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Case Study: ‘No Reservations’

American Film Market 2012: Global Locations - U.S.

“No Reservations” made its mark by taking viewers to hidden places that only an obsessed neighborhood foodie might know. And producers of the show have a favorite kind of “location scout” they use to source that information — food bloggers.

This group of culinary renegades often gets into the kind of detail only the passionately devoted could ever cull. And that’s just the way producers of the Travel Channel series like it.

“If you’ve got someone who has been thinking about a certain kind of food for years and writing about it, they can lead you to something you might not find on your own,” says Chris Collins, executive producer of “No Reservations.” “This is something we’ve done since the beginning of the show because we’re looking for close-to-the-ground information.”

On a recent episode of the show shot in Austin, local BBQ blogger Daniel Vaughn campaigned to have JMueller BBQ included because he knew they were lesser known outside the city.

“I think that’s what I can offer,” says Vaughn. “It took me three years to really know what I was talking about when it comes to BBQ and they listened to that experience when I told them there was this place that they really needed to see while they were in Austin.”

Jason Perlow, who appeared on the show in 2008 and blogs at OffTheBroiler.com as well as co-founding eGullet, agrees.

“Food bloggers find this information at great personal expense,” says Perlow. “There are few comps and you’re constantly researching so you can be the fastest way for a show like this to see what’s happening in a certain area.”

It’s not always easy to find that perfect source of information about the best Pho in Hanoi or the most enticing dumpling in New York. It might mean perusing the blogs of dozens of people until one with a unique and authoritative voice rises to the top.

“At that point we usually have several phone conversations,” says Collins. “We try to get a sense of what the person is like, what they know and sometimes if they’d want to be on the show.”

Bloggers don’t always want to give up their anonymity. But they’ll often suggest someone who will gladly go on camera if necessary.

“We know we could come back to Daniel (Vaughn) 10 years later and he’d still be obsessed with BBQ and he’d still be looking for the best place to get it,” says Collins.

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