Cooking Championship as Economic Benefit

Ok, cooking isn’t a sport. Nonetheless, similar arguments to those typically used to justify stadium subsidies are now being cranked up by the city of Frederick, MD in anticipation of one of its home town chefs winning the title of Top Chef on the Bravo network’s highly rated cooking competition.

Specifically, the city of Frederick hopes to piggy back on the hoped-for success of Bryan Voltaggio to enhance its Bond rating. Huh? Yes, the finale of Top Chef is Wednesday night.

The next morning, the county’s economic development honcho begins two days of meetings with New York City bond-rating agencies.

“My hope is Bryan wins, so I can start all our meetings with, ‘And you know we’re home to Top Chef Bryan Voltaggio,’ ” said Laurie Boyer, executive director of the Frederick County Office of Economic Development and an avid “Top Chef” fan. “I’m already planning on working that into the presentation.”

What sounds like a lighthearted ice-breaker actually could have some bearing on Frederick County prosperity. Bryan Voltaggio has a restaurant in Frederick, and reservations at Volt have spiked since he started appearing on “Top Chef.” The town could see an even greater surge in foodie tourism if he wins. That’s one reason why Boyer’s office, the local tourism council and others have chipped in for a tent that will allow area fans to watch the finale on a TV in Volt’s courtyard, no matter what the weather.

Frederick County is about an hour from Washington, DC and an hour from Baltimore. My hunch is that “foodie tourism” would likely mean Marylanders and Washingtonians, and a few Virginians, driving the hour or hour and a half to Frederick to eat at Voltaggio’s restaurant once, as a kind of novelty, but then for there to be little lasting effect. Hard core “foodies” strike me as unlikely to spend more than the time it takes to order and eat in Frederick before heading back to the larger cities with their vastly wider area of activities and lodgings.

I wonder if I can get something to go to sneak in for a snack at the Frederick Keys minor league baseball games.

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Author: Dennis Coates

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