE, a trusted architect partner, to interpret the Top Chef brand in a contemporary Manhattan restaurant setting. The extensive demolition involved stripping down the interior to a clean box and opening up the kitchen so diners could watch the chef’testants in action. Renovations transformed the bare space into a sleek and sexy dining room featuring Top Chef’s bright orange accents playing against steel grey and dark walnut. The updated "open kitchen" featured gleaming white tiles and shining steel equipment. Above the heads of guests in the dining room, an ethereal “cloud” of white string was hung as a focal design element. Each and every detail, from furniture, lighting and bathroom fixtures to each piece of china or glass, was scrutinized and selected specially for Top Chef Kitchen’s 5-week limited duration. Brand new custom tables, chairs and upholstered banquettes filled the room just days before the grand opening.
The Top Chef Kitchen experience would also have to faithfully reflect the experience of the popular Bravo series during its 5-week, sold out run: Ten Top Chef alumni, including Richard Blais, Mike Isabella, Antonia Lofaso and recent Top Chef: Texas winner Paul Qui, were paired off to helm the kitchen and execute their own four-course dinner menu. Guests could choose to order one chef’s menu or mix and match courses from that evening's competing chefs. A curated wine list and Top Chef-inspired cocktails, including the very popular and spicy “Padmarita,” rounded out the dining experience. In addition to managing the overall design and production of the restaurant, Empire helped engage Distilled NY, the front-of-house and kitchen management team.The Bravo Top Chef Kitchen completely booked its entire five-week run within an hour of going live on OpenTable.com and is one of the first examples of an innovative brand leveraging its intellectual property to create an event marketing experience that consumers would not only attend and amplify through social media but that they would also pay for.
Empire has pioneered this revolutionary trend in event marketing and is the leading producer that helps brand marketers generate cash flow for their marketing activities.