The Reason Top Chef Season 18 Was Filmed In Portland, OR

When people think of Portland, the first thing that comes to mind might not be its culinary scene. If you live on the East Coast of the U.S., you might not even be thinking of the right city. We're talking about Portland, Oregon — not Maine. The city that might come across as the unfortunate stepchild of Seattle three hours to the north is in fact a vibrant cultural hub in its own right. (And if you're starting to think, "Oh, like Portlandia!" — then don't. As Vulture reported, locals think the comedy series ruined the city rather than reflecting it.) A big part of Portland's true image is its high-quality restaurants.

Hop on the website Eater Portland, you'll find a list of 38 — count 'em! — "standout dining options," and these are just the places that offer takeout or delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2015, The Washington Post, all the way out in the other Washington (D.C.), included Portland in its ten-stop tour of America's best food cities. (Sorry, stepmother, but Seattle didn't make the list.) 

The Portland area is known for everything from coffee and beer to strawberries, salmon, and truffles. The cuisine ranges from Indian and Thai to Spanish and Italian. "We're the Wild West of food," Portland food critic Karen Brooks told The Washington Post. "People here channel the traditions they love, often European or Asian, and make them their own."

The new season of Top Chef shines a spotlight on Portland's food scene

For years, the producers of the Bravo series Top Chef wanted to set a season in Portland (via Variety), and its impressive culinary portfolio is the reason why. Portland finally got its Top Chef moment last September and October, when season 18 was filmed there. The season premieres on Bravo April 1. "It was a city that we'd always wanted to come to because the food scene was very vibrant here," Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi told Variety.

Top Chef also was drawn to Portland for its natural beauty. Snowy Mount Hood looms majestically on the eastern horizon, and forestland surrounds the city. Unfortunately, nature sometimes comes with natural disasters. Top Chef's contestants and crew had to deal with terrible wildfires that briefly gave Portland the worst air quality in the world (via Variety). The show also went into the city knowing it was the scene of large and occasionally violent racial justice protests, following the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of police.

Despite the obstacles, season 18 of Top Chef is in the can, and this spring people will get to see Portland on TV again in all of its foodie glory and without the FOX News reports about anarchist protesters. "We want to try and reframe the conversation about Portland, and bring it back to the amazing, special place it is," Bravo executive Matt Reichman said.