Interest in Frank Lloyd Wright rises after visit to ‘Top Chef’

There has been an explosion of interest in Taliesin since the April 10 broadcast of the Frank Lloyd Wright episode of “Top Chef,” set partly on the architect’s estate just south of Spring Green.

Carrie Rodamaker, executive director of Taliesin Preservation, said Taliesin, an 800-acre UNESCO World Heritage Site, had 20,000 new users on its website from April 9 to 17.

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Carrie Rodamaker, executive director of Taliesin Preservation, shows off the Spring Green Restaurant on Riverview Terrace.


Among these users, there were 176 conversions to tour reservations, generating a total of $27,000 in revenue, Rodamaker said. Tours cost $98, or $93 for seniors, active or veteran military, teachers, students and children ages 8 to 10. The average purchase is about two tickets, depending on which tour people choose, she said.

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“That corresponded to a turnover increase of 42% in that period,” says Rodamaker.

In the episode, called “The Wright Way,” the “cheftestants” were told to draw inspiration from the work of Richland Center native Wright, one of the most famous architects in the world.

Host Kristen Kish told the chefs they would drive along the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail, which runs between Racine and Richland Center, and stop at the Wright-inspired Monona Terrace at Madison and Taliesin.

The chefs started at Burnham Block, a collection of six 1916 Prairie-style houses in Milwaukee designed by Wright. Kish called them one of the first examples of affordable, small-scale housing.

At Taliesin they were given tours of Wright’s home and drawing studio. Wright lived in Taliesin for almost 50 years. Taliesin means “shining brow” in Welsh, honoring Wright’s Welsh heritage. It is built on the “forehead” of a hill in the Driftless region of Wisconsin.

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Taliesin Preservation is a nonprofit organization with a mission to educate the public about Wright’s life and ideas, and to help preserve the natural and cultural environment.

Rodamaker said she could talk for hours about what it was like to host “Top Chef,” which she called amazing.

She said she received an email and a phone call in May from Destination Madison and Travel Wisconsin saying there was a culinary show interested in learning about places around the state.

Rodamaker met with the show’s producers in Madison and learned that filming would take place in August.

She said producers and directors from ‘Top Chef’s’ production company Magical Elves came to Taliesin to get an idea of ​​what they wanted to show. That included the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center, also known as Riverview Terrace Cafe, and participants ended up cooking in the commercial kitchen.

Rodamaker said the chefs were at Taliesin for a day and a half. During the half day they toured the building and grounds and sat in the drawing studio brainstorming about what to create.


The episode “The Wright Way” features Taliesin’s chefs, from left to right: Charly Pierre, Manuel “Manny” Barella Lopez, Dan Jacobs, Danny Garcia, Laura Ozyilmaz, Savannah Miller, Rasika Venkatesa, Amanda Turner, Michelle Wallace , Kevin D’Andrea , Aisha Elenz and Kaleena Bliss.

David Moir, Bravo

The participants formed teams of two and created two dishes with the theme of duality. The chefs shopped at the old Whole Foods Market in Madison and were given three hours to prepare and cook.

Celebrity judge Tom Colicchio named Riverview Terrace Cafe the only restaurant Wright ever designed.

Café opens again

The cafe was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is expected to reopen on May 1 for the upcoming season. It will be open daily from 11am to 3pm.

Rodamaker said Taliesin was also a farm and a school. “Because there was a farm, they were self-sufficient. So the idea of ​​food and agriculture goes hand in hand with Taliesin.”

The Madison episode of

In 2018, Taliesin started a Food Artisan Immersion program with Madison celebrity chef Odessa Piper. The program was halted during the pandemic and will restart this year under the name The Field School.

Rodamaker said she was eager to tell Taliesin’s culinary story. “It really comes full circle to what Wright set out to do,” she said.

She said the show’s production team arrived at 4 a.m. and stayed until about 8 p.m. “So it was a long day, but it was a lot of fun.”

Taliesin was closed the entire filming day. It was not open to the public for tours and minimized staff because everything had to be quiet, she said.

Rodamaker said they knew Taliesin was the site of the elimination challenge. But they didn’t want to know who was being eliminated because they didn’t want to hold onto secret knowledge for months and be responsible if it leaked. “We just wanted to minimize the chance of mistakes.”


The judges for the episode “The Wright Way” were Tom Colicchio, from left to right, Gail Simmons, Kristen Kish, Dominique Crenn and Buddha Lo.

David Moir, Bravo

‘It’s about time’

She said she was an occasional fan of “Top Chef.” She had watched a few episodes because she liked Padma Lakshmi, who hosted the show from its inception in 2006 until last year.

“I was interested in her and fascinated by her and her career,” Rodamaker said. “And that’s usually what would make me want to watch it. And of course, when I heard that “Top Chef” was coming, I thought, “Oh boy, I better dig into it and really see what it’s about.”

Rodamaker said she is not only excited about the attention the show has brought to Taliesin, but also to Madison and the state of Wisconsin.

“To be at such a national and international level,” she said. “It’s about time. We all know how special the state is and what assets we have, and ‘Top Chef’ is one of them.”

The show, which airs Wednesday nights on Bravo, typically draws about 600,000 viewers per episode.

Rodamaker said the show “has a hardcore, serious following. And you know, the food scene is so big right now – ecotourism, agritourism is so big right now. And so it’s like this culmination of all these things.

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The nonprofit organization Taliesin Preservation educates the public about the life and ideas of Frank Lloyd Wright and helps preserve the natural and cultural environment.