Ready for your “Top Chef: Charleston” update? Shrimp boats and a lot of talk of seasickness happened. OK, done with that.
Now, on to what Charlotte wants to know: What happened late last night on the online-only “Last Chance Kitchen,” where Charlotte chef Jamie Lynch of 5Church has been mowing down the competition, trying to fight back into the finale.
If you haven’t watched yet, here’s the link, and I’ll wait: It only takes 11 minutes and 56 seconds (not counting the Hidden Valley Ranch commercial). Hmm, hmm, hmm. OK, you’re done?
Good. So, terribly sad to see Sylva Senat get bounced off the main show. The guy has been quiet confidence and grace all season. When he had an oven malfunction, he tried to battle back with a frittata that turned into overcooked scrambled eggs. As usual, he handled it without whining.
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Casey Thompson, on the other hand, went down with the maximum of complaining, squinty eyes and resentment after turning out rubbery squid. Funny, when someone serves me rubbery squid, I react the same way.
So both ended up on “Last Chance,” facing our man Lynch. The challenge: Create a snack food from a bunch of other snack foods, including show-sponsor Hidden Valley Ranch. (How many times can they say “Hidden Valley Ranch” in 11 minutes and 56 seconds? A lot, people. Over and over. Hidden Valley Ranch. Hidden Valley Ranch. Hidden Valley Ranch. Did I mention that they had to use Hidden Valley Ranch? Can’t imagine how I missed it.)
One thing chefs know is kitchen snacks. When I took an entry-level chef training course back when I started writing about food a quarter-century ago, my instructor taught us about “Scooby snacks.” Chefs never sit for meals, they nosh. Kitchen snacks, in my experience, hit evil-genius level.
All three got creative quickly, with the maximum amount of (ahem) Hidden Valley Ranch. Senat went with a pork belly s’more with spicy strawberry jam – my palms got sweaty just typing that – Thompson went total H.V.R. with buffalo chicken strips coated with crushed cheese doodles and sprinkled with H.V.R. powder, and Lynch did pretzel nachos with 2-year-old cheddar pimento cheese and H.V.R. slaw.
Luckily, in this episode, only one person was eliminated. Unluckily, it was Senat (too much honey-graham cracker, decreed Tom Colicchio, showing his abilities as a chef and a spokesman by smoothly fitting in one more reference to Hidden Valley Ranch.)
That means Lynch has survived through four chefs. And time is growing short: There are only two more episodes, so next week may be when we find out if he makes it back on the show for the final showdown. But it will be tough: He’ll be up against Casey Thompson again, as well as whoever gets bounced next Thursday.
Can he do it? Or will he end with a splash, like a turned-over bottle of . . . Hidden Valley Ranch?