Doing PR for a Top Chef

Posted by Melissa Libby, Melissa Libby PR
I work with a lot of top chefs. But 2009 was the year I got to work with a Top Chef. My client, Kevin Gillespie of Atlanta’s Woodfire Grill, rose to fame as a finalist on  Bravo’s Top Chef: Season 6 and was voted the show’s “Fan Favorite.” Being his publicist became a nearly full-time job as the interview requests, appearance opportunities and book deals started to flood in.


Kevin Gillespie, Woodfire Grill

It continues to be a wonderfully exciting ride of calls from media ranging from CNN and USA Today to the Augusta Metro Spirit and FoodieBuddha.com. Hours are spent fielding emails from people who want Kevin to come to their fundraiser, restaurant show, teen chef competition and school program. He is recognized everywhere he goes and gets mobbed by fans seeking autographs and just wanting to talk.

Social media has been a huge part of the spread of Kevin’s popularity. He not only has a Facebook fan page with almost 12,000 fans, his BEARD has a fan page with over 8,000 fans! Like most chefs, Kevin was not skilled in technology. I had to give him a quick tutorial on Facebook, Twitter, Skype, podcasts and more. Thank goodness he is a quick learner!

From the secretive nature of the initial interviews through the confidential time away for the taping to the long summer of waiting, the whole process was difficult to withstand. Rumors were rampant but we had to be tight-lipped. And then finally the show began airing in the fall and week after week it became clear that Kevin was a front runner. Woodfire Grill, a wonderful but under-performing restaurant, saw sales rise 300% and the media frenzy was in full force. And the PR efforts rose accordingly!

Doing PR for a Top Chef has been one of the most interesting and rewarding challenges I’ve experienced. As we move to the next phase of branding Kevin and keeping the restaurant busy, I see new opportunities to work with traditional and social media, and am exploring ways to maximize Kevin’s time while making sure his fans are happy. It’s exciting!  Oh, and the food’s great too!

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