Delta Shows Up in Top Chef’s 300th Episode as Part of NBCU Paris Olympics Sponsorship

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Top Chef is celebrating its 20th season and 300th episode and sponsor Delta Airlines is getting in on the action.

Top Chef is celebrating its 20th season and 300th episode and sponsor Delta Airlines is getting in on the action. The episode pairs leading chefs with Olympic athletes in an unusual quick fire cooking challenge: the chefs and athletes are both presented with a set of ingredients and the chef must decide on a dish to cook based on the ingredients, then guide the athlete to cook the dish. 

The challenge is the two are separated by a wall, so as the chef prepares their own dish, they also must instruct the athletes –who may or may not have a background in cooking– to prepare the same dish. The test kitchens were set up at the base of the Eiffel Tower on a rainy day with the noise of tourists and wind adding to the chaos. What emerged was an entertaining cook off that ended in a range of dishes, some well-prepared, some a mess, and Delta Air Lines was the reason any of it could happen.

“Integrating into the storytelling has been really seamless because we are a global airline, so it made sense for us to sponsor Top Chef’s first international season,” explains Emmakate Young, managing director of brand marketing and sponsorships at Delta Air Lines. 

Delta Airlines shows up in the episode, a storytelling opportunity brought about through their Olympics partnership with NBC Universal. The airline is the official sponsor of Team USA and flew the athletes in for the challenge. Delta’s branding shows up in the season, especially when the crew filmed at Charles de Gaulle airport. The episode aired June 1, about a year from the official kickoff to the Paris Olympics, another NBC event which Delta is the official sponsor.

“We believe in bringing people together and connecting people across the world whether that be over things like food or The Olympics or travel,” says Young. “We are all about connecting people through culture, travel and experiences and in this case food. So it is a seamless relationship between all of those brands.”

Executive producer and Top Chef judge Padma Lakshmi said the brand integrated seamlessly into the story since the episode was about travel. Lakshmi said it would not have been possible to go to Paris –something the producers really wanted for the story– if it weren’t for the airline’s support. “Paris is a major gastronomical destination. It is very inspiring for the chefs,” she said. “We wanted to give the occasion of our 300th episode the gravitas that it deserved.”

Ryan Flynn, SVP of current production, Bravo, NBCUniversal, stresses that brand partnerships like these really have to feel organic. “If it feels like you would never do anything like this without a partner, then it is probably not right,” he says. “This Top Chef partnership with Delta fit perfectly and it makes sense.”

Paralympian athlete, Mallory Weggemann, who is sponsored by Delta, says she enjoyed participating in a new type of competition. “As athletes it was so fun to be out of our element and in a different environment,” she says. “We have such an appreciation for other people who have mastered their craft.”

The brand integration opportunity came about through NBCU’s One Platform, which offers brands the tools to buy media and curate integrations into NBCU’s library of content. “This is a great example of work with NBCUniversal One Platform and how we are able to bring data, technology and our IP together,” says Jamie Cutburth, executive vice president, marketing & content partnerships at NBCUniversal Advertising & Partnerships. “Top Chef is one of the most iconic culinary stories and it is really a passion for a lot of people.” 

Cutburth explained that the kernel of the idea to do an episode in Paris led them to consider the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics, which NBC is broadcasting and Delta is already sponsoring. “We can tell the story of Delta through multiple touch points over the next few years,” he added. “This is a kickoff of the relationship to tell Delta’s story of helping to bring connections together through passion.”

The 2024 Olympics will be hosted on July 26th within the city of Paris with the Opening Ceremony taking place with a parade of boats riding six kilometers down the Seine. The planning committee estimates 600,000 people will attend the ceremony in person – the event is free to the public– to celebrate the world’s best athletes. Delta and NBCU will continue their collaborations around the events.

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