Walking tour cashes in on 'Top Chef' popularity

NEW YORK - Why take a walking tour inspired by a cable series you've never seen?

If the series is Bravo’s “Top Chef,” then the tour will be about cooking and food. And that’s something most people can relate to.

“It’s a great concept, going around New York, tasting, talking to people, experiencing places,” said Anthony Tieu of San Francisco, one of eight people who showed up on a recent day for the tour, which is called “In the Steps of a Top Chef.”

Participants on Tieu’s tour were a mix of locals and out-of-towners, devotees of the series and folks who’d never seen it. But they had one thing in common: “All of us like food a lot,” said another person in the group, Susan Yun, a New York-based caterer.

The “Top Chef” series is a reality competition in which chefs are given cooking assignments, then judged by foodie superstars such as Jacques Pepin and Lidia Bastianich. Each season is filmed in a different city; the walking tour includes venues from the fifth season, which took place in New York.

But the tour is much more than a series of tastings. It also includes tips, quizzes, history and even a chance to meet a chef who was a contestant.

“I wanted to design the tour to be fun and interactive, like the show, and to really give people, in a fun and entertaining way, an idea of what it’s like to be a real chef,” said Joyce Weinberg, who offers the “Top Chef” tour and other food-themed tours through her company, City Food Tours.

But one of the most popular stops on the tour is 24 Prince, a trendy bistro co-owned by Nikki Cascone, a chef who was a contestant on the show.

The tour itinerary might vary, but other stops include a Chinese bakery, a grand Beaux Arts building called Capitale where the show’s semifinal competitions were held, and a Little Italy store called Di Palo’s Fine Foods, where contestants shopped.

The tour starts outside the French Culinary Institute, where an event from the show was filmed and where Pepin is the dean. The takeaway tip here: The school restaurant, L’Ecole, offers elaborate meals at a discount, prepared by students and instructors.

If You Go

"IN THE STEPS OF A TOP CHEF" TOUR: Three-hour walking tour (with one short subway ride) in downtown Manhattan, inspired by the Bravo show “Top Chef.” Tour offered Fridays and Saturdays at 11 a.m., but schedule subject to change; details from City Food Tours, or 212-535-8687. Tickets are $45 plus $2 online booking fee.


FRENCH CULINARY INSTITUTE: 462 Broadway at Grand Street, Prix fixe meals at reduced prices (five-course dinner, $42) at the school’s restaurant, L’Ecole, prepared by students and instructors. Reservations: 212-219-3300.

DI PALO’S FINE FOODS: 200 Grand St.,

24 PRINCE: 24 Prince St.,


’WICHCRAFT: 12 locations in Manhattan, plus San Francisco and Las Vegas;